How to Maintain Control During Times of Strife

Sometimes I psych myself out when it comes to writing for this blog. I tell myself that now that I’m a graduate student actually studying positive psychology, all of my articles should be steeped in references, research and data. That’s the type of evidence that we look for in my classes and there is certainly a place for it. Hell, my ultimate goal with all of my studying and research right now is to help make life coaching a more reputable and credible profession with the support of science.


But this blog is more than an amateur psychology journal.

Sometimes it’s just about a guy that’s trying to make his life a little big better by thinking about the best way to approach life. Sometimes it’s about a guy that takes a leap and moves across the country to study something he’s truly passionate about. And sometimes it’s about a guy that’s fighting through the same issues that everybody faces at some point — loneliness, confusion, and an overwhelming sense of the unknown.

It doesn’t always have to be about the science. In fact, science without humanity is arguably completely useless.


As I sat down in the library after a long day of statistics, research methods, and discussing complex articles with people who are much more intelligent than me, I was dreading having to write something for this website. My brain was fried and my analytical thinking capabilities had been completely tapped out for the day.

It’s time to just write about what’s on my mind right now, regardless of the science behind it. And right now I’m looking at some turmoil in my personal life, stress in my student life, and unknowns across the board. What do you do in a time like this? What should you do?


For me, whenever I’m feeling out of control I always come back to the idea of focusing only on what I can truly control. When I sit down and think about what I actually control in a calm and collected manner, I’m usually surprised by how little I’m left with. The everyday worries that fill my life, and yours, are actions we can’t control. And yet, we worry about them. We fret. We let the uncontrollable control us. A renewed resolve to focus only on the variables within our grasp often leads to fresh outlooks on the true nature of our stress and worries.

What does that look like?


Almost everything we do is the result of our habits. Our habits are built up over time by making the "right" decision over and over (which obviously varies depending on context). When your life feels like it’s spinning out of control it’s likely that what’s actually being neglected is the attention to your daily habits. Improve those, and you’ll find your life getting back under control.


I recently read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The main takeaway from that book is that regardless of the hopelessness of your situation, even if it is rife with suffering and despair, you still control the contents of your own mind. Frankl suffered through Nazi concentration camps and during this time of unbelievable suffering he developed his theory of meaning. Those who are able to find meaning in their lives are able to find any situation, even those filled with suffering, an opportunity for growth. Try reframing a negative situation into more positive light and you’ll be taking the first step toward reclaiming your attitude.


Huge projects are not completed in one night. Grad school is not completed with a weekend of hard work. A happy life is not built upon a single event. Instead of looking at the big picture, try focusing only on the very next action you’re taking. Make a good decision about your next action. And then, make another good decision about the action after that. If you fill your days with good decisions about your next action then you will have control over your life.

I love positive psychology and I love science. I love data and the strength that empirical evidence gives to an argument. However, sometimes I get tired of numbers, theory, and variables. Sometimes I need a quick dose of inspiration — something to get me moving in the right direction.

Where are you feeling like you’re losing control in your life? Do you actually have control over it or is there something you should be focusing on instead?