How to Reclaim Your Freedom and Take Back Control of Your Life by@vinitabansal

How to Reclaim Your Freedom and Take Back Control of Your Life

A sense of control in our life not only rids us of the fear and anxiety that comes with feeling out of control, it’s the single most critical factor in helping us stay productive at work. Feeling of control brings a feel good state while lack of it makes everything dull and depressed. The moment we think the problem is out there, we let the control slip from our hands to something beyond us. Blaming someone or something else for how things turned out is after all an easy path.
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Vinita Bansal

Author Upgrade Your Mindset Scaling products → Scaling thinking. Former AVP Engineering @Swiggy

A sense of control in our life not only rids us of the fear and anxiety that comes with feeling out of control, it’s the single most critical factor in helping us stay productive at work.

It isn’t about creating a plan and expecting the plan to pan out just the way we intended. That would be unrealistic optimism. Rather, it’s the internal sense of freedom to know that we have the autonomy to make corrections, the drive to be persistent and the power to influence the outcome.

Lack of control thus stems not so much from our lack of freedom to exercise our choices, but from placing exceptional power in the hands of external forces - other people, situations, conditions and environment - to influence the way we think, decide and interact with the world.

When you feel good, everything seems, feels, or tastes better. You also think better thoughts. Your energy levels are higher and possibilities seem limitless. Conversely, when you feel depressed, everything seems dull. You have little energy and you become unmotivated. You feel stuck in a place (mentally and physically) you don’t want to be, and the future looks gloomy - Thibaut Meurisse

The feeling of control brings a feel-good state while lack of it makes everything dull and depressing.

The moment we think the problem is out there, we let the control slip from our hands to something beyond us.

The moment we think that nothing we do can change the outcome, we stop believing in our ability to influence the outcome.

Instead of pushing ahead, we pull back. Instead of taking action, we despair in hopelessness. Spending more time and energy in lamenting over what we aren’t achieving and less in making something happen creates a cycle of avoidance, helplessness and discomfort which leads to further inaction and a self-fulfilling prophecy in our own beliefs.

We do less, achieve less and attribute it to lack of control. Blaming someone or something else for how things turned out is, after all, an easy path. And most of us choose this path most of the time (I have been guilty for doing this myself many times).

Very few people lack the awareness to exercise their independent will to choose their response. To not let someone else dictate what they can and cannot do. To not let external conditions prevent them from making a move. To not let their circumstances affect their values and attitude.

What matters most in life is not our experiences, but how we respond to those experiences. Consider these instances:

”My boss is a micromanager…I can’t do well.”

Does your boss really prevent you from succeeding? Have you taken steps to fix your situation or are you magically expecting his behavior to change?

“If only the market conditions were right…”

Did you do the work to evaluate the feasibility of your product or did you assume it will just work out? Now that you know your strategy didn’t work, what are you planning to do next?

“If only I had more time…”

Was it lack of time or the fact that you didn’t prioritize it enough or were distracted by something else that got your attention?

“It didn’t work out because the other team did not…”

Did you absolutely have no role to play in how things turned out? Could you have been more proactive?

Lack of control not only impacts the outcomes you achieve, it’s bad for your health and personal well-being. Desire to have more control at work while not taking the steps to regain that control can be one of the biggest hidden causes of burnout at work.

Strategies to feel in control, do more and achieve more

  1. Manage your internal dialogue
Our mind is a very powerful machine. Its ability to learn and repeat behaviors without our conscious awareness can be considered a gift when put to positive action. For example: While building any new skill, with practice and consistency, what was once daunting becomes second nature. Our unconscious mind learns and creates the patterns which makes it easier for us to repeat the behavior.

