One of the greatest secrets to consistent happiness is to only ever focus on things you can control.
In this guide, I will first explain why that is – and how you can learn to do it.
The guide also includes a mammoth list of 61 things you can control in your life.
If you’re feeling lost, helpless, anxious or depressed, I urge you to read this guide. It should help you a lot.
Let’s dive right into it.
What You Can Control Vs What You Can’t
In life, a lot of things happen that we cannot control.
To achieve success in our professional and romantic pursuits, we are at the mercy of other people’s opinions.
To live a long and healthy life, we are the mercy of the universe and the kindness/intelligence of other people.
So many lives are damaged or cut short due to natural disasters, mistakes or cruelty from others.
When you focus for too long on the things outside of your control, the world can start to feel like a dark and evil place.
But why should you focus on these things? How does this serve you? All it really does is cause anxiety about something that may or may not happen. And, even if it does happen, there’s nothing you’re able to do to change it.
The same goes for events in the past.
Everything in the past is now out of your control, whether it’s an earthquake or the cruel words you let slip from your mouth earlier today.
No matter how much energy you spend regretting or worrying about the past, you cannot change it. So why carry this negativity in your head?
If you must worry about anything, focus on how you can react to the past or prepare for a great future. This is infinitely more productive.
What’s more, by focusing on what you can control, you’ll develop a more positive mindset and live a more joyful life.
This positive mindset on its own can do so much to create a brighter future. Indeed, the Law Of Attraction states that we attract what we think about most.
Although there are many things in life that are out of your control, you can choose to make them a small part of your life.
Charles Swindoll famously said: “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
This is a great mentality that’ll help you reclaim power of your own life. The thing is: so many people focus on the 10%, rather than the 90%. For the sake of your mental health, I pray that you choose not to be one of them.
How Do You Focus On The Things You Can Control?
When you feel negative emotions such as anger, stress or self-doubt, stop and ask yourself “can I do something about it?”
This line of questioning will help you refocus your line of thinking on how to react, instead of stewing on how bad it makes you feel.
Accept Your Feelings, Don’t Suppress Them
A lot of people try to control their emotions. They force themselves to be happy, even if they don’t feel it naturally. They block out anything they don’t want to feel. This is horrible for your mental health.
The problem is: suppressing your thoughts rarely eliminates them. Instead, it creates negative energy that weighs you down. What’s more, these feelings will nearly always return with greater intensity in the future.
It’s far better to accept all thoughts that pop into your head – and control how you react to them. What you resist persists, what you embrace dissolves.
Consider adopting this thought pattern instead.
“I’m feeling anger/sadness/jealousy.”
“I accept that.”
“Why is that?”
“How can I react?”
This is a more positive thought pattern that helps you regain control of your mind.
It’s so easy to get caught up in a thought loop stressing about things you cannot control, especially immediately after a stressful situation.
To avoid this, I’d recommend practicing mindfulness through a practice like meditation. Among other mental and physical benefits, this can teach you to detach from your thoughts.
During meditation, you focus on your body. A lot of people choose to sit comfortably and focus on their breath, but there are many alternative methods. Either way, your focus will inevitably stray back towards your thoughts at times. When this happens, accept it, then shift your focus back towards your body.
By completing this practice regularly and learning to stay present, you will begin to see your thoughts and emotions as separate to you.
Then, when unhelpful thoughts pop up in your day-to-day life, you can consciously acknowledge them, then choose how to react. No need to waste hours in an unhelpful thought loop.
For more information on the power of mediation, see my guide on effectively emptying your mind.
Journaling helps you to gain awareness and clarity over your thoughts and actions. You can use it to track your healthy eating plan, your exercise plan, your sleep hours, your mood, anything.
I’d recommend this exercise for placing more focus on what you can control in life.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to jot all your thoughts on paper in a free-form writing style. Don’t filter yourself.
Next, ask yourself that magic question “Can I do something about it?” for each major idea that arises.
This will help you let go of the anxious feelings that aren’t serving you.
Follow this process enough, and it’ll soon become easier to start doing it in your mind throughout your daily life.
What Things Can You Control?
Here’s my mammoth list of things you can control. If 61 entries isn’t enough for you, go ahead and leave more in the comments.
- Your actions
- How you talk to yourself
- Whether you perceive yourself as ‘good enough’
- How you perceive what happens to you
- How you talk about yourself to others
- How you treat other people
- How to respond when others treat you badly
- How you react to good news
- How you react to bad news
- How you react to criticism
- How you respond to rudeness
- How much sleep you get
- How often you contact loved ones
- How often you say ‘I love you’
- How often you surrender to distractions
- How often you focus on meaningless things
- How well you take care of your physical health
- How well you take care of your mental health
- How well you organise your day
- How often you stop to appreciate the small things in life
- How often you try to improve others’ lives
- How often you show gratitude
- How much you read
- What media you consume
- What influencers you pay attention to
- What words you choose to believe
- How often you leave your comfort zone
- How often you smile
- How often you fantasize of a brighter future
- How long you spend dwelling on negative thoughts
- How you present yourself to the world
- Whether to apologize
- Whether to forgive others
- Whether to share the things you have
- How much attention you give to your strengths and weaknesses
- Your life goals
- How much energy you put towards achieving your goals
- How to respond in the face of anxiety
- How you react to envy
- How you react to self-doubt
- How you react to frustration
- How you react to stress
- Whether to go for what you want
- The personal boundaries you set and whether you hold people to them
- Whether or not you poison your body with drugs
- What you attach your self-worth to
- Whether you learn from your mistakes
- When to be honest
- How long you spend thinking about the past
- How well you prepare for the future
- Whether you judge people
- How often you try new things
- When to let arguments go
- When to share your opinions
- Your expectations of other people
- How much you care what other people think
- How often you seek help
- How often you create art
- How often you put yourself first
- How much time you spend on things that make you happy
- How much energy you put toward personal growth
Any More Questions On The Things You Can Control?
I hope this article made an impact on you today. Hopefully, you already feel more able to start shifting your focus onto things you can control. This one mentality tweak can fuel growth and change lives.
If you have a question, feel free to leave a comment in the box below. I always love to hear from my readers.