Accept Full Responsibility for Your Life and Destiny
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Source: This essay was originally published in the book “Think Success, Essays on Self-help” by Jayaram V under the title, “Accept Full Responsibility for Your Lifey," and reproduced with publisher's permission.
It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities. Josiah Charles Stamp.
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. Jim Rohn.
For the truth is, we control our life. We control how lucky we are. We create our fortune with our effort. We alone have the power. Rick Pitino, Basketball Coach.
Larry, whom I knew from a friend of mine, weighed about 260 pounds. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he did not like what he saw. His weight affected his self-esteem and made him feel bad in the presence of others. For the last several years he neglected his health and did not do enough to remain in shape. In the past, he used to exercise few times a week. However, as his responsibilities grew, he became accustomed to sedentary life and began spending more time in front of his laptop. He knew that his boss was not very happy with him because of how he looked and would not hesitate to fire him if he got an opportunity.
Four years of neglect and resentment against himself, his boss and his company took a toll on him. He found it difficult to relax or sleep well as he was assailed by negative thoughts and negative self-talk. He ate with a troubled and guilty mind thinking of some incident or problem that bothered him. He felt pain in his feet as he walked. When he climbed the stairs, walked briskly, or carried some weight, he struggled to breathe or stand straight. He had trouble finding the right chairs to sit, as they creaked and groaned under his weight, often prompting the people nearby to exchange meaningful glances and smirks.
He had trouble getting into his old clothes or wearing his old shoes. He felt uncomfortable when he had to park his car in a faraway lane and walk some distance to reach the departmental stores. His wife and daughter would tell him that he snored loudly whenever he fell asleep and made sounds when he rolled in the bed. They were concerned about his health as they watched him struggling to walk when they went for a walk or shopping. He loved his family but felt miserable, listening to their comments. Occasionally, when he mustered his will and tried to exercise at home his body ached for rest and would not let him continue for long.
Larry’s problem was self-inflicted. By not taking care of his health and fitness, he let himself down in a self-destructive way. He allowed himself to gain excess weight by eating indiscriminately and leading a sedentary lifestyle. It as if he hated himself and acted upon a death wish. In the process, he even forgot his achievements and positive traits. Except for the weight, Larry had a brilliant mind. He was smart and intelligent, and met his work goals. His health made it difficult for him to find a new job. Therefore, he stuck to his current job, even though he did not like the working conditions and the way he was treated in the office.
Yet strangely, when I first met Larry, he did not seem to accept responsibility for his problems. He felt as if he was a victim of circumstances, genes and hormones, and the world owed him an apology. He was filled with resentment against people, who he thought made fun of him and made him feel miserable. He resented his boss, whom he believed was responsible for his weight gain as he drove him into depression and made him feel sad and guilty all the time. He blamed his colleagues for their patronizing ways when they met him but laughed at him on his back. He blamed the company for promoting incompetent people because they looked smart and ignoring very smart people who had some weight issues.
Fortunately, Larry's self-induced illusions did not continue forever. One day, he sat down quietly in his house when no one was around and began analyzing what was going on with his life and career. As he thought about it deeply, it became clear to him that he had lost control of his life and career. He realized that he had two choices. He could either live passively letting things happen to him as he was doing before or take control of his life actively and do something about the problems that were bothering him and dragging him down He felt that things would get worse if he remained passive and self-destructive, and decided to take control of his life and resolve his current problems by doing whatever were necessary.
Once he took the decision, he created an action plan and implemented it immediately. He worked on his resume, with the help of some books he borrowed from the local library and sent copies of it to the local recruiters and hiring companies he knew. He contacted his close friends and asked them to help him to network with important peers and people they knew personally so that he could improve his chances of finding a better job. At the same time, he also decided to deal with his weight problem as it directly influenced his morale and self-image. He visited a nearby gym and signed for a two-year contract with them. He hired a trainer recommended by the manager of the gym and began working his body under her supervision. These initial efforts tremendously boosted his morale. As he took responsibility for his life and decided to change it, he experienced new energy and enthusiasm. Within a few weeks he began receiving calls from some of the companies to which he applied.
He also realized that his weight problem was partly caused by his thinking and attitude, and in turn it affected his relationship with others as he felt miserable about himself in their presence and indulged in self-pity and guilt. Hence, he did some study, and worked on his negative self-image, using positive affirmations to present himself positively before the recruiters and hiring managers. Finally, after a few initial setbacks, he succeeded in getting a good job in a large firm. His new boss not only matched his previous salary but also promised to promote him after a year if he exceeded her expectations. His former boss tried to stop him from leaving and offered him a higher salary and a week extra leave, but he politely declined, because he did not want to be haunted by old memories and vexing colleagues.
Larry changed his ways for good. He continued to go to the gym every day and workout for more than an hour. During weekends, he also went on long walks in a nearby park. He also made some important lifestyle changes, which helped him. He changed his diet and sleeping time and reduced drastically his daily intake of coffee and soft drinks. Within a few months, he lost a lot of weight. He was happy to see himself getting into shape, as his body responded positively to the exercise he did at the gym and the calories he burned working on the machines. He also stopped eating fast-food during lunch hours and having dinners outside. Instead he began taking healthy homemade lunch to work, which helped him not only to lose weight but also save money.
I did not see Larry for a long time when he was busy trying to get into shape. When I met him later during a business meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to see him fit, happy and healthy, as if I met his younger brother or cousin. His drooping gait and depressing looks were gone, along with the scowl that often settled in his face when he spoke about his boss. He looked healthier and younger, brimming with enthusiasm. There was a glow in his eyes and certain lightness in his walk. During the recess when I found him alone, I asked him how he managed to lose all that weight. He told me what happened and how he decided to take control of his life and responsibility for his actions.
"Are you happy with what is going on now?" I asked him.
"Absolutely," he replied with a glowing face. “I realized that I could think differently, act differently and bring some changes in my life.”
"I am glad you did it, but are you sure these changes are going to be permanent?"
"Oh, yes,” he replied confidently. “I want to keep doing it as long as I can. I am confident about it, but you know in the end it all depends upon me. It's what matters and it's what I need to keep remembering."
I left him later, wishing him well.
I knew Larry for some time. I knew that he was going through difficulties because of his health and overweight. I was happy to know that he changed his thinking and took personal responsibility for his life. What he did was very exemplary. He made a life-changing decision and went with it. It is not easy for anyone to break out of old and habitual patterns of thinking and behavior, without building the resolve. He did it and won an internal battle. By taking control of his mind and body, he changed his thinking, habits, beliefs and responses to the problems he faced and the doubts he harbored. He took responsibility for his actions, health and happiness. Instead of indulging in self-pity and letting destructive forces consume him with negativity, responded positively and constructively to a serious situation in his life. He left behind what happened to him before, and chose a new alternative, accepting him as the source of his problems and well as solutions.
Larry was one of the few fortunate people, who chose not to become passive spectators of their own lives. He seized a negative condition in his life and used it to build himself. The truth is, we are mostly responsible for what happens to us in our lives. People may accuse others or blame their fate and unseen forces when they face problems. The fact is we precipitate many situations in our lives through our actions, inactions, and choices, and even interfere with our destinies. We create our lives, with our thoughts, actions, aspirations and emotions.
You may blame others, God, or fate for your suffering and live in a state of denial. You may hold your parents, friends, spouse or family members responsible for your difficulties and blame them for the turn of events in your life, whereas, you and your life are largely in your hands. They are shaped by your thoughts, desires, decisions, actions, beliefs, and prejudices. Others may interfere with your life, only to the extent you allow them.
Much of your childhood is not under you control, since it happens largely according to the wishes of your parents and elders as they try to bring you up according to their values and beliefs. However, when you grow up, and assume responsibility for your life you become its author. You become the writer, producer, director and the main character of the tragedy and comedy that you create in your life. You write the screenplay. You invent the characters and the situations, and you act in it. Some people never grow up and do not assume that personal responsibility, as it happened in case of Larry before his transformation. Many problems arise when we give away the ownership of our lives to others and choose to live like passengers on an airplane run by others.
You are creating your life, right now at this very moment, as you think, sleep, or dream. Events that are seemingly beyond your control are in fact your own creations. If you analyze them and trace back their root cause, you will know the truth. Your current life is a culmination of your past actions. Knowingly or unknowingly you draw to yourself what you like or dislike, and if you are not careful you may accumulate enough negativity that you will find difficult to resolve. Circumstances may create problems for you, but your solutions must come from within and you must put them into action with resolve. Even to watch a game of professional football as a spectator in a large stadium, it costs money and effort. To live like a spectator of your own life, it costs even more, while the entertainment you get is much less.