However, when exposed to negativity, cynicism, blame games and feeling of lack of control for an extended period of time, it can learn to be stuck in those behaviors too.
Without knowing, your natural response to adversity may be a feeling of helplessness. You not only refuse to act, you start believing in your own self-defeating stories. The more you justify your lack of control and feed your mind with such stories, the more it reinforces your beliefs.
The talent for self-justification is surely the finest flower of human evolution, the greatest achievement of the human brain. When it comes to justifying actions, every human being acquires the intelligence of an Einstein, the imagination of a Shakespeare, and the subtlety of a Jesuit. -Michael Foley

Actively paying attention to your thoughts and the language that you use in such moments is the only way to break the cycle:
  • Watch your narrative when you face a challenge or have to make a tough decision.
  • Is your internal dialogue leaning towards self-justification and feeling of lack of control or is it empowering you to feel in control of your situation?
  • What words are you using to describe your situation? “I can’t” “I don’t” “I have to” or “I can” “I will” “I choose.” The language that you use plays a crucial role in determining the way you act.

By managing your internal dialogue and shifting from using language that refrains you from taking action, you can take the first step towards reclaiming your freedom over your own decisions. And slowly you can train your unconscious mind to think this way too.

  1. Shift from outside-in to inside-out
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey explains the two states: outside-in and inside-out.

He writes that when we live with an outside-in paradigm, we empower what’s out there to control us. Something else has to change before we can change.

“I’ll be happy when I have my house paid off.”
“If only I had a boss who wasn’t such a dictator…”
“If only I had a more patient husband…”
“If I had more obedient kids…”
“If I had my degree…”
“If I could just have more time to myself…”

However, with an inside-out paradigm, we make an active choice to be different, and by being different, we influence a positive change in what’s out there.

“I can be more resourceful.”
“I can be more diligent.”
“I can be more creative.”
“I can be more cooperative.”
“I can ask for help.”

By shifting your paradigm from outside-in to inside-out, you can take the initiative necessary to effect positive change. Even minor shifts in your paradigm can enable you to seek a solution as opposed to blaming something or someone else for your situation thereby gaining more active control over your life.

  1. Build proactive focus
Most of the time we react to the things around us, especially when that thing is something that impacts us physically and emotionally. We don’t realize that by reacting and not acting intentionally, we automatically convey our lack of control over the situation to ourselves as well as to others.

Getting angry, passing a mean remark, attacking a person verbally, showing resentment in our tone and body language are just some of the ways in which we express our dissatisfaction over the current state of things. And while these things may make us feel good temporarily and even take off some of the stress and anxiety that comes from feeling lack of control, it doesn’t last long.

The negative effect of negativity always compounds. Our reactive focus further takes away our power to see the reality of our situation and take action. We are so mired in our frustration, blaming the other person, our situation and our conditions that we fail to give any active focus to the only thing within our control - our own behaviors and actions.

Shifting to a proactive focus makes us see the world differently. It places active focus on the things within our control. It encourages us to take responsibility for everything in our life even if it does not align with the outcome we desire. It makes us act with intention.

To build proactive focus, monitor where you spend your time and energy - things outside your control or those within your circle of influence?

Your circle of influence includes your own behaviors and actions and your ability to influence others to achieve the outcome. By operating within your circle of influence, you can exercise your freedom.


  1. Feeling of lack of control at work comes from giving more power to the external forces (other people, situations, conditions) and believing less in your own ability to exercise your freedom to make choices.
  2. By pushing responsibility and blaming something or someone else for your experience, you get trapped in a cycle of dissatisfaction, inaction, and discomfort which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy in your own beliefs and negative emotions.
  3. By applying the right strategies, you can regain control and create the life you desire.
  4. Watching your internal narrative and shifting from using language that makes you feel powerless to the one that actively encourages you to take action is a great way to feel in control of your decisions.
  5. Another great strategy is to shift your paradigm from outside-in (blaming others) to inside-out (taking active responsibility).
  6. Finally, by building a proactive focus and acting intentionally, you can operate within your circle of influence thereby expanding your ability to influence the outcome you desire.

Previously published here.
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