How to Control the Future

October 26, 2010

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” – Leonardo da Vinci

We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.”Thich Nhat Hanh

You have control over every single thing in your life.

Wow. That’s a big statement, and, on the face of it, a very scary one. It’s true, though. You have a hand in what happens to you, no matter how unexpected, unpleasant, or victimized you might feel. This is, perhaps, the single most important tenet involved in living an intentional life (and, as such, the underlying principle of this blog). Every thing you do, every choice you make, is up to you, and each choice determines where you’ll go next.

I know that some of you may be thinking “Surely I’m not responsible for everything that happens to me! What about chance, or things that other people do to me?” While this seems like a reasonable train of thought at first, closer inspection will show it to be untrue. As mentioned above, you ended up in the situation you are in because of your own choices. Even if you had been forced to make every choice in your life at gunpoint, you decided to obey, rather than see what would happen if you said “no” to the gunman. This is not to say that I endorse gunmen or suicide, but just to recognize that there is choice in everything.

The realization of the fact that your choices brought you where you are is all well and good, but won’t change your current situation. Far more important, then, is the realization that you are presently making choices that affect where you go next, but it isn’t always easy. Accepting your own power to choose can, initially, make choice even more difficult. Consider the worry you sometimes feel when making a big decision like where to move. You know that this decision will affect the rest of your life, and so you agonize over the options. It’s easy to imagine, then, that living a life of responsibility for every choice could quickly become paralyzing.

If every choice affects your future, and you are in charge of each of those choices, how are you ever to decide anything? In actual fact, though, accepting control makes decisions easier, because you see that not choosing is a choice, too, and the worst one. Not choosing leaves you the victim of the world around you, enslaved to outside forces of your own accord. With this realization comes the knowledge that no matter how you choose, taking control is preferable to allowing the world to pass you by. The only decision you can make with absolute certainty is the decision to take control. This root decision to refuse to be a victim of circumstance is an important one that must be made in each moment. It is the only decision that will set you up to have easier choices (better options) down the road.

Once you have made the root decision to take control, surface decisions become much clearer. Take for example, a case of bullying. This has been a hot topic recently, with spates of bullying-inspired suicide making headlines in several areas. On the surface, there is not really anything the bullied can do about the situation, since, if they complain to an authority figure, they are likely to be viewed as cowards, and teased all the more. This seemingly leaves them with no option but to be a victim.   But victimization is the route that ultimately takes these troubled people to suicide…clearly not a good choice. So how can they take control? The decision to reject victimhood is, itself, enough. By making that decision, you put yourself in charge, and the bully becomes a source of annoyance or pity rather than a source of suffering.

This sounds abstract, I realize, but the human mind is a powerful instrument. Commit to the process and trust that your mind will take care of you, and your perception will change.

I know that this puts a lot of weight on your shoulders, and many people reject it for that reason. They think that rejecting it means that they are not responsible for the bad in their lives, but the fact is that by choosing to remove themselves from the equation, they are ensuring their own suffering. At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather bear the weight of your life yourself, rather than entrust it to happenstance, circumstance, and the un-guaranteed kindness of strangers?  By embracing control, you can take pride in your accomplishments and be proactive about ending your struggles.

It all comes down to this: ultimately, you are the person who walked the path that brought you to each event in your life. You could have made different choices, but you didn’t. Luckily, each moment is full of choices, and is, therefore, a new beginning. Every moment gives you the opportunity to take charge, and you already have everything you need to make the choice.  No one can do it for you. Get out there and carpe some diem!

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Feedback: How has choice and proactivity made a positive impact on your life?  If you have trouble accepting control, why is it that you struggle?

4 Responses to “How to Control the Future”


  1. I realize that this is a big topic to tackle so early on, but I feel that it will inform the rest of anything I might write, so better to just tackle it at the outset.

  2. Ghost Hero (andy) Says:

    awesome post. This very subject matter has been on my mind very much the past month or two. I wish that I had read this in July or August as I am now finding myself in a place where there is potential for far more difficulty than I ever wanted to experience in my life and I know in my heart that I chose it.

    I could’ve made some different choices… and I didn’t. But choosing to take control and apply the skill of making good choices means dealing with consequences from previous bad choices and accepting them as part of the reality you have made for yourself.

    Not making a choice is the worst decision to make and I feel like I learn things like this the hard way.

    The only way out and up is through. I have to accept my life as it stands now and improve from here by continually reminding myself to choose with every moment to make the most of every new beginning that comes my way.

    excellent post. To be aware of this is important… to actually apply it is the most important thing of all.

  3. Jessie Says:

    Saying that you have control over everything in your life is a pretty bold statement. I don’t totally agree with it, either, but I will say that people have far more contol over their lives than they think. For example, let’s say that a tree destroys part of your house during a storm, or as you are walking across the street someone swerves into you and breaks your leg. You couldn’t really do much about either. However, how you act and react after the situation (and how you’ve dealt with life before) can and does make a huge difference.

    Last week, I was in the middle of a scheduling kerfuffle. Due to some faulty information in my files, I wasn’t able to register for a class I need and by the time I realized exactly what channels I had to go through, the class was full. I went to the departmental office, waited patiently, talked to several people (including the professor teaching the course) and eventually (after about 45 minutes or so) was given a special override to register. By being persistant, genuine and having a good attitude you can get much farther than you would ever think.

    …Also, you never know what’s around the corner or who is watching you. It pays to always be aware of, and open to, opportunities.

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