Why only you are in control of your future

Photo by Geoffroy Hauwen on Unsplash

I used to worry a lot. My anxiety would creep into all mundane facets of my life; would I lose my place on the rugby team, would my girlfriend suddenly dump me, would I get to sit near my friends on the bus or on my own where everyone would obviously be watching me…?

I’m not sure where the waves of anxiety came from. It was like being punched in the stomach. Maybe I was overly self conscious like a lot of acne ridden teenagers. Maybe I was jealous of everyone higher up the school social pecking order. I definitely wasn’t cool enough.

One thing is certain; everything I used to fret about was out of my control. Sure, I could train hard and play well in matches to influence what my coach thought about me, but I could never determine if he picked me. And I could surprise my girlfriend with evenings out, little presents and all that, but I could never control how she felt about me.

A few years later in a Honduran hostel that looked (and felt) more like a prison, one of my friends imparted some wisdom on me that I won’t forget. He asked me, “why bother worrying about things you can’t control?”

He was totally right. Travelling through Central America getting hung up at borders, driven through cities by taxi drivers who couldn’t understand a word we said and seeing washing machine shops guarded by a man with a shotgun became the norm, and I would enjoy the trip a lot more if I just learned to relax…

Travelling helped me to suppress my anxiety. I learned to go with the pace of other people’s lives, to enjoy things for what they were, enjoy people for who they are and enjoy places for the impressions they imprinted me.

There are few things you can control whilst traveling which is one of its great beauties.

The ability to lose yourself in another culture and environment so foreign from your own clears your head of any lingering doubts and past grudges.

But when I was home I would find myself still getting stressed over little things. Why isn’t the kitchen clean, why won’t the estate agent respond to my emails, why do I feel threatened on the streets outside my house? I was struggling to bring a comfort with ambiguity back from my adventures abroad.

I was so concerned and dissatisfied with certain aspects of my life that I quit my job, left my house and moved to the other side of the world.

It was just what I needed. A fresh start with a little more wisdom under my belt, and a clean slate on which everything I wanted to draw on it would be within my control.

But one by one the concerns crept back; what if I can’t make friends, what if I can’t perform in my new job…?

That was until I came across some new wisdom that took my friend’s advice from a few years past to the next level. I shouldn’t only stop worrying about things that I can’t control. I should realise that I am actually only in control of two things; my own thoughts and my own actions.

Something clicked when I heard that phrase that has genuinely changed my life.

Suddenly everything seemed so easy. I started to enjoy different personalities more. I became increasingly stoic, less likely to find myself tensing my shoulders at work, but above all else I became so much happier.

Now if ever anyone has at go a for me for not emptying the recycling in time, not delivering a piece of work to a falsely imagined deadline or jumps a queue in front of me, as long as I know that I am doing my best all I can do with regards to others is accept that their thoughts and actions are out of my control.

That is why everything seems so easy. And that is all I need.

Following this logic, if the only things you can control are your own thoughts and actions, then the only things others can control are their own thoughts and actions. People can try their best to influence or affect you but ultimately the decisions that you make and the paths that you follow are down to you alone.

So next time you’re being compelled to do something that doesn’t feel right, or you feel oppressed and misguided by society seemingly forcing you down a certain path, know that the only person in control of what you do is you.

That is why only you are in control of your future, and nobody else.

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Sharing my take on things that I find interesting and important.

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Michael Yorke

Michael Yorke

Sharing my take on things that I find interesting and important.

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