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How to Develop the Strength to Gain Control of Your Life

Sep 07, 2022

I would like for you to feel solidly in control of your life. You cannot control other people, but you can get in control of yourself. You have to be able to make the choices you need in order to make your life work, belong to you, and integrate around the things important to you. That may require you to set some boundaries and limits with some people.

You will have to be strong in order to do that in many difficult life contexts. Consider the following scenarios:

  • You need to confront a spouse who is in denial about a significant problem, such as substance abuse.
  • You need to confront a difficult boss about mistreatment.
  • You need to talk to an unreasonable or abusive client.
  • You need to tell someone you are dating that something needs to change.
  • You need to tell your boss or team that their strategy is not going to work and they should wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late.
  • You need to tell a direct report that there is something about his or her performance that must change. 

But what if the following things are also true?

  • You cannot handle your spouse being upset with you and you know that he or she will be upset if you confront the issue.
  • You need the job so much you are afraid your boss will fire you and you doubt your ability to get another job.
  • You can’t survive without the client.
  • You can’t stand the thought of being without a relationship.
  • You are afraid your boss or the team will react badly, and you can’t stand for them to be upset with you.
  • You have grown to need your direct report’s performance so much that if he or she walked you do not know what you would do.

If these things are true, you are not in a position to deal with what you need to deal with, and are not really in control of you. But what if the following were true?

  • You have joined a codependency or support group that is going to stand with you when you confront your spouse’s substance problem, and will be there for you if things go really badly. You won’t be alone.
  • You have taken classes, increased your skills, have heightened your “hire-ability,” and have gone on interviews and already have other offers.
  • You have built up your business to the point that this client represents only a fraction of your sales, and you are so well connected that you will be able to use that extra time to build even more.
  • You have a strong foundation of friends, a support system, and self-confidence. And while breaking up would be said, it would not be devastating. You would not be alone at all, but would have lots of friends to be with as you move to the next stage.
  • You have so many people who believe in you and like you, that any one person’s disapproval of your opinion, or a conflict with them, would not unnerve you. You would be strong through the battle of ideas. And like the second scenario, if you got booted, you would be fine.
  • You know that you are in charge of your business and have not allowed it to be dependent on any one person’s performance.

So, remember, you will not be able to be in control of your own life until you have strengthened your personal balance sheet. Your “equity” has got to be strong. You have to have a lot of assets in order to be able to do two things:

  • Be who you need to be for yourself and have what you need to have happen, happen.
  • Be the servant of others you need to be. You cannot serve someone you are toxically dependent on as you are not free to love them in the way that they might need at times, i.e., through tough love.

Be in the business of upping your equity, which means increasing your assets over your liabilities, building up your balance sheet of life. Here are some of the assets that you will need to be in a position of strength:

  • Develop a strong support system of friends who will stand with you when you have to do something difficult or when you might lose someone’s approval or even relationship. This may take some time, depending on your situation. But, in the beginning, you could join some existing support groups until your own support system is in place.
  • Go beef up your skills so that you will have more job opportunities than you want, and more people who need you than you have time for.
  • Get more credentials, education, or training not only to raise your marketability but your confidence as well.
  • Focus on business growth so that the vulnerabilities you have to any particular market, customer, or other downturn will not be fatal.
  • Get strongly grounded spiritually so that when difficulties occur, relational turmoil happens, or other times of upheaval come, you have a foundation to depend on. Many times people face issues of meaning, spirituality, and the things that matter deeply to them in a crisis. But to be strong in those issues before a crisis is real strength.
  • Find a few people who are specifically dedicated to helping you in the moment of dealing with the crisis, i.e., available to talk to you right before the difficult confrontation, role play it with you, and be there for you right after and in subsequent weeks.
  • Get the coaching or counseling that you need to deal with whatever or whomever you are dealing with in the bigger picture. Pay for it if necessary, but get it. A mentor is good, and sometimes a professional is better as it is more directly focused, structured, and protected.
  • Join a support group, or put a peer group together. I remember one group of women I knew who all were going through job changes and had a 7 AM conference call each morning for fifteen minutes to support each other, and hold each other accountable for the steps they had to take that day.
  • Get your financial house in order. If you do not have savings, or are in debt, that is a weak stone in your foundation that makes it difficult to take strong stances. Go get help if you have not been able to accomplish this. You need to be able to sustain substantial periods of no income to truly have choices.
  • Develop a dedicated growth path for your relational and life issues. If you have never been in personal counseling, therapy, or some sort of growth path to work through whatever your own relational and life issues are, do it now. It could be formal or informal, but if you do not repair those dynamics and cracks in the foundation, they will diminish your strength.
  • Grow in specific relationship and life skills. Take a workshop on communication, assertiveness, or conflict resolution so you can face difficult situations with more strength. Take a listening course, or a course on negotiation, or others. The idea here is that successful people are people who have taken the time to develop the life skills they need to negotiate tough situations.
  • Find a “growth community” of some sort. Whether that be a spiritual community, a recovery group, a professional network, or a community college, be a part of a community of people who are getting better at life. Growth begets growth in people, and it is good to be in some sort of community that encourages it.

Remember, we are talking about a balance sheet here, not a short-term loan. These are real assets, and like all assets, the more valuable ones take time to build. There are no quick fixes. Put the time and effort into these and see them as goals that are going to take months–some of them years–to get to where you ultimately want them. But it is well worth the effort.

In the short-term, seek to grow your assets on your balance sheet by going to places where you can immediately find the things you need. Go see a professional for immediate help or join an already existing support structure. Then, from that foundation, you can build out. See it as venture capital.

Get Dr. Cloud's free guide on how to deal with the toxic people in your life. 

Dr. Cloud can help you live the life you were meant to live!