When our lives are a mess it's common to look around for someone to blame. We tend to ask: How did this happen to me? How did I become an addict? How did I lose all the money? Why did he leave? Why am I sick? Why am I being evicted? How did this business deal get so messed up? How did this affair happen? How did it get so out of control? Why am I so alone? In other words, Who let the dogs out and made such a mess of things? The answer, fortunately or unfortunately, is you did.
We all have to take the responsibility for what is in our lives. You spent years eating McDonalds and creating the heart condition. You didn’t listen to the good advice on the business deal. You ignored the warning signs about his drinking or her drug use. You used the cocaine or heroin. You cheated, ignored your doctor’s warning, didn’t exercise, refused to ask for help, etc.
Building on the previous post of the Victim and the 100%, let’s look at what it means to stop looking around for someone to blame, and take responsibility so we can achieve real change.
As many people if in the field of personal success say, “It is impossible to change your life until you take 100% responsibility for everything in it.” This statement flies in the face of a the cultural conditioning that teaches us to blame a myriad of things outside of ourselves for our challenges such as: our childhood poverty, our abusive parent, our absent parent, our disability, our addicted relatives, the economy, prejudice, being a minority, the government, bad TV, bad spouse, bad (fill in the blank). While these things all do have influence on shaping our belief system and our self discipline (or lack there of), the human brain and consciousness are malleable. Once we are conditioned by our past, if we don’t like where we find ourselves, it is our responsibility to recondition our minds and attitudes and to accept responsibility for everything in our lives.
Your inner voice may protest, “Everything? I didn’t create everything. I’m not to blame.” Notice I said take responsibility for everything—I didn’t say blame yourself for everything. Your inner voice might push back, “Come on, what about the abuse I suffered as a child, the handicap I suffer from, the family of addicts I come from, etc. (?)” While its true that some things in our life may exist without obvious things we do to create them, we still must take responsibility for them if they are in our lives. Some problems may have been caused by someone or something else to begin with, but they're ours now.
There is a reason why certain people are held up as archetypal (i.e. universal) heroes. The reason is that in the face of extreme adversity, they took full responsibility for themselves and succeeded: Anne Frank (author of The Diary of Anne Frank – book and movie, imprisoned in her house by the Nazis as a young girl), Hellen Keller (blind and deaf – author, political activist, lecturer), Victor Frankle (author of Man’s Search For Meaning – prisoner at Auschwitz), Ray Charles (musician – born poor and eventually blind in Mississippi, heroin addict), Stephen Hawkings (best selling author, professor at Columbia – became a mute paraplegic as a young adult), Oprah Winfrey (I think you know who I’m talking about – born poor, minority, raped, pregnant as a young girl, unwanted by both parents), Stevie Wonder (musician – blind since infancy). The list seems to beg the question, “Now what was your excuse again?”
The answers to our problems are usually within our control to change (addiction, weight, health, money, relationship, etc.) and sometimes out of our control (physical handicaps, family members, etc.) The core issue is that if we spend our time complaining about, resisting, or not taking responsibility for our challenges, we fall into victim mentality and miss our chance at living rich lives, expressing our individual genius.
By accepting our lives we often find “the gift of the wound.” This is the gift to ourselves and others that resides inside the problems we face. Ray Charles not only made great music in accepting his life, he inspired others to look past their handicaps and limitations and find their own greatness. In working to overcome the challenges of her disabilities, Hellen Keller became a champion for the disabled. In achieving her dreams Oprah Winfrey helped to break through beliefs that childhood trauma, or being a minority shapes adult life. It is often in the overcoming of our limitations that we find behind them our greatest gifts to ourselves and to the world.
What challenges are you still feeling victimized by? How can you take responsibility for them? What gold or gift do you think might be hiding behind this challenge? Start by tracking your day. How does it begin? Are you right on the internet or do you take time to center yourself in journaling, meditation, or the like? Do you go right to coffee or do you let your system adjust more slowly to food with juice, fruits, or shake? Are you generally involved in things you are passionate about? Do you have at least a moderate amount of exercise most days? Are you keeping in touch with friends and skilled at being vulnerable / open with them? Are you isolating? If you are in an addiction is it being treated? Are you eating a mostly "alive" diet - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unprocessed foods? Are you moderating alcohol intake? Do you watch TV right before bed or do you have good "sleep hygiene" (i.e. getting away from electronics an hour before bed). Are you taking responsibility for the inner dialogue you have with yourself throughout the day? Do you seek the appropriate help when needed? Admittedly, being responsible for our lives can seem like a lot of work. The truth is, not being responsible creates much more work in the form of the pain and stagnation we suffer as a result of our negligence.
Being alone in our struggles is often a recipe for disaster. Today there are literally thousands of different healing methods to help you take responsibility: therapists, dietitians, naturopaths, chiropractors, seminars, meditation practices, yoga, mindfulness techniques, chi gong, energy workers, EMDR practitioners, homeopathy, twelve step programs, advances in Western medicine, acupuncture—there are seemingly endless therapeutic modalities available to us in the modern age. Still, without taking responsibility we can be helplessly lost in the repetition of neurotic cycles and, as a result, the deepening of pain.
Many people are overcome by their challenges— even dying from their addictions or reckless behaviors. Some can be less dramatic when avoiding taking responsibility—simply living what has been commonly termed, “quiet lives of desperation.” In truth there are probably more people living this way than those living lives of courage, self-responsibility, and true achievement. If you take responsibility for what is in your life, access the right help, and take consistent action, you can find the gifts waiting for you behind the pain—gifts that are yours to enjoy, and yours to share with the world.
Below Oprah Winfrey takes on this topic and discusses how she directed her own life. Take a look: