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Published on January 15, 2019

How to Get Your Life Back on Track When Things Are Out of Control

How to Get Your Life Back on Track When Things Are Out of Control

Are you wondering how to get your life back on track?

But first, ask yourself this question:

What is control and what does it look like to you?

Does it mean having the proper balance between your personal and professional life? Or is it more about having the skill to make quick decisions? Control is defined differently by the person, and every once in a while, we let that control slip out of our hands.

Once that control slips, we have two options: to grab hold of it, or completely let go which then results into a domino effect.

Take Tom for example – Tom is an example of the domino effect.

Tom has a great job and goes to the gym regularly. He eats fairly balanced meals, and although he isn’t strict on his diet, he’s consciously aware of what goes into his body. He has a loving wife at home, and also picked up photography as a hobby outside of his work because his hobby makes him happy.

Now, Tom recently got thrown a project at work and it has been stressing him out. He’s been taking his lunches at his desk and it’s usually whatever is on-the-go. He tuned himself out in his social circles, rescheduled his anniversary dinner with his wife, and stopped going to the gym altogether. He tells himself, “I’ll make it up when this is done,” and continues to focus solely on the project at hand.

Months later, Tom has completed his project and is given a well-deserved accolade for his hard work. Although Tom feels accomplished, he feels a disconnect. His social circles have planned a gathering without him, he’s packed on several pounds from neglecting his diet and the gym, and although he makes up the anniversary dinner with his wife, she doesn’t seem genuinely interested anymore. Due to the domino effect of things happening, he doesn’t even feel motivated to pick up his camera.

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The moral of this story is that things usually feel out of control when we begin to brush, neglect, or ignore the things and people who matter to us even if it’s temporary. It’s also about understanding that once you let one thing slide, it’ll become easier letting other things go which will turn into a domino of things that will cause us to feel off balance.

The key is always balance.

Here are several ways to help you get your life back on track:

1. Do a Life Audit

Life audits are the perfect tool to focus in on different areas of your life – career, intimate relationships, family relationships, emotional well-being, health, finances, spirituality, and creativity. When it comes to getting back on track, it’s best to assess where you are at this present moment.

There are many versions of the life audit, and it’s about finding a method that works for you. While some may prefer to work on a diagram, which is similarly called The Wheel of Life,[1] others would rather prefer to answer a list of questions instead.

The overall goal is to give you more clarity across the scales.

When things are beginning to feel out of control, it’s usually a sign from the universe that you must check-in with yourself. Sometimes, when life takes over and the busyness sets in, we neglect important and vital areas that cause us to sacrifice our health and overcompensate our time and energy in relationships and things that aren’t serving us.

The first step is to check in and see how happy you are in these major life areas.

2. Regain Your Confidence

Confidence is the root to how you show up every day. Showing up is more than getting up and going to work, but it’s about showing up with an intention for the day.

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When things are spiraling out of control, it’s because of the lack of grasp of physically and mentally. Although confidence may seem an intangible element to grasp, it’s far more in reach than you think.

Think about what gives you confidence and find things that correlate to that. If it’s feeling good about your body, commit to fitness. If it’s knowledge, learn from those you admire or reach out to a mentor you would like to work with.

Once you have control over how you show up everyday, you will feel more control in the other areas of your life.

3. Brain Dump

On average, we have from 50,000- 70,000 thoughts per day.[2] Although it’s impossible to keep track of every single thought that crosses our mind, there is still an uncontrollable list that flows into our consciousness.

Some of these thoughts spark inspiration or excitement, while others may trigger stress or feelings of being overwhelmed. Eventually a long list of things begin to appear including things to do, daily chores, errands, people to see, project ideas, etc.

Brain dumping helps declutter the mind and is a chance to bring all those ideas and thoughts onto paper. By relieving some of that space you now have room to focus.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or feel that things are spinning out of control, take 15-20 minutes of brain dumping. This exercise isn’t supposed to have structure but instead do it free flowingly and write everything that comes to mind.

Afterward, you can begin shuffling through your notes and prioritize them into different categories.

4. Organize the Little Things

When you feel like you don’t have control over the major events in your life, always remember you have control over the things that surround your space – literally. This means having control over how clean your house is, how organized your drawers are, how much money you spend on hobbies, food, necessities, etc.

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The little things add up and can also help you feel like you’re regaining control of your life.

5. Define Your Purpose

Redefining or identifying your purpose is a root that must be planted within you. Like nature itself, a seed must be planted in order to sprouts into a tree and harvest fruits.

Diving into self awareness can help identify or define your purpose and that is the core of you. Even in harsh weather, trees tend to stand still and firm despite how strong the wind or rain may be.

When things seem to be spiraling out, refer back to your purpose and the joy that come from it. Let that root you back.

6. Assess Your Time Management

Time management is a life skill and one that takes years to master. My father used to tell me, “your plate is too full,” when I would feel overwhelmed, which shortly results to a mental breakdown. Yes, I was overwhelmed, but a lot of the stress could have been alleviated if I managed my time more efficiently.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to engage in multiple projects, but like everything else, it’s about moderation and portion sizes. Assess your day and see how much of your time and energy go into certain areas and activities in your day.

For example, I had a client who worked two jobs. She was exhausted all the time and found herself stressed because she didn’t have any time to herself. She only had one day off and it weighed heavily on her emotionally, mentally, and even physically.

For one week, I had asked her to write down how much time she was actually spending doing different activities including work, recreation, and errands. After physically writing it down, we discovered that her work actually took 75 hours of her time a week and an additional 14 hours of that commuting. She only averaged about 5 hours a sleep at night, and ran her errands in between work shifts that left her with only one day to spend with family.

The next step was looking at the time she had spent and if having two jobs was worth the mental and physical exhaustion. Afterwards, we broke down how much she was realistically earning.

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After having a clearer picture, I had asked her if it was worth keeping two jobs. She answered no.

Sometimes, it take a bit of breaking things down and seeing where your time is spent, with whom, and if it’s aligned to your needs.

7. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

When things may feel like they are stacking against our favor, sometimes we’re quick to put pressure on ourselves to get back on track– immediately.

Although there’s no one solution to get you back on track overnight, understand that it’s a series of steps towards a specific goal.

Routines are built through consistency and patience. Actions that consists of “re”– redoing, reinventing, reassessing, means to do something again or differently. Know that this process does take time, and maybe time is what you essentially need first.

The Bottom Line

When life seems to be out of our control, it’s also a sign to slow down and reassess where we are in life. Often times when things start crumbling all at once, it’s an indicator that we have lost the balance that centers our lives.

Acquiring balance is a lifelong learning lesson and changes with major life events and throughout time. Next time when you feel like everything is happening at once, know that it’s also another opportunity to rebuild and restart something different.

Featured photo credit: Louis Lo via unsplash.com

Reference

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Akina Chargualaf

Akina Chargualaf is an entrepreneur, writer, and the content creator of travel and personal development blog Finding Fifth.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

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So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

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It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

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As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

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Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

More About Staying Happy

Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

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