What To Do When Your Life is Hell 2019-05-05

When these words come out of our mouths, we have two real choices.We can choose to believe these words and accept that our lives are just miserable, and changing our lives is impossible.
We can choose to believe these words and use those emotions to empower ourselves to change our lives.It is a choice. We are not powerless to control our own lives. That’s just the thing we tell ourselves when we’re not ready or willing to step into our own personal agency.
Personal agency exists when we recognize that we have control over our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.We understand that, while we cannot control the world around us or the other people existing on this planet with us, we can certainly make choices that influence the outcomes of our own lives. To own our personal agency is to empower ourselves to make changes and begin to create the kind of lives we actually want to live.
External Locus of ControlThere tend to be people who look at the world with an external locus of control. This means that they see events as happening to them. Their focus is on how other people treat them, how outside events influence their lives, and how little control they actually have. This leads to feeling helpless, resentful, bitter, and frustrated.
Internal Locus of ControlThen there are people with an internal locus of control who already have that sense of personal agency. They realize that they can only control themselves, but they also recognize the power in their personal choices. They realize that events can happen, but they can choose how to respond to them. They understand that other people may not treat them well but equally understand that how they respond to that treatment is a choice. This internal locus of control helps people feel empowered, confident, and adaptable.
Owning our personal agency requires that internal locus of control. If we don’t have it, we have to learn how to develop it. While it may not be easy, the end result is a lot better than staying stuck in helplessness, envy, and bitterness that life did not turn out as we’d have liked.We recognize that we have the power of choice.

Recognizing that we have choices is a powerful first step. Instead of blaming everyone else for the lives we’re living, we own that we are responsible for every choice that brought us to this point in our lives. If we don’t like where we are, we can make choices to change it.When we realize we have choices, we stop waiting around for someone else to fix our lives.We can choose how we react to the people and events that happen in our lives. 
We can decide whether or not we’re going to follow every thought train to its final destination or realize when it’s toxic and find a better way. We can recognize that we are responsible for our own emotions rather than blaming others for how we feel. When we struggle, we can even choose whether or not we’re going to try to heal alone or if we’re going to seek help from friends, family, or professionals to help us through difficult times.
We bring that recognition into how we communicate.

It’s not enough just to recognize that we have control over our actions. We can begin to bring that awareness into how we communicate. We learn healthier ways of communicating because we are no longer blaming other people for our circumstances. Instead of telling people that they made us feel a particular way, we begin to express how their behavior impacted us while taking responsibility for our own feelings. This means that we stop making our love and hate and everything in between someone else’s problem, too. We can talk about it without shifting the responsibility for choices and change over to someone else.We get our priorities straight.

We stop letting everyone else dictate the lives we lead. We begin to delve into what we want and need by looking at our priorities. What kind of life would we live if we could live any way we liked? We start with that one question, and then we look at our list to determine how we could be living a life just like that right now.This often means unlearning what we’ve come to know about life. It means throwing out this unwritten timeline that says everything has to be done by a certain age and in a certain way. It also means accepting that the things we want, those top priorities, may require a trade-off.We accept the exchange.

What we want for our lives may require an exchange. A trade. A sacrifice. If we truly want to live our lives according to our priorities, we need to accept this first. Then, we need to make the exchange.For me, it was learning to live off very little money. If I was going to write full-time and work for myself, I needed to live with very little overhead. I needed to get out of debt, establish some kind of emergency fund, and figure out how to live off a lot less than what I might make working for someone else. I learned how to bargain and how to be thrifty and how to live the kind of life I wanted without sacrificing the things that are important to me.
That lifestyle looks like driving used cars with high mileage but getting to do the thing I love every single day. It means going without benefits but having the benefit of more time with my children and a more flexible schedule. It looks like having to work on vacation but not having to deal with difficult bosses or colleagues. It looks like having to be vigilant with my budget but getting to spend my days crafting the stories I need to tell.Yes, there’s sacrifice involved, but the gift of doing what I love is priceless.We give up the need for outside approval.

When we begin to align our lives with our priorities, the people who are accustomed to us living the way we once did might have feelings about it. Some of them might be happy for us, but there will also be people who feel the need to hand out cautionary tales and unsolicited advice. We have to be willing to choose what we want and need and to give up our people-pleasing ways.I’ve gotten plenty of unsolicited feedback about my work as a writer. Most artists find themselves the bullseye of skeptics. It doesn’t seem like a practical career, and it certainly doesn’t have the security and benefits of other jobs. But as a person who’s had more than one career in my life, I can say that working for other people isn’t always secure, stable, or beneficial either. Some of the jobs that paid me the most money or had the best benefits came with the highest level of stress and life dissatisfaction. Writing is riskier, but the benefits are already innumerable.I had to stop caring if other people thought my choices were reasonable and start caring about my quality of life. This is my life, not theirs, and I need to know that I’m not throwing it away on someone else’s dream, on an old dream I’ve outgrown, or on a life that’s practical but contains very little joy.We step into our personal agency and change our lives.

When we own the fact that we have the power to change our lives and we accept that there may be a trade-off, we then make one or two choices.
We can choose to live exactly the same way that we always have, accepting that our quality of life will suffer.Or…We can choose to start making choices to change our lives.There’s not a third option. We choose to change or we choose not to, but either way, it’s a choice. Finding our agency and claiming it means that we are no longer content with letting life be something that happens to us. We begin to make intentional, conscious choices to create lives that we love, lives that go beyond our careers and relationships. We accept the power of our choices, and our whole lives change.
We learn to live in joy.

When we live our lives with personal agency as the focus, we make choices, but we also understand that being in control of our choices doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. We don’t immediately live happily ever after without experiencing struggle or difficulty ever again. We do, however, continue to make choices that resonate with the very core of our being.
We become deeply authentic and driven by joy rather than by guilt, obligation, perfection, or helplessness. We know that our choices won’t always be easy, but we understand that the rewards of living the lives we want are great. There’s joy in knowing that we can choose new lives any time we want to simply by making different choices.I’m not saying quit your day job or break up with your partner. I’m not saying rush out and enroll in school or rush home and make a life-changing announcement. 
I am saying that the power to choose our lives is in all of us. It’s a big responsibility, one that impacts us and everyone around us. But when we live intentional lives, we also are capable of a great positive impact on the world around us — far greater than we stay stuck in struggle and dismiss the possibility of change as being impossible.
We don’t have to hate our lives. We have the power to love them. We just have to choose to accept our personal agency and to choose our change.


All Rights Reserved for Crystal Jackson

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