American writer Henry David Thoreau is famous for once writing:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
Many people live their entire lives as if they were at the mercy of their life circumstances. Now it's true that there are some things in life that we have no direct control over, like natural disasters and other people's behavior. But it's equally true that we often have more say in how our life goes than we think we do. For instance, we can choose to live on a fault line in an earthquake-prone city or we can choose to live away from hotspots of seismic activity; and some forms of communication are much better at getting a response that we would like from other people than others.
We have two choices in life: We can either submit to our life circumstances, give up our power and lead a life of resignation and often-not-so-quiet desperation; or we can choose to be the master of our own destiny.
If the idea of being the captain of your own ship sounds appealing, here's how we can do it:
Decide What We Want In Life, And Go After It
When we were a child, a bunch of well-meaning adults put a whole heap of restrictions on our behavior for our own good. Well, at least they probably said it was for our own good. Sometimes it really was, and other times it was just a way of controlling us in order to fit in with their needs and to lessen their own anxiety about us getting into mischief. Families, schools, religions and other societal structures all bombard us with rules and limitations about what is possible, permissible and available to us in life. Over time these limiting beliefs filter down into our nervous system and appear very real, even though they're actually just viral copies of other people's rules and limiting beliefs.
Families in particular tend to inculcate us unconsciously with their own set of beliefs about what is permissible for us. Parents with low self-esteem tend to raise children with low self-esteem. The lower our self-esteem, the less we will believe is possible in life for us.
As an adult, we are responsible for how our life goes: So decide what you want in life, and go after it.
Focus On What We Can Control, Not What We Can't
I often notice that my coaching clients, my friends, my self and many other people I meet seem to get these two things around backwards: We often expend enormous energy on trying to control the things in life that we have no power over, and yet neglect or act powerless in the face of things that we can actually control.
The serenity prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous seems to put this most succinctly:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Getting this around the right way will make a massive difference to whether we feel like we're in charge of our life circumstances or whether we're victim to them.
Much of our lasting joy in life comes from our relationships with other people. Attempting to control and manipulate other people at their own expense isn't likely to lead to sustained happiness. There's a big karmic difference between behaving and communicating in ways that encourage other people to want to contribute to our life, and attempting to control or exploiting other people in destructive and manipulative ways. Learn to recognize the difference.
Quit Playing Victim
Playing victim to our life circumstances is the quickest way to undermine our own personal power. Nothing is bad as the smell of a burning martyr. Being a victim is an uninspiring way of living that will attract other victims to us; and that will make it even harder to get what we want out of life.
Adversity is a part of life, and I'm sure you've had more than your fair share of upsets, disappointments and setbacks. I'm not going to minimize the impact that adversity has, because traumatic life circumstances can leave emotional scars that get lodged deep in our nervous system, and it's taken me a long time to extricate many of mine.
If bad stuff has happened to you, get yourself to a psychologist, therapist or life coach and do some emotional healing work to release the stranglehold that the past has over you so you can build a better future. But if you've just developed a bad habit of complaining about your life circumstances, stop focusing on the past and take action to create the future that you want.
You won't be bothered complaining about your past once your present life is amazing.
Put Yourself First, And Don't Neglect Others
Sometimes as a child we are encouraged to focus on other people's happiness at our own expense and put everyone else's needs before our own. That's a formula for resentment and depression. There's a reason that we start out life believing that we are the center of the universe: Because we are at the center of our life experience. Trying to please everyone around us at our own expense will simply make us resentful, and that's ultimately not going to please anybody.
The old airplane analogy is very apt: In the event of a disaster, we fit our own oxygen mask first, so we can then help other people fit theirs. When I did my first aid training, I was taught to look out for my own safety first, so I didn't become just another casualty needing help in a potentially dangerous situation.
Lasting happiness comes largely from connection with other people and contributing to their lives; but the paradox is that in order to do that effectively, we need to make sure that our needs are getting met as well. It's a balancing act: If we focus entirely on ourselves and our problems, we end up lonely and miserable. If we always put other people before ourselves and neglect our own needs, we'll end up resentful. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum is the sweet spot and getting this balance right is key to living a great life.
Face Our Fears
Standing in between us and anything that we want but don't yet have, is usually an unpleasant emotion that we haven't yet faced. Often it's fear: maybe the fear of failure, or of rejection, or of being seen for who we really are.
The key to facing fears is to do it incrementally by taking gradual steps every day to expand our comfort zone in the direction of the life that we want.
I don't recommend that you go too crazy, since you don't want to give yourself a nervous breakdown. But the life of our dreams will not arrive at the doorstep while we just sit at home in front of the TV. At some point, we need to face the fears that are currently preventing us from having the life that we want, and I suggest that building a consistent habit of facing a little fear each day is the most sustainable way to get there.
One of my biggest fears in the past has been the fear of failure. It was huge for me, and it still kicks in sometimes in the form of self-doubt. It even came up when I sat down to write this article and I found myself thinking: “What if nobody reads it?”
“Well, thank you habitual negative self-talk, for trying to protect me from the pain that I might feel if nobody does read it.”, I replied to my inner critic, “But I think I'm mature enough to handle that pain now, thank you. Certainly nobody will read it if I give up before I start and don't even write it. Then I'd be shortchanging everyone who might benefit from my experience. So I think I'll just have a go and write it anyway”.
Failure is a part of the road to success. Every successful person I've met says this: They often failed many times before achieving success, but we just didn't see it. The media revels in bad news failure stories. Don't listen to it. Stop shaming other people who fail, and start feeling pride in their willingness to give something a go. Focus on enjoying the journey of working towards what you want in life, and let go of your attachment to results so you see everything as a learning experience rather than a “success” or “failure”.
Learn To Trust Yourself
Many of us have been brought up with religions or life philosophies that dictate that other people know how to run our lives better than we do. As a child that may have been true, although I've got to say that the jury is still out on that one for me. Many adults never self-actualize and those school and Sunday school teachers I looked up to as a kid turned out to be barely adults. I look back at them and their supposed wisdom very differently now I'm a little older and wiser myself.
Now it's true that there's a lot of valuable life lessons to learn from every teacher, religion and life philosophy. It's a lot easier to learn from other people's experience than to rediscovery everything about life from first principles. But there's a lot of bullshit out there too, and the lessons that we learn from our own experience will always be more impactful than wisdom gained from a book, no matter how divinely inspired someone claims it to be.
Learn to trust our own inner guidance: We won't always get it right, but we will learn over time from experience. That involves deciding what we want, having a go at taking action towards getting it, and refocusing our efforts each time we make mistakes we make along the way.
Nothing happens without taking action. We can do all the conscious manifesting in the world, but it will come to nothing if we take no action towards getting what we want. We can read all the self-help books in the world too, and that will make no difference if we don't actually implement what they say. If you purchase the Confident Man Program, read the guide and listen to all the audio bonuses; and then go back to watching porn on the Internet, your life will not change one iota.
If we want to be the master of our own destiny, we need to take sustained, positive action towards our goals every day; and we need to enjoy the process since there will inevitably be ups and downs along the way.
If you're not sure where to start, the secret answer to that question is: It doesn't matter. Start anywhere, and you'll soon enough discover whether you're heading in the right direction. But you won't find that out if you're not moving at all, so get started today. If you're still stuck for ideas, check out The Confident Man Program Guide; and quit making the excuse that you don't know what to do!