When the societal winds blow, do you sway in the breeze, or do you hold yourself accountable?
It’s the governments fault.
They won’t give me a rise.
He/she made me feel that way.
If the government makes you angry, is it really their fault?
If your employers make you feel inadequate, are they really the ones to blame?
If someone is chewing loudly — and it only bothers you — whose problem is it?
On another day these things might not affect you, and the same things may never affect others, so how can it be their fault.
It cannot. The problem is in you.
Blaming external influences for your problems is easy — you don’t have to act after all. However, that won’t get you far in life. You need to take action, or the world will make decisions for you.
If you’re sick of being swayed by external forces, you’ll be happy to know that there’s something you can do about it.
Here are eight ways you can seize the moment, and start taking responsibility for your life.
1. Embrace Failure
“It is impossible to have lived without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all — in which case you fail by default” —J. K. Rowling
Are you afraid of failure? If so, you’re not the only one. Fear of failure prevents many people from taking action, and as a result, reduces their potential success in life.
The question is, can you succeed without failing? No, not unless mediocrity fulfils you. The best way to learn is through failure. When you fail, you learn. And when you fail big, you learn big.
You might be thinking: “what about the fallout?” But the fact is, the risks will be worth it, and you can always ask for forgiveness. As Bernard Byrne, CEO of AIB once told me, “Asking for forgiveness is far easier than getting permission.”
2. Develop A Growth Mindset
“If you aren’t creating enough new problems for yourself, then you aren’t taking enough action.” — Carol Dweck
People with a fixed mindset think that their intelligence and abilities are innate, and that raw talent alone leads to success. This simply isn’t true.
People with a growth mindset know this, and invest their time and energy developing new skills, solving new problems, acquiring new knowledge, and figuring out ways to enhance their lives.
This kind of learning compounds over time, and once embraced, the world will be your playground.
3. Choose Your Words Carefully
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” — Hafiz
We all have a story, and this is written by the words we use. If you tell yourself you’re not good enough, you’re going to act accordingly. If you tell yourself you suck, it’s likely that you will. It is therefore critical that you choose your words carefully, especially when you’re talking to yourself.
Words that stop you taking action should be avoided at all costs. For example, “I can’t”, “if only”, and “I must”, should be replaced with proactive language such as “I will”, “I choose to”, and “let’s look at this another way”.
In challenging situations, you should also track the questions you ask yourself. For instance, replacing “why me?” with “what can I do about this?”, will instil a sense of strength, directing you towards corrective action, rather than blaming the world for your problems.
4. Develop The Art Of Self-Observation
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” — Sheryl Sandberg
When is the last time you objectively observed your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations?
This is the art of self-observation, and for many people, unfortunately, the answer is never.
If you’re like most people, you’ll be reactive to external influences without knowing why. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Next time you feel agitated or overwhelmed, mindfully observe any difficult thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations without engaging. Just observe, and let them pass.
When you practice this regularly, you’ll be aware of your triggers, and challenging situations will no longer control you.
5. Harness The Power Of Choice
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
Life is full of challenges, most of which we have no control over. This might sound disheartening, but realizing this is a source of strength.
Why? Because we always have control over how we respond to challenging events, even extremely difficult ones.
During his 27-year prison sentence, Nelson Mandela worked under torturous conditions. But instead of letting external circumstances control his behaviour, he used meditation and reflective thinking to sharpen his mind. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl used similar tactics to survive the abject misery of four concentration camps.
These are extreme examples, but provide powerful demonstrations of our ability to choose. Next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, exercise the freedom of your own inner-world to take corrective action.
6. Stop Blaming Others For Your Problems
“To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.” — Hubert H. Humphrey
We like to blame others for our problems — that way it’s not our fault. What’s more, in the hope of diminishing responsibility, and therefore pressure to act, many people go to extraordinary lengths to rationalize why it’s not their problem.
This self-reinforcing behaviour is extremely problematic, especially when blame-oriented people get together. This confirms their sense of exemption, which often spirals out of control in the form of gossip, scaremongering, and social media rants. In more extreme forms, it can lead to protest marches, and sometimes, even violence.
The fact is, however, it takes much less energy to take responsibility yourself. Next time you feel like blaming someone else — instead of rationalizing a way out, take time to think about how could solve the problem yourself.
7. Stop Resisting Reality
“If you argue against reality you will suffer” — Byron Katie
Not every challenge can be acted upon. Sometimes you have to accept a situation for what it is. But most people don’t act, never mind accepting what has already occurred. They resist reality, agonizing over what they should have done, or what they need to do.
Next time you’re faced with a challenging situation, instead of resisting what already is the case — which itself is a form of madness — accept the facts, and clarity will prevail.
However, don’t get this confused with giving up. Acceptance isn’t passive. It’s the first step towards corrective action. You might be accepting the world as it is, but this will not diminish your desire to change it.
8. Stop Making Excuses
“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”
― Randy Pausch
It’s easy to make excuses — it saves you having to act — but where is that going to get you? Nowhere.
You might not have got the lucky breaks in life, but so what. This doesn’t mean you cannot make things happen.
If you want to grow — both personally and professionally — you need to stop making excuses. Successful people know this, no matter what their starting point in life.
Play your own hand, or the world will play it for you.
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