Published on March 16, 2021

How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life

How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life

A lot can change in a year, can’t it?

Could we have guessed how out of control life could feel?

Looking back, do you wish you’d appreciated your life more or wish you’d taken a different path?

The pandemic has attacked every part of what it means to be human. A WHO study showed that the pandemic has disrupted or stopped critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for support increases.[1]

With a long road ahead, we need to fill our heads with good stuff to support us (not the endless bad news and devastation that stand to monopolise our lives).

On top of the global deaths, financial stress and isolation, the coronavirus has caused a surge of divorces in the United States, China, Britain and Sweden.[2]

Even before the pandemic, mental health issues were a massive drain on the world economy costing $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.[3]

So, when you face something that’s out of your control, what can you do?

1. Understand that you could be suffering from a lack of control and not knowing what it’s doing to you.

If you experience any of the following, a lack of control could be impacting your personal and professional life, your happiness and even your success.

  • A need to gossip and find out what everyone else is thinking.
  • Reduced productivity at work or at home (or both.)
  • Unable to drop a subject or walk away from a discussion/argument.
  • Overworking and burnout.
  • Micromanagement.
  • Illness – physical and mental.
  • Exhaustion.
  • A feeling of Them and Us mentality – “People don’t get it!”
  • Defeatism.
  • Lack of creativity.
  • A lack of interest in hobbies and chores.
  • Feeling angry and resentful.
  • Stress.

These are just some of the things that a lack of control can do to you.

2. Ask yourself: Is it really true?

Start with you and what you think. It’s not an easy thesis to appreciate or accept, however, the way you see the world, shapes your world. So if you feel like you’ve no control, then that is the way the world will be.

Look around you, everything you can see started as a thought in a human’s head. That screen you look at, the shape, color, design were conscious decisions people made.


It’s hard to see the connection between what we think and what we get. If you’ve read my books, you will have read about negative spirals (and positive ones).

Take a moment to think about something that upsets you, that feels totally uncontrollable. Use the pandemic as your example – or something personal to you)

Now create a spiral like this one:

    For each bubble, write a feeling, an emotion, an action, or result. There is no set pattern to this. Write what feels natural to you.

    Notice how there is an arrow after the last bubble?

    That’s because unchecked a negative spiral can spiral out of control, keeping you trapped, feeling bad and getting poor results.

    We can’t magically make the issue disappear, but we can control how we feel about it.

    You don’t need to know how you will do this, but acknowledging how you see the world and what it does to you physically, emotionally and mentally, you can then decide “I’d like something better than this!”

    3. Create a mental health tool kit.

    I recommend people create a mental health tool kit.[4]

    For me, I like learning, so to boost my own, I’ve learned a new practice: Dialectical behavior therapy.[5] In DBT, you learn the first thing to do when things are too much for you is to R.E.S.T – relax, evaluate, set an intention and take action.
    Work out something that makes you stop in your tracks. Maybe it’s a song, playing hide and seek with the dog, mediation or something else. What might it be? Something where you stop thinking.

    It’s difficult to alter what you do if you are entrenched in what life looks like, so take a moment for you. You don’t need to sit on a mountain cross legged saying “Om” to find a minute of inner peace.


    4. Challenge what you know to be true.

    Working from home has featured in many coaching sessions often with clients stating there’s “Nothing I can do about this” or (my pet hate) “It is the way it is.” When I hear this statement, I know that this is often the root cause of why people are experiencing issues and suffering.

    You need to challenge what you believe to be true. Statements like:

    • I must work that many hours to get it all done.
    • Everyone is stressed out, there’s nothing that we can do about it.
    • It will be better when the pandemic is over – we’ve just got to put up with it.

    These are signs that you need to challenge what you believe.

    You don’t try to stop the sun from rising, why? Because you know it to be out of your control.

    Do you try to get out of the way of a stampeding bull? Yes, but why? Because you believe you have control.

    These are obvious examples but it’s not always obvious. In life, the statements that take away your control are likely to be more subtle and are the statements that no one pays attention to. So, learn to!

    5. Remind yourself there’s another way.

    To change what you get, you must change what you think. So before you get to the next strategy, what do you need to be true What do you need to believe?

    This is called reframing. The ability to find potential in the harshest of situations. It takes practice but if you persevere, you can find something good in anything and it will help you have more control of your thoughts. More control of your thoughts leads to better thoughts and better actions and results.

