Although we would all like life to pick us up and sweep us away, having it take control of our destiny, we also feel compelled to have control over every aspect of our lives. It’s a bit of a contradiction, true — but it does make sense; we want life to go our way, but don’t want to have to struggle to get to where we want to be.
You can call it having your cake and eating it if you wish. I call it the ideal circumstance. We want the world to work with us, not against us. We want our life to be pleasant and void of difficulties and struggles. While the perfect scenario is impossible, we can come pretty close. What we fail to understand is that the concept of "life" or "the world" working for us is an illusion.
The world works the way that it works — generally speaking, almost at random. In order to remove the feeling of something or someone working against you, holding you down and suppressing you, you have to understand that the only person holding you back is you. Once you are able to control you, the rest of the pieces fall into place as if from some outside force.
If you want to control your life then you firstly need to consider exactly where it is that you wish your life to be going. What kind of life do you want to live? Most people think about the things that they want to have — houses, cars, toys, women… Few take the time to visualize the parts of their life that actually matter. What purpose do you see yourself having?
How will you be spending the most valuable commodity that you have: time? Where do you want to live? To raise your family? Do you even want a family? What kind of person do you want to be? How do you want others to look at you? How do you want to be remembered? We live in a capitalistic culture where we give more importance to material things than we do to the things that don’t come with a price tag — the things that are actually capable of making us happy.
Once you begin to consider the type of person that you want to be, you can start to take a look at your habits and figure out which don’t fit into the picture that you have for your future self. If we are trying to change ourselves and change our lives, then there are two things that we have to focus on: action and inaction. There are some things that we must do, that we must act upon and there are other things that we must refrain from doing.
While the general belief is that action is most important for transforming your life, I have to argue that it is first inaction, restraint, that we must practice. It is the things that we choose not to do that make us the people that we are on the most basic of levels. It is the things that we decide against doing that makes up our character.
The most difficult part of inaction is figuring out what you have to remove from your life in order to become the individual you need to be. We are creatures of habit and the habits that we have are usually more destructive than they are constructive. Removing our bad habits from our lives helps us get perspective. It helps us stay more focused on what is most important to us and, crucially, it forces us to slow down and to create room in our lives for personal growth.
The worst habit that our generation has adopted is the habit of filling our lives and time with garbage and sh*t that is both trivial and wasteful. If we decide to build our lives from top down instead of from the ground up — deciding where we want to be prior to taking action instead of taking action before understanding the clear direction that we want to take — then we can easily figure out which pieces, habits, don’t fit into the puzzle, into the grand scheme of things.
The more bad, lazy or trivial habits that you remove from your life, the more mental and physical energy you will have to tackle the tasks that are important. Control itself starts from restraint. If you can control yourself not to do something, then you will be able to get yourself to do anything. Doing, for most people, is not the problem. It’s refraining from doing that we most often have difficulty with.
We have habits that, although not beneficial in the long run, do bring short-term satisfaction. Going out or hanging out with friends too often, drinking, doing drugs, watching TV for hours on end… I’m sure that each one of you has a handful of habits that you wish you could get rid of or lessen the frequency of; we all do. If we know the people that we want to be and the life that we want to have, then it’s not difficult to figure out which habits have to go. What’s difficult is staying focused and choosing not to succumb to your superficial desires.
The truth is that in order to have control of ourselves and our lives, we have to spend more time on our lonesome than in the company of others. Solitude reveals parts of you to yourself that you didn’t know to exist. It reveals the raw, true you — the you that is bare and basic. Solitude forces you to look at yourself for who you really are.
When you can’t talk to others, you have no choice but to talk to yourself, revealing what you are really made of. Of course, socializing, spending time with friends and family, is also important. However, we most often spend time with friends not because such socializing is what we feel that we need, but because we are accustomed to it. We hang out and kill time because that’s what we have been doing and because, let’s be honest, it’s fun.
However, choosing unproductive fun at the moment reduces our ability to create happiness in the long run. What we should do is learn to enjoy things that are productive, that have a clear purpose. If you do everything with clear, focused purpose, reduce the frequency of indulging in your less-than-ideal habits, and spend the majority of your time in near-solitude, then you will have complete control over yourself and near total control of your life and future.