You're probably reading this because you have an interest in improving some aspect of your life. The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to improve your experience of life and will cover many of them in the articles on this site.
To begin, I'd like to ask, “Who is going to have the biggest effect on your future life?"
Many of us would answer that it's our spouse, our children, or the government. Others might say it's the trials and tribulations of their everyday lives; the driver who cuts them up on the way to work; the queue in the supermarket on Saturday afternoons; or the fact that someone let them down with a delivery. All of these examples pass responsibility for our mood, thoughts and experience of life to other people or external factors over which we have no direct control. From this standpoint, we live our lives reactively moving from one crisis to another, waiting patiently for the day when these external ‘diversions’ settle down. When that day dawns - we tell ourselves - then finally we'll be able to turn things around!
Put in these simple terms we can see how this attitude would seem to lead to a poorer experience of life. However, for many of us it's our chosen norm and it suits us just fine. Whilst it may not always be obvious what the ‘payback’ is for continuing with this way of thinking and behaving, there MUST be one, or else we would simply not continue with it. The payback could be as straightforward as the fact that operating in this way brings us extra attention, or gives us something to have a good old moan about! By far the biggest ‘benefit’ of this attitude is that it ensures that there's always somebody else to blame - and that feels good!
In sharp contrast, there is a different way of operating in the world that, if we choose it, allows us to exercise control over our lives. It involves totally accepting personal responsibility for the life we are living.
Taking personal responsibility for our own life can be very scary at first. After all, if we're going to give up blaming everybody else, does that mean we have to take the blame ourselves? Not at all! The ultimate way for most of us to begin making significant and enduring improvements to our lives is to abandon the concept of ‘blame’ completely, and in its place to embrace the concept of ‘responsibility’ . Where appointing ‘blame’ depends on us making (often damning) judgements, accepting ‘responsibility’ requires us to have a mature grasp of the realities of life. We'll wait a very long time for a perfect world to emerge. We might as well make a start on dealing with the imperfect one that we're all currently inhabiting.
So what exactly does taking personal responsibility mean? Personally I think it boils down to recognising that ultimately the only absolute control we have in our lives is over how we choose to react to what happens to us. It is in these moments between stimulus and response that we as humans can exercise a choice. Do we react consciously and thoughtfully, to bring us closer to the result we seek, or do we react subconsciously and as our prior conditioning programs us to - excusing ourselves along the way with one of our favourite platitudes. Take your pick - we all have them in abundant supply! I can't help it! That's just me! It's how I am! I can't do anything about it! I can't change it! In reality, of course, there are very few ‘givens’ in this life to which we are truly tied.
The lives we are living today are a direct consequence of the decisions and choices we have made up to this point in time. We will create our future in the same way, whether we choose to recognise our role in this or not. Once we accept this fundamental truth, we will begin to see that it's in our moments of decision (or indecision) that we create our own experience of life.
Choosing to take responsibility for our own lives and creating the future we want is an amazingly empowering experience. We no longer feel the need to control everyone else (not that we ever could of course) but instead aim only to assert control over ourselves. This absolute control can be subdivided. We actually have control over three things, but only three things - our own thoughts, our own feelings, and our own behaviour. It follows, therefore, that we carry responsibility for three things and only three things - our own thoughts, our own feelings and our own behaviour. Trying to control any more than this is futile. Accepting responsibility for anything more than this is misguided. So if all we need to do is be in control of ourselves - and most of us emerge into adulthood with reasonable skills in this area - then we are already equipped with all the basic tools we need to build the lives we want.
If you feel ready to make a start, you could begin with the following pointers:-
1. As already outlined, the first essential step is to truly decide to accept total responsibility for our own life and commit to this decision. You must be ready to be proactive in creating the life you want and to recognise that you have the power to choose how you react to any situation.
2. To help consolidate this new way of thinking and make it habitual, practise recognising when others around you are not taking full responsibility for their own lives, and more importantly, when you yourself are not taking full responsibility for yours!
3. To undermine any unhelpful prior conditioning, you can practise interrupting any negative thoughts (usually rattling around in our heads in the form of negative ‘self-talk') and replace these with positive and affirmative thoughts and beliefs that embody your new sense of personal responsibility and your fresh ‘can do’ attitude
You will notice that both steps 2 and 3 use the word ‘practise’ - this is deliberate. It is very important that when we start on the path to improving our lives we accept that it won't always be an easy ride . There is some truth in the expression, ‘practise makes perfect’ but that said, the pressure to be perfect is often unrealistic and even debilitating in many areas of life. In practising our new thought and behaviour patterns, we need to aim for a steady and sustained improvement instead. Of course we must also strive to avoid using the fact that we are ‘only practising’ as an excuse for not making progress.
It bears repeating that taking responsibility for our own decisions in life is the single most important step towards creating the future we desire. Whilst it may at first seem a trivial and simplistic change in perspective, the effects of even this one step can be quite profound in changing our experience of life. Throughout these chapters I will attempt to provide information on other key ways to trigger long-lasting positive changes in our lives once the reality is accepted that we can decide to create the life we desire.
As ever, the theory is all well and good, but ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. It's getting out there and applying this learning to our lives that will really make the difference:
"The learning is in the living".
My question to you, then, is - are you prepared to take responsibility for your own life?
The choice is yours, but always remember. . .
"If you don't run your own life, someone else will" (John Atkinson)
Anth Quinn has been described as the best-kept secret in Personal Development; he is a straight talking champion of everyday people and despite developing a loyal following of over 10,000 readers he managed to avoid publicity.
He says that he finally stepped up to right what he saw as fundamental flaws in much of the personal development industries and he became determined to do something about this.
Despite a massive amount of good information out in the market place Anth says that most people never make long lasting positive changes in their life. Why is this? Well, he says almost every personal development guru is missing a fundamental piece of the puzzle, and it's not what you think!!
You can check out his blog at http://www.anthquinn.com
and his free “daily action tips" at http://www.empiricalcoaching.com/takecontrolFDT.htm