Much of what you have experienced in 2020 probably feels out of your control. There seems to be no way for you to change it. After all, you have little way to stop pandemics, economic shutdowns, fires, shelter-in-place orders, hurricanes, or unemployment levels all by yourself. You may even feel as if your singular vote has no impact on the election of government officials.
But there is a way to create change even when you lack control over external circumstances and their effect on your life. You can focus on changing the one thing you can control—YOU.
There are many important things you can control even you feel as if nothing you do will make a difference. The main one, however, is yourself. Specifically, you can control your thoughts and responses.
Controlling Your Thoughts
You may not think that’s true, especially since humans reportedly have 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, most of which are unconscious. A new study says we have 6,200 thoughts per day, but that’s still a lot of thoughts running around in your mind. And, for the most part, you don’t know what you are thinking at any given moment!
However, when you control your thoughts, you change how you feel. You also gain the ability to choose a response to what happens around you. In fact, each time you control your mind, you gain the personal power to change yourself, your experience, and your actions.
Your emotions are a result of your thoughts. As such what you feel leads you to awareess of your thoughts.
Let’s say you become fearful every time you think about losing your job and not being able to find a new one as a result of the pandemic. In this case, your fear is a result of the thoughts you are thinking about being unemployed. In this case, your mind is focused on not having a job or income.
However, you can choose to think about something else—like the fact that you still have money in the bank to cover a few months of expenses. Or you might think about the type of job you would love to have. Perhaps, brainstorm new places to seek open positions. Or think about where you could relocate that would allow you to live less expensively.
You also could think about things that are positive or make you feel good—like the antics of your cat, the funny way your dog sleeps, or the beauty of the flowers in your garden. While this won’t get you a job, these thoughts will make you feel better. And when you feel better, you enable yourself to take positive action.
Controlling Your Response
When you can control your thoughts, you gain agency over your reaction. In fact, you change them into intentional responses to the world around you. While choosing how to respond to situations won’t necessarily change prejudice or an economic downturn, for example, controlling your actions will transform your experience of what is happening in your life or the world.
You always have control over your responses. And those responses have a significant impact on your experiences and the personal situations you create.
If you want to change your life, start by changing your habitual reactions into intentional responses. A reaction is something you do or feel automatically. It’s typically programmed into your subconscious by past experiences. A response, on the other hand, is an intentional action or feeling. You choose it and do what is necessary to create it.
A reaction might be feeling upset, fearful, or angry after watching the news and being told of new COVID-19 cases or deaths in your area. A response to the same news might be choosing to feel compassion for those affected by the pandemic and grateful that you are safe and healthy.
Your experience changes based on whether you react or respond. When you respond, you control the experience. And you can change your experience by merely choosing to respond rather than react habitually.
Choose Something Different
Using the example of being unemployed, your reaction to the situation might be feeling fearful and pessimistic. You might habitually allow yourself to think a never-ending series of negative thoughts that cause you to become depressed and angry. Then you shout at your significant other, kick the dog, or retreat into the bedroom.
Instead of that reactive scenario, however, you can intentionally respond to your situation. To change your mood, you can decide to go for a run. While you run, you can choose to listen to an inspiring podcast, which turns your thoughts away from your lack of employment and toward a positive and motivating subject. Doing both of these things will reduce your anxiety and increase your energy.
When you return from the run, you will feel more positive and ready to do a new online job search or reach out to people you know who might be able to provide you with a job lead. Or maybe, you will seek comfort from your significant other, play with your dog, or confide in a friend.
As you control your thoughts and actions, you empower yourself to change yourself and your life. You realize personal change is possible—even if you can’t change what’s happening in the world.
Internal Change Affects External Change
Indeed, some might argue that changing thoughts and actions does nothing to improve national or global issues. It’s not the same as doing something to change a specific external problem, like the pandemic or national economy, after all.
That’s true…sort of.
You changing yourself changes nothing externally…at first.
Your thoughts and actions, however, do change many things internally. You change, and that changes how you experience and respond to the external world. The world looks and feels different, and, as you respond differently to the world, you help change it.
Imagine if millions of people changed their thoughts and behaviors for the better. For instance, what if everyone changed how they thought about people of different races or ethnicities? What if everyone decided that all lives matter? The world would change.
It starts with one…with you. You can create change. Control your internal environment by changing your thoughts and responses. Decide to feel happy, accept others, value all lives, do what you can to protect other humans, donate to charities, or cast your ballot.
You Have Choice
To feel a greater ability to create change, remember that you have a choice. How you feel, what you think, what you do, how you show up in the world are all options. And you have control over what you choose.
You can watch the news. That’s a choice. And if the news upsets you and makes you feel a lack of agency, you can choose not to watch it. That change will make you feel more peaceful and empowered.
As a response to the threat of COVID-19, you can choose to exercise more consistently and become healthier. If the pandemic caused you to close your business, you might choose to direct your energy and attention toward creating an online business.
You also have a choice about how to speak to your spouse or children, how to use your time, and when you to create new habits. You can even choose how you feel since your emotions are generated by your thoughts—and your thinking process is within your control.
You have the choice to vote or not to vote. To smile or frown. To wear a mask or not wear a mask. To give supplies to those who have lost homes in natural disasters or to buy more for yourself. And you have the choice to be happy or sad, anxious or peaceful, upset or content.
Each new or different choice you make is a way to create change.
You Can Create Change
You may still think none of this makes a difference…a real difference in the world. But it makes a difference in your world—the one you experience personally every day. That’s important.
When things feel out of your control, when you can’t seem to find a way to have agency over the things going on in the word, create change by focusing on what you can control. Change those things. Then watch the ripple effect.
How do you create change by controlling yourself? I’d love to know. Leave me a comment below, and please share this post with a friend.
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Photo courtesy of Svetoslav Sokolov .