Today is national I Am In Control Day, which commemorates Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s famous words after the assassination attempt on then-President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Haig told reporters “I am in control here” to quell any anxieties until Vice President Bush arrived to assume control.
This historical moment has taken on new meaning. It now presents an opportunity for all of us to take control of our lives. Whether you’ve been letting yourself slowly slide back into old habits, or you’ve gone completely off course, or you want to exercise more control over your actions, today is the day to take the reins!
Most impulsive, self-defeating, or self-destructive behaviors are typically caused by either our being so caught up in our negative thoughts that they dictate our actions or our desperately trying to avoid painful emotions such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, guilt, loneliness, and so on. We might have thoughts like “I’m too tired to work out today; what’s missing one day going to do?” which leads us to skip the gym. Or perhaps we feel stressed out and overwhelmed, so we reach for the junk food in order to numb those feelings.
In order to get more control over our actions, we must first become more aware of the thoughts and feelings that trouble us. Next time you’re about to go off track or lose control, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and notice any self-defeating thoughts that are leading you astray and/or any distressing feelings that you’re trying to get rid of. First, just concentrate on noticing these experiences and becoming more self-aware. This may or may not disrupt the problematic behavior, and that’s okay! This exercise is about simply becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors instead of just going on autopilot.
Being mindful requires practice. If you apply this strategy to many areas of your life, you can slowly but surely become more aware of your unconscious thought processes, which will lead to making better decisions more of the time. Sure you’ll forget sometimes and eat a pint of ice cream or skip the gym to binge-watch TV, but over time you’ll learn to think rationally every time you feel that urge to lose control.