    For instance:

    • I miss going out – becomes – I’ve saved so much money.
    • I miss working in the office – becomes – I don’t miss that commute and I adore having hugs from the children/partner/dog/cat in between meetings.
    • I feel isolated – becomes – I am learning to appreciate my own company and the person I am.

    At this stage, you don’t need to believe it is true, you just need to be able to reword your thoughts.

    6. Let’s go on holiday!

    This is a strategy that is a powerful way to honor the person you are and not try and make changes in life by copying others. That approach doesn’t always work because you are unique.

    Imagine I was taking you on holiday in 5 hours time. All paid, anywhere in the world you like, no pandemic, just fun, relaxation, excitement, adventure; whatever defines your perfect holiday we leave in 5 hours time. What do you do now?


      For some, they tell me they’d panic “I can’t be ready in 5 hours time!” others would say “I’ve got my credit card and passport let’s go!”

      What is your natural response?

      Honor that.

      Whether you’re a list writer – go for it and worry about it later, or get everyone involved and plan kind of person. Think what process you would use.

      Use this information to help you understand what you need to do to be able to make a difference to how you feel.

      When you get stuck as often happens when an issue is too close to us, consider something you excel at, and how you migrate those skills. This is a strategy I teach, because the more you can understand about your natural way of handling life, the better the results you can achieve.[6]

      7. Turn your brain around.

      Remember that as you create solutions to the way you think and what actions you will take, your brain is going to prove you right regardless. If you say 1 + 1, your brain proudly jumps in with 2!

      The disadvantage of this is that it stops you from finding new better ways of working since your brain wants to keep you safe – believing you’ve done all you can and there’s nothing more that can be done.

      Imagine you had a magic wand that can fix the uncontrollable in any way with no restriction on cost, time and skill, what would you do?

      Ask yourself questions like:

      • “And what would that give you?”
      • “And why would you benefit from that?”
      • “And what would that lead to?”

      A great example of this in action was someone struggling with working from home. Working longer hours, they were exhausted and felt like quitting. Eating poorly and helping the children with their homework was the final straw.


      They felt like they had no life and couldn’t see it changing. They held on firmly to the belief that they had to wait for the pandemic to go to have “their life back”. This took all their control away and ensured they would be stuck for an exceedingly long time.

      Using this process, they joked they’d have a housekeeper, a nanny, a therapist on hand for massages and a chef. Their bank balance wasn’t suddenly the size of the rich and famous so this wasn’t an option. However, it enabled them to see that in their life they were making all the sacrifices and no one else’s life had altered!

      What madness to assume you have to do it all? They started asking for help and getting the family involved. And now they work a lot less hours and even manage to stay awake in the evenings to watch a film or read a book, which leads us onto the next point.

      8. Share your goals.

      If you’ve had enough of a situation, trying to fix it on your own will always be harder. We’ve all heard the saying a problem shared is a problem halved. The process of talking about something helps bring it to the front of our mind and work out what we want instead.

      So tell people what you need and ask for help.

      By now, you can see that control is not always about control but your perception of it. When you bring everyone together to a common goal that they feel invested in, they are more likely to persevere and keep going for each other. So don’t be shy to say:

      • On Thursdays, I need 2 hours to myself to work on yoga/gardening/me time.
      • I need everyone to choose a night when they will cook.
      • I need you to help me with this once a week so that I don’t end up doing too much and exhausted, unable to find the time to recharge before the working week.

      These aren’t always comfortable conversations, but they help restore a sense of control if boundaries are respected and enforced. Enforced sounds like a harsh word, however, to restore a sense of control in any environment, everyone needs to create the rules and lives by them.

      A team of researchers from the University of Illinois studied occupational stress and well-being, those who have greater “boundary control” over their work and personal lives were better at creating a stress buffer that helped protect them from falling into a negative-rumination trap.[7]

      After a few weeks of questioning if the boundaries are working, don’t be frightened to go through the process again and see what’s working and what needs to alter.

      Bottom Line

      Lastly, remember nothing stays the same.

      This golden nugget is essential knowledge we all need when we lack control. Good or bad, everything changes.

      More Tips on Taking Charge of Life

      Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via


      More by this author

      Mandie Holgate

      International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

      How to Control the Uncontrollable In Life 6 Types of Fear of Success (And How to Overcome Them) Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness 20 Life Coping Skills That Will Help You Stay Strong How to Effectively Set Goals in Life to Get Where You Really Want to Be

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      Last Updated on March 30, 2021

      How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power

      How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power

      Self-esteem is a driving force behind our confidence and how we see and feel about ourselves. It encompasses our sense of value, significance, and self-worth. That’s why learning how to build self-esteem is essential to personal growth and happiness.

