Reclaim Your Future: 12 Practices To Help You Own Your Life

Note: This is the second of a two-part series about reclaiming your future. In Part 1, I described the increasingly surreal, matrix-like climate that government seems to be creating, and touched on some reasons for taking charge of your life. In this part, I provide an overview of actions you can take to begin to own your life, and exercise more control over your destiny. To go deeper on any point, just follow the links.

Reclaim Your Future (2)Have you ever found yourself saying about another person, that they ought to get a life? Yeah, me too. And if you’re like me, on occasion, you’ve probably found yourself admitting, “Man, I need to get a life!!” So, my question is, when do you say that? [Tweet this]  

Well, again drawing on personal experience, I’ll bet you’ve been most prone to feel a need for big change when:

        • You’ve felt like things were slipping out of your control.
        • Things beyond your control were negatively affecting you.
        • You’ve felt obligated in some uncomfortable way.
        • You faced too many competing demands, and felt overwhelmed.

Too often, people feel the biggest need for change when they’re trapped in circumstances that cause pain. And there’s no bigger source of pain, than a feeling of overwhelm that makes you feel helpless. It’s even more painful when you see things you can change, but you’re afraid to give yourself permission. [Tweet this]  

Well, stop it! Instead, get ready to take action!

I won’t claim to have an answer for your specific circumstances. Owning your life and reclaiming your future is ultimately up to you. [Tweet this]  Still, here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Journey Inward.

Since the time Socrates first uttered the injunction “Know Thyself,” countless others have chimed in with the same advice. So, I’m betting you’ve heard this. Yet, I’d guess you haven’t really done the kind of deep dive of introspection that leads to genuine insight. If not, why not give it a shot? And if you need an easy way to get started you may want to check out, Kerry Pastine’s nifty little book.

2. Establish Your Quest.

It’s very likely that one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced – or need to face – is making a conscious decision about what you want out of life. Yet, counterintuitive as it seems, you’ve probably been trying to achieve it for a very long time. You see, I believe we decide pretty early on, and often unconsciously, what we want our lives to be about. It’s a big reason, why I’m such an advocate of uncovering your story. I’ve coached lots of people on doing this, with great result. But I know for some, this retrospective exercise is tedious. So, alternatively, you may want to invest effort in some visioning work to figure out your quest.

3. Understand How Others See You.

Having worked with lots of people on their “personal brands,” I can tell you that many have only a faint idea about the real value they deliver to others. Maybe that’s you too. So, how do you find out? You ask. You can ask others directly, or you can choose to do an anonymous 360 survey. However, you do it, you’re likely to validate things you already know, but also to uncover a few surprises. Still, if you are opting for the red pill, this provides a unique reality check.

4. Be Authentically You.

As you probably know, we’ve crossed a threshold into a value-driven world. It’s no longer sufficient to define yourself in terms of a title or professional category. Instead, you need to answer a prospective employer’s question, “What can you do for me?” So, you need to position your unique value. Yet, who you are and what makes you worth knowing is a question that will be on the mind of everyone you meet, whether you meet them at a social function, at a community event, or at the gym. And when you meet others, it always helps you to connect when you’re being your best self.

5. Seek Belonging.

Of course, it’s easier to connect with others when you’re tuned in to the needs, wants, values, and beliefs of the communities you seek to belong to. People tend to gravitate to people they resonate with. And if you’ve ever experienced the magic of discovering shared interests and experiences, you already know this. Now build on it. Because the possibility of becoming known, liked, and trusted by others can often hinge on the perception that you’re “one of us,” and that you “get it.” So, find your people in all parts of your life, and make yourself visible to them!

6. Open Yourself Up To New Relationships. 

It’s said that variety is the spice of life, and this is ever more true of relationships.  So, seek out friends from a diverse array of ages, genders, ethnicities, and locations. Interacting with people from around the world can broaden your perspectives, and enrich your human experience. Diverse FriendsThis is much easier than ever because social media allows you to put yourself out there. So, jump in. And when you do, be a proactive conversation starter. Often saying hello and making a relevant comment often launches relationships! Do this in face-to-face meet ups too. In fact, forget the script, and dare to engage in conversations without a net.

While you’re reaching out to make new friends, don’t forget to cultivate relationships with people in your work-related communities. You probably already know lots of people who matter to your work life. Still, there is real benefit in growing that community beyond geographic and industry boundaries. Again, think variety! There is some evidence that you become more valuable as you grow a wide and diverse network.

7. Run Your Career Like A Free Agent.

The world of work has changed. Forever. While it’s true that there are still people who fit the traditional model of employee, the trend is toward free agency. Most often, this means you’re a contractor, and probably short-term. You make a valuable contribution to projects for as long as you’re needed. Then you move on. So, even as you deliver value to one client, you always need to be looking for that next opportunity. Being a free agent requires skillful self-management as well as clarity about what matters to you in finding happiness at work. Yet, more fundamentally, it means choosing yourself! Because if you don’t, you risk becoming a career zombie.

8. Learn New Things.

You probably already know that in a rapidly changing world, it’s important to keep up. Lots of people don’t, but it doesn’t mean you have to join them. If you want to reclaim your future, you need to do the learning that makes your career portable across time. Determine what you need to learn, then put yourself in charge of making sure it happens. And if you need a little extra motivation to start, see what one of the most challenging fitness systems can teach you about success.

9. Take Care of Yourself.  

Owning your life means you’re responsible for regular maintenance.  So, dedicate time to the self-care that will sustain your personal vitality. As you know, it means investing time in proper nutrition, exercise, and other wellness practices. Still, there are ways to fire up your resilience by adding other successful living practices.

10. Forget About Reinventing Yourself.

Many people, maybe even you, often face life’s disappointments with the resolve to reinvent themselves. It sounds pretty attractive, actually. Perhaps because of the promise of a fresh start. Problem is, self-reinvention is a myth, and can lead to an illusion of change. Better to engage in the kind of critical self-assessment and learning that allows you to bring out your best.

11. Decide To Be Happy.  

How do you attain happiness? Well, if you’re like a lot of people, you might be waiting for some magic event or set of circumstances that will make you happy. Decide To Be HappyThe truth is, though, happiness is less a matter of circumstance than personal choice and daily practices. And there is some significant happiness research to back this up. Turns out, there are eight happiness practices that work. Find out what they are and start applying them right now!!

12.  Give Yourself Permission To Keep Trying.

It’s pretty amazing how often people who need to make some positive change will announce their bravery or say they’re giving themselves permission. Declarations are great! But change only lives in action. And mastery only results when you move through feeble your first steps to eventual mastery. Sure, we all know what Nike and Yoda say about doing and trying. Forget all that, and keep trying. Let’s face it, you don’t learn, and you don’t get better, if you don’t try. On the road to reclaiming your future, you will stumble and fall. Yet, if you truly want to own your life, pick yourself back up, and keep trying.


Was this helpful? If so, do you want more? Let me know the challenges you face, and I’ll address them in future posts. Just leave a comment. Or, if you’d like to privately share a challenge for me to address, use my contact page.


  1. says

    “Owning your life means you’re responsible for regular maintenance. So, dedicate time to the self-care that will sustain your personal vitality.” Thank you, Walter, for this excellent post! There’s an incredible amount of maintenance required, but it’s part of living the life you want to live! Everything springboards from there.

    I appreciate your blog and perspective very much!

    • says

      Hi Kimberly!! I’m really happy you liked this post!!

      Yes, yes, yes!! Ownership does require regular maintenance! And self-care for personal vitality is so critical to living long, healthy, happy, and meaningful lives. It truly is the springboard for everything else, and key to living the life we want to live!!

      I always value your perspective, my friend, and I’m happy you enjoy my posts!

  2. says

    Thanks for your great feedback, Lisa!

    I’m glad you enjoyed this and happy you’re inspired to make some changes!! What I’ve found is a little change…true change…can go a long way. So, starting with even a couple of ideas here can help you build the foundation for a great future!

  3. says

    I am glad I had that second coffee! That was a very interesting post, ideas 9, 11 and 12 are ones that I do try and live by myself. Life isn’t easy, but we must keep on trying and if we are not fit and healthy then we may not have the energy to keep getting up and dusting ourselves off.

    Even when life is hard, taking time to appreciate the simple and free things in life is important, being happy in ourselves no matter what is going on around us is not always easy, but its possible, it’s a matter of positive attitude.

    Personally I am never very good at knowing how people see me, I find people complicated creatures that sometimes scare me, so I tend to avoid putting myself out there. But since I have discovered Google+ maybe things will change, this could be my social experiment!!

    • says

      Welcome back, Debbie!! Nice to share a second cup of coffee with you!! :)

      It’s true that life isn’t easy. We do need to invest effort, every day, to make a life that is truly meaningful and fulfilling. Yet, over time, that very effort becomes a labor of love, and generates more happiness – not only for ourselves but also for people around us!!

      While I make a case for all twelve ideas, I think if you had to pick just a few, numbers 9, 11, and 12 would be the place to start. You’re right! Being fit and healthy does give the energy to keep trying. Yet, combining that with the determination to be happy makes our efforts even more sustainable over the long run!!

      What’s even better about choosing happiness is that it leads to other great rewards. If you invest in it’s practices, you do create a better connection to others and you can enjoy more fulfilling relationships. People may be complex, and yet, it’s often sharing experiences of the simple things in life that create strong and lasting bonds!

      I’m glad you’re on Google Plus. Yes, it very well could be one path for you to establish new and rewarding relationships.

      Thanks, again, Debbie, for taking the time to read and comment!!

  4. says

    Your posts were a pleasure to read and I look forward to reading more.

