5 Ways Successful People Take Control of Life

UPDATED: March 26, 2021
PUBLISHED: March 21, 2017
5 Ways Successful People Take Control of Life

Some of the most important things in life are accomplished when we have a sense of urgency. And some of the greatest stresses we endure are experienced when we are bombarded and ambushed by the emergencies of life. What’s the difference? It’s the locus of control. Are the stresses coming from outside ourselves, or are they coming from within?

Related: 23 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Stressed Out

Best-selling author and leadership expert John Kotter suggests that too many workers—including executives—do not have a sense of urgency about their work. This is seen up and down the corporate ladder. This does not mean that workers should be running around with their hair on fire. It does mean that these workers are focused on what’s important. They understand that they live in a world where change is continuous and not episodic. They know that the company cannot rest on its laurels, even as they celebrate victories. This cannot happen without creating a sense of urgency.

How does this parallel our daily lives? When it comes to urgencies, there are two kinds of people in the world:


One group is a victim of urgency. The other group is a victor in urgency.


One person doesn’t create an inner sense of urgency. They opt to wait for life to become urgent and then react to it. Yet that kind of urgency brings its companions: stress, anxiety, self-pity, self-preoccupation, and sometimes for good measure, this kicks in the reactions of rush and panic in an attempt to salvage lost time. Rarely do these folks achieve their goals, if there were any.

The other person doesn’t wait for the urgent. They create that sense of urgency in themselves. Their urgency is not as stressful as it is motivational. It creates drive rather than panic. They are driven to accomplish what’s before them today. They understand that this day has never been here before, and it will never come again.

One group is a victim of urgency. The other group is a victor in urgency. What’s the key? Location, location, location. Is it an inner or an external locus of control

Related: 30 Tips to Take Control of Your Life Now

Successful people refuse to give their power away. Here are five things they do to take control of their life:

1. Successful people create a sense of urgency in themselves.

They get up each day with that urgent feeling in their gut. They don’t create anxiety, but they do create urgency.

2. Successful people don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.

They understand that busyness can numb us to complacency—allowing one day to flow into the next with no real desired outcomes. Let’s call it intentional urgency.

3. Successful people don’t let emergencies derail them.

Their success is fueled by the urgency of the day, not the emergency de jour. When those inevitable emergencies arrive, it doesn’t derail them. They handle them as best they can and continue down the track. Outward circumstances are less compelling and urgent. An outer locus of control, with its plethora of issues, overwhelms us. We don’t need to find them. They find us. The urgencies they face are the ones they create. Even when they go fast, they are not out of control. They don’t rush. Rushing creates emergencies.


“Be quick, but not in a hurry.” —John Wooden


4. Successful people know what’s important.

Knowing what’s important to you creates clarity. That in turn reduces stress. This helps rid them of needless clutter that will slow them down. They understand that everything is not an option, so they focus on the priority thing—the urgent thing. There is never enough time to do everything, but there’s always enough time to do the important thing.

5. Successful people listen to the right voices.

Seth Godin warns about the trolls in our head. Beware of them. They love to instill a sense of panic. Be vigilant. The troll is the voice of insecurity and self-criticism. Don’t feed the troll. That supplies it with more excuses. Don’t argue with it. That just takes up your time. Don’t attempt to litigate it. Your inner troll is an expert at swaying the jury. You create your own urgency and don’t let your inner troll derail those good intentions.

Practicing simple habits will assist you in avoiding serious hazards. By creating your own urgencies, you will discover a newfound power in your life.

Related: 4 Reasons to Take Control of Your Destiny


This post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com.

Mick Ukleja, Ph.D., is the founder and president of LeadershipTraQ. He empowers leaders to optimize their talent and equips them to excel in their professional and personal life. Mick is an author, speaker and generational strategist. He writes and speaks on engaging millennials at work. He is the co-author of Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce, 2nd Edition, which is used in corporate training and business schools. He co-founded the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach, which promotes ethics across the curriculum. Mick is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Concordia University. His book Who Are You? What Do You Want? has been praised by legendary coach John Wooden: “I have always taught that success can be achieved by each one of us. These principles provide an excellent life-planning guide for bringing out your best.” Mick has been featured on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business Network, NBC and in numerous publications. Keep up with Mick at Leadershiptraq.com.