There are many things in life we can’t control. We can’t control what other people think of us. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control losing a loved one. We can’t control how others behave or what they say.
But there are many things we can control. Thankfully.
Of course, on some days, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like everything is falling apart, and we’re caught in a tsunami. But I think it’s empowering to remind ourselves that there are actions we can take, even in difficult times.
In the thoughtful book Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions, Lori Deschene, founder of TinyBuddha.com, shares a list of 50 things we can control. She lists everything from how many times we smile to how often we say “Thank you” and “I love you,” to how we interpret situations, to how many negative articles we read, to whether we share something that’s on our minds.
I wanted to create my own list as a reminder. And I encourage you to do the same. Include 75 things (or more!). After all, your list might be completely different. You might completely disagree with what I wrote. Which is totally fine.
Write what’s true for you. Get super specific for your life. Post your list somewhere visible, or keep it in your notebook. Refer to it regularly. Remind yourself that you have the power, whatever circumstances come your way. Control the things you can to cultivate a meaningful, fulfilling, compassionate life for yourself.
Without further ado, here are the things I can control:
- How I talk to myself.
- How I talk about myself in front of others. (Do you tend to dismiss yourself, too?)
- Whether I bring an umbrella.
- How much I hug my husband.
- How I react to others.
- When I write.
- The words I write.
- How often I check my phone. Similarly, whether or not I leave my phone in a different room.
- How I structure my day.
- How I structure my space.
- Whether I seek help.
- The people I turn to for help.
- When, where, and how I say “yes.”
- When, where, and how I say “no.”
- How I practice self-care.
- How I love others.
- How honest I am.
- How often I call my loved ones.
- Where I channel my grief.
- Whether I yell.
- How I feel my feelings; accepting my feelings.
- How much I pay attention to my surroundings.
- Whether I do something that’s outside my comfort zone.
- Whether I forgive myself.
- Who I follow, the websites I visit, the blogs I read.
- Whether I go to the doctor.
- My priorities.
- The music I listen to.
- The people I listen to.
- Whether I take responsibility for the things I’m responsible for.
- How hard I work at something.
- What I do with my racing thoughts.
- How much I play.
- What I do with my regrets.
- Whether I move my body in ways that empower me.
- Whether I sing to my daughter.
- Whether I diet. Whether I put any restrictions on my eating. Whether I practice intuitive eating.
- The people I surround myself with.
- The stories I rewrite; the unsupportive perspectives I change.
- What I wear.
- The art I create.
- How kind I am to others.
- Whether I look at my flaws – external and internal – with kindness, with gentleness, with love.
- Whether I put myself in someone else’s position and perspective.
- How patient I am.
- What I do with my anxiety.
- What I do with my anger.
- What I do with my sadness.
- What I do with my envy.
- How often I brush and floss my teeth. (Hey, the basics count, too.)
- Whether I look into my husband’s eyes.
- Whether I communicate my needs.
- How much inspiration I let into my life.
- How I respond to my needs.
- The boundaries I set.
- Whether I savor what I eat.
- Whether I create a morning and evening routine, and what each one looks like.
- How I honor loved ones who’ve passed away.
- How I treat my body.
- How I soothe myself.
- Whether I own a scale.
- What I do with my self-doubt.
- Whether I find beauty in the things that seem to have none.
- How grateful I am.
- How much time I spend with my mom.
- Whether I explore my dreams, intentions, and fears.
- What I do with my dreams, intentions, and fears.
- Whether I equate my weight with my worth.
- Whether I buy diet books and cookbooks and any other books that focus on rules, regulations, restrictions and numbers, and make me feel terrible about myself.
- Whether I let distractions derail my work.
- What I learn from my missteps, mistakes, missed opportunities, bad decisions, tough times.
- Whether I declutter and get rid of allllll the things I don’t love or need.
- What I watch: the types of shows and movies and news coverage. (If you’re a highly sensitive person, this is vital.)
- When I get outside and savor the fresh air.
- Whether I buy into the idea that wine (or any alcoholic beverage) is a reward I’ve earned or a fantastic way to relax and drown out the stresses of the day.
It’s so easy to feel pulled in all sorts of directions. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that life just happens to us, and we’re along for the—tumultuous—ride. Of course, there are challenges. There are obstacles that can feel insurmountable. But in those times we can do another thing we can control: We can seek support. We can seek professional help.
Remember, you can dig yourself out of the hole.
It won’t always feel like you can. It might feel impossible right now, this very minute, and you might be throwing your hands up in the air, and you might be angry at the very thought that you have any kind of control, especially in your situation. But with help, with hard work, you do.
You are not powerless.
Just say the word. Just say you’re going to change things. And keep digging.