As Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler describe in their 2010 book Change Anything –The new science of personal success, the willpower traps keeps you in a depressing cycle that begins with heroic commitment to change, which is followed by eroding motivation and terminated inevitably by relapse into old habits. Mastering temptations is not solely a function of personal motivation. When it comes to changing our behavior, skills play an important role. So, in order to take control, one of your steps is to improve, increase, strengthen your skills. Here’s my take on taking control.
If you want to take control of your life, you better take control of your beliefs.
It’s not people or situations that upset us but our beliefs and thinking about these people and events. This is what Epictetus stated long ago and what forms the foundation for the widely used cognitive approach to life like Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Training (RET) which hooks into the next one, controlling your thinking.
If you want to take control of your life, you better take control of your awareness level.
Without awareness of yourself, other people, and your wider environment there is little(self) knowledge, understanding, or connection and cooperation. You can read my earlier posts on awareness called Managing Mindfully and How are you doing as a Leader? but in brief: it’s important to be aware and to turn this awareness into useful action. Your awareness and self awareness form the basis for the use of self as an instrument of change – the most important instrument of change and of taking control! Awareness provides the potential for one’s presence to have a high impact. It is a growing consciousness or comprehension and it’s a basic process that goes on continually, including choosing what to focus on.
If you want to take control of your life, you better take control of your choices.
Before anything happens, there is a choice you make, whether you are aware of that choice or not. These choices are based on your beliefs, your thinking, your priorities, and your purpose and goals, but it remains a choice. If we would all grasp this and act accordingly, the world of responsibility and accountability would look differently, whether we are talking about the economy at large, our personal financial situation, the quality of our relationships or any other topic. You can only hold yourself accountable if you fully live according to the fact that every behavior is a choice, including not acting, and that you are the sole person responsible for that choice. I like to quote psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl in this context who stated that we always have a choice, in every circumstance including a camp. This choice is the choice of attitude towards a person or situation, a choice which, in turn, guides your actions. This belief is described beautifully in Frankl’s book Men’s Search for Meaning.
For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently and therefore think and choose differently, whether we’re talking about change management at a telecom company, beating a personal addiction, changing a non-effective habit, or societal change by activists. In order to start acting differently, you have to start believing and thinking differently, relating differently, organizing differently, and choosing differently. Put otherwise: You have to take control and keep your hands off that marshmallow - a skill that can be trained.