Three Unusual Ideas To Regain Control Of Your Life That You’ve Never Heard Of

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

With plot twists that could put the writers of Black Mirror to shame, 2021 has unleashed a flood of devastating misfortunes, and awakened long slumbering demons in the darkest alleys of our minds.

If you’re as disenchanted as I am with snappy Instagram quotes about positive affirmations, self-care rituals and the whole spiel of “Stay positive, and ignore reality” quotes, you might want to read on.

Yes, things are bad. They’re likely to be that way for a while.

I’d like to introduce you to 3 sensible ideas that have helped me find clarity and peace amidst the bleak reality that engulfs us all.

Idea #1 — The Life Compass.

Time — 15 minutes per quarter / half year

Benefits — helps uncover clarity of purpose, helps combat unhealthy behavior patterns, stabilizes mood

In a life-changing workshop by Dr. Rob Archer, I came across a deceptively simple tool called the “Life Compass”. It is by far the most straightforward way to remind yourself of what matters most to you even when you’re held hostage by adversity or anxiety.

Quite like a real life compass, a “life compass” can help you find your ‘True North’ and steer you away from unhelpful patterns of thinking.

To begin using one, please enlarge the template below. Draw the template on a piece of paper and follow the instructions.

Workingwithact.com

There are 4 dimensions in the Life Compass.

1. Values and purpose — Reflect on these questions to fill out this quadrant

a. Who matters to me right now?

b. What matters to me right now?

c. What values/qualities do I stand for?

d. How do I want to look back on this period of my life?

2. Towards moves — Ask yourself

a. What should I do to move me towards my values and purpose?

b. What does it look/feel like when I am moving closer towards my values and purpose?

3. Hooks — Identify triggers that drag you down to indulging in behaviors that will harm you

a. What emotions and thoughts “hook” me away from my values? (Feeling overwhelmed, trying to get everything ‘right’ with deadlines looming overhead and so on)

4. Away moves — List out the actions that take you away from your values and purpose

a. What do I do when I am “hooked”? (Work longer/become irritable/avoid talking to people/behave passive aggressively and so on)

Take a look at this example from Dr. Archer and fill out your own life compass.

Workingwithact.com

When I first tried this, I was astonished at the sudden feeling of clarity and relief I experienced. My ‘hooks’ had been tormenting me for years now. Usually these hooks would start as little drips that turned into raging waterfalls because of stress, but now I can bring myself to ‘close the tap’ when I see the signs. I feel less cynical about life. I am also more comfortable with setting boundaries with colleagues and family.

Having the life compass at your desk/somewhere you can see can help you reinforce your values and steer you away from the ‘hooks’.

The best part is writing up this compass only takes as little as 15 minutes, but you will have made a series of decisions over the course of this short span of time. These decisions can set the tone for the rest of the year/quarter depending on how often you wish to review the compass. Amazing what a few moments of clarity can do to improve your mental state.

Idea #2 — The Stoic journal

Time — 05–10 mins per day

Benefits — improves self-awareness, fosters feelings of gratitude, increases confidence levels

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

There’s nothing like a 2,300 year old philosophy to make the present more bearable. I’ve relied on Stoicism to overcome nearly all of my (seemingly short) life’s adversities.

You are free to journal in any manner that serves you. The idea is to simply put your day up for review. If you’re looking for journal prompts, check out Ali Abdaal’s Stoicism Masterclass on Skillshare or Telegram. Bite sized classes and easy-to-use templates will have you feeling like a calm and collected Roman emperor in no time.

My favorite journal prompts are:

  • What am I most proud of today?
  • What could I have done to make today even better?
  • What are 3 things I am grateful for?
  • If I lived more consciously, courageously and freely, I would…
  • What action can I take today to resolve my biggest fear/worry?
  • What do I need to forgive myself for today after a slight reprimand?

Idea #3 — The Essentialist’s question

Time — 01 minute every day

Benefits — helps you get a good night’s sleep, sharpens your prioritization skills, improves focus

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

Working from home has meant that most of us are unable to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day. I’ve been dreaming about work and slotting my life between deadlines for an uncomfortably long time. The one thing that has helped me disconnect from the frenetic pace has been the ‘Essentialism’ philosophy. Hyper-productivity isn’t the answer to the increasing demands on your time.

I recommend reading Greg McKeown’s work in this space.

There is one question from his book, ‘Essentialism — The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’ that has always halted my racing mind in its tracks:

“What do you need to do to be able to go to sleep peacefully?”

This question is designed to bring your attention back to what you can control and what needs your immediate attention, particularly at the end of the day.

I have been using this to ‘close’ my work day.

Asking this question helps me direct my energy in fruitful ways. Best of all, I can focus on the task at hand fully because I have decided what is important — there is nothing else gnawing at me at the back of my mind while I am working on it.

I recommend starting with the Life Compass technique because it will help set the tone for the other two. Alternatively, please feel free to choose whichever one you are most drawn to. Unlike catchy quotes and feel-good parables, these techniques require repetition and discipline to add value to your life. Having tried them myself, I can safely say that you won’t be disappointed.

In summary,

  • Use a Life Compass to clarify your values and purpose
  • Journal every day to keep yourself accountable and
  • Pursue only what is essential to you

Take care and be well.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.