      Research has shown that over 80% of people struggle with varying levels of low self-esteem. Yet, having a solid sense of self-esteem has the chance to positively impact and powerfully transform every area of your life – from your relationships to your career, from your health and well-being, to your fulfillment and levels of success.

      A deep feeling of self-esteem is something that needs to grow and be nurtured over time. In this article I will show you the things you can do right now to learn how to improve self-esteem. Then, you will realize your hidden potential and your self-worth.

      What Is Self-Esteem?

      While the dictionary defines it as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect,” put simply, self-esteem is the overall sense or feeling you have about your own self-worth or self-value.

      Self-confidence, on the other hand, is more about how you feel about your abilities and will vary from situation to situation. You can have great self-esteem (feeling good about yourself overall) but low self-confidence about a particular situation or event (e.g. public speaking). Or, maybe you’ve got great self-confidence in an area (e.g. a sport that you play) but low self-esteem overall.

      A strong and solid sense of self-esteem comes from deep within, from a belief in your importance, your value, and your worthiness. The good news is that there are many ways to improve self-esteem, which we will look at below.

      Causes of Low Self-Esteem

      Low self-esteem can stem from many areas. It is largely influenced by how other people see and treat us, and our relationships, which is why the influence of our parents has the most significant impact on our self-esteem. Here are some of the most common causes of low self-esteem:

      An Unhappy Childhood

      Those who grew up with critical, abusive, or neglectful parents are more likely to face challenges with their own self-worth, while those who experienced acceptance, approval, and affection are more likely to have a higher sense of self-value.

      Traumatic Experiences

      Lower levels of self-esteem can also stem from bad experiences or traumatic events, such as being bullied or being in an emotionally abusive relationship. Essentially, it can stem from anything that has brought up feelings of shame, guilt, or worthlessness.

      Experiences of Failure

      For some, lower self-esteem is connected to their success and accomplishments, or lack thereof, including experiences of failure, or not achieving goals or expectations.

      Negative Self-Talk

      Many cases of low self-esteem are perpetuated by negative self-talk. This could be a story that you have created yourself or that someone else created for you long ago that you continue to believe, and it gets in the way of learning how to build self-esteem.

      Maybe for you, like for many others, low self-esteem is rooted in your feelings about your appearance or body image. It’s not just about how you look; it’s about how you feel about how you look. We are bombarded with messages from an early age about being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, or too much of anything, or not enough of something else.

      What Happens When You Lack Self-Esteem?

      Low self-esteem can lead to significant physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addiction. In fact, research shows that adolescents who suffered from low self-esteem grew up to have more physical and mental problems, higher rates of criminal convictions, lower earnings, and challenges with long-term unemployment[1].

      On the flipside, a strong sense of self-esteem will help you experience greater health and well-being, better relationships, and higher levels of happiness, fulfillment, and success. One study even correlated higher levels of self-esteem with higher earning potential[2].


      Assess Your Own Self-Esteem

      Individuals with low or compromised self-esteem can see themselves as inadequate, incompetent, and even unlovable. While they often know at a “conscious” level that these things aren’t true, they still feel that way deep within. That’s what makes challenges with self-esteem so tricky; it’s often not about the reality of what is, but the perception of what someone feels.

      Those with low self-esteem may appear socially withdrawn or quiet, negative, insecure, indecisive, unhappy, or even angry. They are more likely to find themselves in unhealthy relationships, have a fear of failure, and worry about what others think.

      On the flipside, those with high self-esteem, more often than not, feel a strong sense of self-worth and value, feelings of confidence and acceptance. They tend to find themselves in healthy relationships (and ditch the bad ones), take care of themselves, and are more resilient when faced with setbacks, obstacles, and failures. In general, they tend to stand up more for what they believe in and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

      Self-esteem can be measured on a scale of high to low: while too little has its obvious downsides, you can also have too much of a good thing. Those with an overly strong sense of self-esteem may appear cocky, narcissistic, and self-important.

      Finding the balance of a strong sense self of self-worth and humility is important as we go through life, which is why it’s so important to learn how to build self-esteem the right way.

      How to Build Self-Esteem (A Step-by-Step Guide)

      Self-esteem issues are generally found in the gap between who you are and who you think you should be. Paradoxically, most causes of low self-esteem stem from how others see or treat you, yet the solution to increasing your self-esteem is something that needs to come from the inside out, not from the outside in.

