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Can More Control in Your Life Mean Happiness?

Focusing on you in 2019 can reap rewards.

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We’ve just passed another holiday season where the focus was on giving and thanks. And most would agree that giving to others is a cornerstone of happiness.

But in the zeal to help those around you, is it possible that you, like many good-hearted people, may be overlooking something core to your personal contentment in and out of the workplace?

What about making at least some of your New Year’s resolutions about being good to yourself? I’m not talking about the common goals of losing weight or working out regularly. I mean on a deeper level, recognizing that you deserve happiness—and to be in greater control of your life.

In a world where we’re rushing to please bosses, partners, family, friends and even pets, it can be hard to cut ourselves some slack. In my last blog, I talked about happiness and its importance relative to confidence. But sometimes you have to stoke your own fires of self-esteem, and focus on your own needs before that of others—with some disciplined practices.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone else. And if you aren’t on your priority list, your productivity, mood and health will suffer. You need to care enough about yourself to make changes this year, and what better time than now?

One word of caution. I’m not condoning 'New Year Narcissism' or swearing by self-absorption! Those who tend to put themselves last on the To-Do list know who they are—and it’s an expansive club!

Here are some ways to be kinder to yourself and keep your self-esteem at full throttle in 2019:

Don’t let others define you. You know your worth, so don’t buy into how others rank your value. For instance, you may be stagnating in your career right now, but that doesn’t define who you are. And just because a boss, colleague or friend recently chastised you, that doesn’t mean: a) They’re right; b) You should take it personally; or c) You can’t bust through their comment with a new direction. You know your capabilities and power, so allow your inner voice and strength to lead the way, starting now!

Revel in your accomplishments. It’s not always easy to find others to praise all you do, especially the smaller achievements. If you’re waiting for someone to declare, “Have I told you what a terrific job you do each day?”—you could be waiting a long time! So, you must be your best cheerleader. Try to reflect at the end of each day on your accomplishments, no matter how small; they do add up. (Attention overachievers: not all wins must be headliners!)

Accomplishments unrelated to work may be far more impactful in your life, too. Perhaps you've overcome major challenges on a financial, social, health-related or emotional level. Take pride in your resilience through these tough times, no matter how significant they seem to others.

Say “no” with diplomacy. Making yourself a priority means taking control over your schedule and life. Time is a non-renewable resource, so don’t make choices out of obligation. Don’t be a slave to your emails, texts, phone, or the schedule of others. Make as many rules as you like that help create order in your life.

If you react at the whim and mercy of others, whose happiness are you really living for?

There will always be opportunities to do more—take on more projects at work, make more plans, be more active in social and business circles, be more active with friends and family... and that’s all great. Until you realize you have no energy left for yourself. Give yourself permission to decline invitations. You might just discover a new-found, fabulously liberating sense of control.

Don’t compare. With more people than ever posting their “best selves” on social media, it can be challenging to focus on one’s own blessings. The risk is when digital acquaintances become a seemingly blissful, widely “'liked” universe—with no real backstory and all the substance of ether space.

The more grateful you are for the real, little bright spots throughout your day, the easier it is to view the world of other's with more perspective. Perhaps more importantly, the more focus on real-life people closest to you (including you), the more contentment life can bring.

Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people in business and in your personal life who bring you joy. You can guide people into more positive behavior. But you can also be discerning where you hang your hat. Concentrate your time on those who support you just as you are. They’ll fuel your spirits on those days when your self-esteem lags.

Check off your wish list. Confidence can soar as you try new things and achieve successes. You don’t need to set big goals, either. Maybe you’ve wanted to start taking walks during your lunch break and see more of the local area. Ask a colleague to join you and get out there. Tap into your natural sense of curiosity to keep your spirits high.

Be realistic. No matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes in life. Apologize (sometimes to yourself) when necessary, but don’t overdo it. Maintain that sense of confidence to propel you past your mistakes. There’s no value in getting stalled by missteps along the way. And the silver lining does apply. When something goes wrong, it typically leads you into a more solid direction, anyway!

So, be good to yourself in 2019 by taking over the reins of your time and outside demands. You might just exceed the expectations of a very key audience: You.

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