Have you ever found yourself feeling as though you were just caught in some kind of a loop, where you were virtually reliving the same experiences, and acting out the same routines day after day?
When this kind of situation develops, it can be difficult to feel as though you are anything other than a spectator in your own life — someone who is watching things unfold, but who doesn’t have much, if any, personal agency or ability to directly shape or influence their circumstances.
Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a rare feeling or an uncommon phenomenon. Probably most people can relate to it, at least to some extent, and at least during particular periods in their lives.
It’s also an unfortunate reality that ending up in this kind of “loop” can be extremely detrimental to your overall sense of wellbeing in all sorts of different ways, and can severely restrict your ability to explore and express your full potential in life as a whole.
But what can you do if you find yourself feeling like a background character in your own life, and as if you don’t have the ability to take control of your destiny?
Here are a few tips and suggestions that can help you to stop feeling like a spectator in your own life, and to begin living proactively and with a sense of purpose, instead.
Practice the art of making decisions and developing preferences in everyday life
When all is said and done, one of the most common reasons for feeling as though you aren’t “in the driver’s seat” in your own life, is because you simply don’t make decisions enough, or firmly enough, and don’t form and establish your own preferences about things.
If you’re the kind of person who always answers “I don’t know,” or “whatever you like,” or “I don’t mind” when asked questions like “where do you want to go to eat tonight?” You are, by default, putting those decisions onto other people instead, and allowing them to lead you around and shape how your day plays out.
While specific examples such as where to get dinner might seem trivial — and while they are certainly on the more minor end of things — they establish a pattern and a habit of you not developing agency in your own life.
If you get too comfortable with “going with the flow,” day-in-and-day-out, you will end up forgetting how to “paddle” your own boat. And don’t forget that “the flow” that you’re “going with” will very often be determined for you by other people, people who — in many cases — won’t have the same vested interest in your life and wellbeing that you have.
First and foremost, to stop feeling like a spectator in your own life, stop acting like a spectator in your own life — step into the role of a main character instead, and become better and better at actively making decisions.
How do you become more decisive and better at making decisions? Simply practice the skill. Make firm decisions each day, starting with small questions like what you’d like for dinner. Get into the habit of not just relying on other people, or external circumstances, to move you around like a leaf in the wind.
Set yourself goals that you are genuinely motivated by
Having a variety of goals that you are pursuing in life, and that genuinely motivate you, can have a radical impact in giving your life a greater sense of direction, essentially overnight.
Those goals don’t all need to be enormous aspirations to overhaul your entire life, either. Even goals like getting DVLA number Plates that you like can be very motivating, and can make everyday life feel like more of an adventure that you are directly taking part in.
Not having any goals in life is a lot like not having any preferences in life, and not being decisive in life. It essentially means that you will be swept around by whatever prevailing currents are present, and won’t be in a position to chart your own course, and to take an active hand in how things play out for you, on a day-to-day basis.
In recent years, certain writers and influencers on the topic of productivity have argued in favour of abandoning goal setting and focusing only on “systems” instead — I.e. daily habits and routines which will have the effect of improving various dimensions of your life over time.
As important as good habits are, though, one of several problems with this approach is that systems don’t provide a sense of direction and purpose. Goals do — and everything we do as human beings is essentially goal driven, even if the goal is only something as “mundane” as “I want to get something to eat now because I’m hungry.”
Engage in activities that you find daunting, and that challenge your perceived limitations
If you feel like a spectator in your own life, there’s a good chance that your sense of what’s possible, and what you’re capable of, are pretty heavily restricted by your own doubts and fears.
Engaging in activities that you find daunting, on a regular basis, can help you to dramatically challenge your perceived limitations and to give you a much richer sense of potential, purpose, and engagement in your own life.
The specific nature of the activities that you’re engaging in is largely secondary. Perhaps you’ve always believed that you’re “unathletic” and could never manage to get involved in a group exercise class or something similar — only to then challenge this belief one day and find that you actually thrive when regularly working out with other people.
Or maybe you’ve never thought that you had what it takes to be a musician, only to then discover — after taking classes for an instrument — that you seem to be a lot more capable than you previously thought.
Question and pick apart the “negative references” that are supporting your disempowering beliefs
According to the highly influential motivational speaker and writer Tony Robbins, every negative and disempowering belief we have is propped up by “negative references” — in other words, by the experiences, thoughts, imaginations and stories that we use as evidence for those beliefs.
With enough disempowering beliefs in place — or with disempowering beliefs that are strong enough — you can easily end up feeling like an observer in your own life, without the ability to do big things.
A very powerful and important practice to take up as soon as possible is to begin habitually questioning and picking apart those “negative references,” one by one, so that your limiting beliefs begin to crumble and eventually fall.
Simply interrogate the things that you use as evidence for your negative beliefs and “question them to death.” “Could this have a different meaning? Could I be misinterpreting this? Why do I think it means that? What would it look like if I was wrong?” And so on.
Take up hobbies and pastimes that involve doing more than being passive at home
In today’s world of high end luxury goods and incredible digital entertainment options, it’s extremely easy to spend every free waking moment simply absorbing passive forms of entertainment, instead of doing anything proactive.
While watching a good TV show or listening to some music can be great, however, spending all of your time caught up in passive activities really can make you feel a lot like a spectator in your own life.
Make a point of taking up certain hobbies and pastimes that are more active, and ideally that also involve getting out of the house fairly regularly.