No matter how happy we might be on a daily basis, or how intelligent or professional we might be in the office, things will sometimes just fall apart and get a bit chaotic. A small mistake or problem is bound to snowball and pick up momentum once in a while, and before we know it, we’re lost in a world of chaos, trying to find our way back to order.
So, whether it’s been a crisis or upheaval in your personal life, a drama or hectic period at work, or a series of events in some other category that have thrown you off track, just what can you do to begin losing control once things have started to come unravelled?
Take a deep breath and read on. This list of suggestions may help.
Identify your meaning in life
If you are unable to find meaning in life, it’s not surprising that your life will seem hollow, chaotic, and empty. If you’re not living “for” something, you’ll find it extremely difficult to organize your life in a way that makes you feel centered, content, and in control.
That’s not to say that you need to — or even should — adopt some great ideology to guide your life. What it does mean is that you need to identify those things that give your life value, depth, and richness. What parts of your life are the most important to you? And what goals or visions for the future do you have, or could you come up with, that would make you feel excited about waking up in the morning?
To begin reclaiming control of your life, you need to identify, or re-articulate what it is that you find meaningful, as soon as possible. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there.
Begin rebuilding your habits from the ground up, bit by bit
To a surprisingly large extent, our lives are determined by habits. In fact, it might be fair to say that we are just the sum total of all the habits we condition ourselves into following. As the ancient Chinese proverb has it, habits “…become character” and “…character becomes destiny.
Or, as Aristotle also put it, “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
But what do we do if we’ve worked bad habits into the fabric of our character, or if we just don’t have enough good ones in place to carry us through life in a dignified and uplifting way?
Well, since habits are tricky things, and since we literally weave them into the fabric of our physical bodies, by developing and deepening new neuronal connections in the brain whenever we end up repeating a course of action enough times, we have to approach habit change small. Step by step, from the ground up, one bit at a time.
The best way to start conditioning ourselves into following positive habits is to commit to doing an extraordinarily small task each day. So small, in fact, that it might seem stupid.
A good example, if you were trying to get fit, would be something like “I will do one sit up a day”. Why start so ridiculously small? Simple. The first stage of changing your life is conditioning yourself into following the new habit, and overcoming your internal resistance. You should always be able to force yourself to do one pushup a day, and this will begin creating the right neural connections in your brain. You will begin to associate the exercise with a feel-good sense of accomplishment.
After a few days of doing one pushup a day, increase the number slightly. Maybe to 5. Then continue gradually increasing, but never going too far, until you are able to perform a full workout each day without feeling like it’s the worst thing in the world.
When it comes to breaking bad habits, realise that the “habit loop” includes three stages; trigger, habit, reward. The trigger could be smelling chocolate cake, the habit eating it, and the reward, enjoying the taste of the cake.
To work on changing this habit, you could respond to the same trigger (the smell) by, instead, eating a tasty low-calorie snack, and enjoying the flavour of that instead.
Tidy up and organize your home
Spring cleaning may not seem exactly like getting your life back on track, but it’s one of those small ritualistic actions that can have a disproportionately powerful impact on your mindset, mood, and everything else.
We, humans, tend to project certain qualities onto our environments. Our room, or house, isn’t just “somewhere we sleep”, it becomes almost “a part of us”. For this reason, a messy home easily translates to a messy mind. When nothing is organized, and the floor is covered in clutter, it’s natural for us to experience feelings of anxiety, agitation, and hopelessness.
Tidying up your home will have a direct effect in tidying up your mind as a whole. More than just that, however, it will also remind you that you have the power to take control of your circumstances and transform things for the better.
Set small goals, and build yourself up with small victories
Much like mice in a lab experiment, people naturally crave the satisfaction of small rewards throughout the day. No one, no matter how disciplined and focused they are, will keep working hard, for long, if they don’t get those positive feelings and gestures that show they’re “winning”.
A great way to begin a positive spiral of accomplishment, organization, and happiness in your life, is to set small daily goals, and make a point of always achieving them. These micro-victories will each cause a small release of feel-good chemicals in the body, and will give us a sense of victory and accomplishment.
These positive feelings of success will, in turn, drive us forward to meet the next challenge eagerly.
If we set ourselves massive, unachievable goals on a daily basis, however, and constantly fail to meet them, we experience negative emotions and the release of stress hormones in the body. Continue this for long enough, and you’ll end up depressed and unmotivated to do anything.