      Learning how to increase self-esteem is not an easy task. While I wish I could wave a magic wand for you, what I’ve learned is that building and nurturing your self-esteem takes time. However, it is a worthwhile investment. Once you’ve done the work, you’ll reap the many rewards and benefits for a lifetime.

      Below are some great strategies to start your journey.

      1. Get to the Root Cause

      Identifying the real, root cause(s) for your low self-esteem is one of the most important things you can do to build it back up.

      We named many reasons above. Maybe one of them, in particular, resonated with you. Perhaps your parents said you were “never good enough” or that you wouldn’t amount to anything. I work with clients all the time who share stories of their parents’ behavior and the significant impact it has had on their self-esteem.

      Whatever experiences you may have had, and whatever the root issue might be for you, I strongly recommend you get someone to support you through the process to identify and deal with it. Find a counselor, therapist, coach or someone who is trained in helping uncover and address these traumas, past experiences, and root issues. These folks have proven tools, tactics and strategies – and best of all, they help you experiment in a safe space.

      While you may be able to do a lot of work on your own, my experience is that if you don’t address the root cause, that feeling will creep back in over time. You can’t run away from the truth, and you can’t band-aid over old wounds. You’ve got to get to the source, which won’t be easy, but if you want to learn how to build self-esteem, it needs to be done.

      For this step, Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment may help. It can show you where you feel fulfilled and where you feel you are lacking. Try it today!

      2. See Yourself How Others See You

      See yourself how others see you, and talk to yourself as others would talk to you. What do I mean by this? Think about the person who loves you the most in this world.


      Now, take a moment, zoom out, and imagine you are standing in their shoes and watching through their eyes. Look from their perspective and see yourself as they see you.

      What do you notice about you? What would they say to you? What do they love about you? What do they see in you?

      3. Do Your Best

      Simple advice is often the best advice. When you do your best and place your full effort into each and every day, you start to feel better about yourself.

      Now, your best might change from day to day, and some days, your best won’t be as good as it was the day before. It’s important to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you have, right now, in that situation, with that time frame, your level of skill or knowledge.

      When you know you’ve done your best, you have no regrets and nothing about which to feel bad or guilty. If you do your best and then someone criticizes you, it’s easier to brush off when you know you did the best you could.

      I ask my clients (and myself) this question all the time, whether they’re ruminating over something they’ve said, thinking about what they could have done better, or just disappointed about an outcome they had hoped to achieve. Did you do your best? If the answer is yes, then there’s nothing more you can do – until next time.

      4. Engage in Activities That Satisfy You

      The key word here is satisfy. Find things that give you a deep sense of satisfaction, a feeling of fullness and purpose.

      Too often we engage in activities or relationships that leave us feeling self-conscious, empty, or terrible about ourselves. It’s time to put more focus, time, and effort to do those things that feel good for your body, mind, and spirit, and to engage in things that make you feel whole and full.

      Identify what satisfies you mentally (e.g. solving a big problem or creating something new), emotionally (e.g. hanging out with friends or volunteering), physically (e.g. exercising, eating right, or taking care of your body), and spiritually (e.g. meditation or going to your place of worship).

      When you engage in something that makes you feel good and, even more importantly, makes you feel worthwhile, you will experience greater self-esteem.

      5. Identify Who You Are and Be True to That

      Self-awareness and a little soul searching are critical to your success in life and key to learning how to build self-esteem. In some cases, lack of self-esteem stems from a lack of knowing the kind of person you truly are, and the value you bring. Many of us have spent so much time trying to fit in and please others that we’ve completely lost our sense of self.Spend time paying attention and getting to know yourself. Take time to identify who you are. Some things to think about include:

      • Identifying your strengths and talents
      • Acknowledging your value and worth, and uncovering your passions
      • Understanding your values and what’s important to you
      • Thinking about how you want to serve or contribute to the world
      • Acknowledging your blind spots

      6. Accept Yourself

      Make the decision to accept the imperfectly perfect you. Know that regardless of what you have been told, what has occurred, what wrong you have done, or what challenges you have faced, you are enough. You are doing the best you can with what you have.

      We all want to be accepted for who we are. But first, we must accept ourselves.

      7. Stop Compromising Yourself

      When you let others push you around, put everyone else’s needs before your own, or cave in to what everyone else wants because you don’t want to rock the boat, it lowers your self-esteem. You are putting their needs ahead of yours, and your mind thinks to itself, “I guess I’m not that important.”


      I worked with two different clients just last week on this very thing. They were both putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own, and it was having a significant and negative impact on their health and well-being.

      Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t take care of your kids and spouse, meet your work deadlines, or be there for your friends. But you’ve also got to take care of you. We compromise ourselves to fit in, to be loved, and to be acknowledged. However, if you are constantly compromising yourself, you will never truly feel satisfied.

      How often do you let what others think of you or need from you dictate your actions or decisions?

      If you want to learn how to build self-esteem, be strong, and stand up for yourself. It’s time to identify what you need and want for your life.

      Decide what is important to you. Naming these things will give you an inner compass to guide you. Then, identify your boundaries and the non-negotiables in your life. What are you not willing to put up with anymore? 

      Get clear on these things now, so when the time comes to push back, stand up, or politely say no, you have the back-up and inner guidance to do so.

      8. Look for the Good

      We tend to find what we are looking for. Put simply, people tend to (often unconsciously) look for things that reinforce what they already believe to be true.

      The same goes for how you see yourself. If you believe you are worthless or unlovable, you will find data to back that belief up. However, if you believe you are worthwhile and beautiful, or courageous and strong, you will soon find data to back that up instead.

      The challenge with those who suffer from low self-esteem is that they have gotten into a habit of finding what’s wrong. Often, there is a negative message lodged in their subconscious mind. In some cases, they’ve just gotten really good at seeing all their faults and shortcomings.

      The easiest way to change what you see is to change what you’re looking for. Catch yourself doing something right.

      Try this: Grab a journal, and for the next 21 days, write down 3 things you value, appreciate, or like about yourself. This might include acknowledging your wins or successes, things you are proud of, or noticing what you feel good about. While it may feel challenging at first, you’ll soon start to rewire your brain to see more of what’s right and less of what’s wrong.

      9. Stop Negative Self-Talk

      Much of your belief systems come from the negative story you are telling yourself. Your mind believes what you tell it, and if the story you are playing (over and over again) in your mind is one of the horrible mistakes you’ve made, that’s what you will continue to reinforce and strengthen through negative thoughts, which makes building confidence very difficult.

      Tell yourself you are worthless and incapable; your mind will believe that. Tell yourself you are able and awesome; your mind will believe that, too.

      Catch the negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk today if you want to learn how to build self-esteem.


      10. Find Your Tribe

      Since so much of our self-esteem is influenced by our relationships and how others see and treat us, it’s even more critical that you surround yourself with healthy, uplifting, encouraging, and supportive people.

      Find people who know the real you, people who can speak to the value you bring, your talents and worth. These are people who can be real with you, sharing the positive and the constructive in an uplifting way.

      11. Take Chances

      Many great minds have shared that failure has been key to their success, the stepping stone to their greatness, and the catalyst to their growth. You might have heard the stories about Michael Jordan being cut from his varsity basketball team, Oprah Winfrey being told she wasn’t “meant to be on TV,” and Steven Spielberg being rejected for film school not just once, but three times.

      Taking chances, experiencing failure, and building resilience is key to learning how to build self-esteem. After all, if you never take a chance, you will never know – and you’ll stay stuck in your story.

      12. Find Meaning and Create Goals

      As humans, we all need to learn, develop, grow, and contribute. When you are suffering from low self-esteem, this can create a vicious cycle:

      You don’t feel great about yourself, so you don’t go out there and make stuff happen. Because you’re not being successful, you feel a lack of self-worth.

        It’s time to break the cycle.

        Take steps that allow you to become who you are truly capable of being. Perhaps this is about finding something that gives you meaning, or maybe it’s about the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be. For example, the act of helping others (contributing, volunteering and being kind) have shown to not only increases self-esteem, but also happiness, health, and satisfaction[3].

        Start with something small and work your way up. Each small success will bring about greater confidence and, ultimately, a stronger sense of self-esteem.

        The Bottom Line

        The journey to higher self-esteem will be challenging, but the challenge is what builds depth, strength, character and resilience. If the reward is greater self-esteem, which leads to greater relationships, a better career, increased health and well being, more success, and a greater sense of self-worth, it’s worth it.

        While you live in a society where you are constantly bombarded with messages of not being enough and how you could be better, just remember this:

        You are deserving of love, happiness, and success. You are imperfectly perfect. It’s not by chance that you have arrived here, on this planet, at this very time, and even if you feel inadequate, unlovable, or unworthy, know that you are none of those things.

        You may not be able to believe this yet, but some part of you, deep down inside, knows this to be true.

        Now, it’s time to take the steps above and realize it for yourself.

        More on How to Build Self-Esteem

        Featured photo credit: Barbora Polednová via


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