    Thank you for your kind words and I too am hoping that Google+ will help me to meet and mingle with new people online.

    • says

      Thanks, Debbie! I’m glad you liked my posts and do hope you’ll read more! Meanwhile, I hope Googe + and perhaps other social media will help you connect with more people!

  5. says

    Hi Walter – I love how you say that declarations are great, but change only lives in action. There is no day called ‘someday’. I’m learning so much about taking action to make life changes instead of waiting for someday. The journey inward is so important and something I don’t think I could have done very well when I was younger–middle age seems to be a time of great growth and change. Thank you so much for you insights and helpful posts.

    • says

      Thanks for you terrific observations, Yolanda!!

      I love what you’ve said about there being no day named “someday.” I’m happy to know you’re moving in the direction of action. It truly is what makes the difference. Even introspection can be an active process, as long as we gather up our insights to change what we do!

      I would argue that even young people can take an inward journey of change. Still, I lean toward what you’re saying here. Certainly, taking the inward journey at mid-life can be a richer experience!! Perhaps because we are consciously orchestrating it and have gained the kinds of life perspectives that can help us interpret what comes up. 

  6. says

    Thank you, Walter, for sharing such an inspiring post.

    Working as though you are self-employed [even if you’re not] as well as gaining an understanding of how others see you through a 360 self assessment sounds like extremely sage advice in today’s competitive short-term job market.

    Connecting with others [both personally and professionally], learning new things and engaging in self-care [I see pursuing happiness as a subcategory of this] are all key for both professional and personal growth and well-being.

    This is a wonderful game plan for someone looking to improve their lives.

    • says

      Thanks for your thoughtful post, Dorlee!! I’m really happy you enjoyed it!!

      Yes, working as though you are self-employed is truly key to owning your life. I think that for may people this may need to be the first step. And yet, I wouldn’t stop there. For once you begin to own your career, you have greater capacity to enrich the rest of your life!

      I’m glad you see this as a game plan for improving one’s life!! While it’s certainly not a “paint-by-the-numbers” approach, I think working on self-care and happiness are critical as next step. And yes!! I think relationships are critical!

      Yet, the main thing, I believe, is to know the elements and focus on them as your time and energy allows.

    • says

      Thanks for your great feedback, Cait!! Being in charge of our lives really does make sense. Frankly, it does take work, but the payoff is often immeasurable!!

  7. says

    “Decide to be happy” sounds ridiculous on the surface, but when I finally started doing it, that was one of the big turning points of my life. I spent most of my life thinking that happiness was the reward you get for accomplishing goals. This is incompatible with the notion that you always have to have goals to strive for- once I realized that, I started thinking of happiness as one of the foundations of a good life, rather than as the endpoint.

    I’m going through a stressful time in my life right now, working to become a free agent with a clear road map for the next five years or so of my life, and it’s been tough. Reminding myself every day that I have plenty of reason to be happy now has been crucial to getting through it. Thanks for the article Walter.

  8. says

    Hi John!!

    Great insight!! And yes!! It seems that in our culture happiness more often seen as an end rather than means. We tend to regard it as something we have to earn, and not as the vital nutrient that keeps us going and achieving great things.

    While happiness starts as a decision, it’s also a discipline!! If this will help here are several happiness practices that you can focus on:

    1. Count your blessings. Keep a private journal or communicate with others through visits or correspondence. When people in career transition take time to consider what is good in their lives, they often get an added lift in their efforts to find new work.

    2. Practice acts of kindness. Do something unexpected for someone else — whether it’s letting someone go ahead of you at a supermarket check out, sending an unexpected card or gift to a friend, or telling a Starbucks barista what a great latte she made. Try it, and you’re likely to end up being rewarded with broad smiles – some that will live forever as treasured memories.

    3. Savor life’s joys. Focus on the simple pleasures of life, like feeling the sun on your face, tasting the sweetness of piece of fruit, or sharing a smile with a friend.

    4. Thank a mentor. Let someone who has guided you know what it was you learned from them and the difference it has made in your life. And I would add, pay the debt of gratitude forward by being a mentor for someone else.
    5. Learn to forgive. Let go of anger and resentment. You can do this in person, or you may find it easier to do so in a letter. Either way, when you’ve expressed your forgiveness, move on.

    6. Invest time and energy in family and friends. As you might guess, this is a great way to put these other happiness practices to work, with the result that you increase the happiness of others while you increase your own happiness (and quality of life).

    7. Take care of your body. Make sure to follow a nutritious and balanced diet, to get enough exercise, and to get the right amount of sleep – which all contribute to your overall well being. Make these ongoing self-care practices; and leverage the benefits of exercise by engaging in fitness activities with others.

    8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship. No doubt about it, no matter how well things may be going, we all face occasional hardships. The trick is to realize that you already have or can develop resilience skills to recover and go on with life.


    By the way, sorry for my delayed response.

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