If you want to realize your dreams, you must take responsibility for your life and actions. You must find your purpose in life, set up long term and short-term goals, and work for them. When you make mistakes, you must correct them; when you damage relationships, you must rebuild them; when solutions do not work, you must find new ones; and when problems arise, you must show courage and initiative and take timely actions. This is the way forward to make things happen instead of letting them happen. When you realize this truth, you will not only succeed in reaching your goals and dreams taking control of your life but also stop blaming others for your problems and suffering. Whether you believe it or not, as far as your life is concerned the buck stops with you. Whether you like it or not, the government does not monitor your life or shape it. You are the controller of your life and the master of your mind. You may seek the help of God, or people in your life to resolve your problem and reach your goals, but ultimately the choices you make, actions you take and the problems you choose to solve, which largely determine the course of your life, are your responsibility. Even when others control your life, it happens because you let it happen.
You can participate in life and position yourself in the world in two ways: either actively and attentively creating your own life and destiny with your thoughts, actions and words or passively and carelessly as a spectator, letting things happen, not responding to problems and difficulties and holding others responsible for your life and problems. It is difficult to find people who fit exclusively into either of the categories. In most cases, people vacillate between these two models. Even in this regard the responsibility rests with individuals, since they decide about what they want to control about themselves and where they prefer letting others control them. There will be times when you can do nothing about what happens to you, like for example, when you are hospitalized and bedridden. Even there, you will have opportunities to control certain aspects of your treatment, recovery and recuperation.
When you accept responsibility for your life, you bring a paradigm shift in your thinking and attitude as you look to yourself for solutions and analyze your thoughts and actions to see how they are shaping it, rather than complaining and blaming others when you face difficulties. You may still blame others, but only in the context of how you let the problems arise. When you analyze and introspect your actions and decisions, you learn from your own experience, which in turn will help you to become better in what you do. This is the most important blessing of taking responsibility for your life and responding to your problem with a self-directed effort. There are other benefits also which stem directly from this effort. As you take charge of your life and act responsibly, you will see improvements in your leadership ability, decisiveness, timing, confidence, dynamism, attentiveness, responsiveness, self-esteem, mental clarity, purpose and self-awareness. You become more organized and effective in setting goals, using resources, correcting mistakes and persisting in your effort.
You can use these principles, as Larry did, and change your life for good. You can begin by taking up some aspect of your life, with which you are not happy, and analyze it to know how you let that happen and what solutions you can find on your own. If you cannot find solutions on your own, you may have to find help from others. However, in both cases the final decision should be yours. Living responsibly means you have to bring out your uniqueness, your individuality, and your best skills into play. In any case, your transformation has to begin from within, and the reigns of your life must be in your control. The motivation to do or not to do anything has to come from within. With faith in yourself and determination you can use the following suggestions to take control of your life and shape it according to your desires and expectations.
1. Understand that you alone can change your life. You cannot change others unless you have conside-rable control over them, but you can surely change yourself in many respects because your mind and body are within your control, while others are not. To think that you can change others is an illusion. By exercising your will, you can change your thoughts, your goals, your attitude, your actions and your behavior. You can do it through auto suggestions and by establishing concrete goals and quantitative standards to monitor your progress.
2. Stop blaming others. There is no point in blaming others. Even if they are at fault, recognize your role in letting them do it. Accusations and faultfinding will lead you to nowhere. If you think others have seriously wronged you, accept responsibility for your role in it and do whatever is necessary to prevent it from happening again.
3. Stop complaining about myriad things in your life, over which you have no control. Stop criticizing the social, political, or economic conditions, and institutions for your problems. Ignore the media-noise. You have no control over the world. No one has. However, you can control how you can relate to it and make a difference through your actions. Therefore, focus upon what role you can play in society as an individual within your limitations, and what difference you can make through your contribution.
4. Begin to pay attention to yourself and know how your thoughts, actions and decisions are shaping your life and leading you into future. Learn from your experiences. Learn from others by watching them or knowing about them. Improve your self-awareness by observing how you act or react in specific situations and what you can do to improve your knowledge, skills and your responsiveness.
5. Learn from your mistakes and failures. When things do go wrong, ask yourself questions like, "Why I made this happen? Why I attracted this situation? What thoughts and actions precipitated this reality?" From the introspection, you will learn about the causes of your mistakes and take corrective action. Your mistakes and failures should help you to know your imperfections and deficiencies, and the improvements you should bring in your thinking, attitude, and actions.
6. Minimize your expectations and dependence upon others about your personal matters. Instead, you should have an expectation from yourself. When you seek the help of others or expect any help from them, make sure that you communicate well and monitor the progress, since it is you who are getting the help, and your interests are at stake.
7. Establish positive and fulfilling relationships. You are responsible for the relationships in your life. You have to decide which relationships you want to strengthen and which you should ignore. Each relationship is a two-way process. When you build relationships with others, recognize their rights and your responsibility in honoring them. Acknowledge their value and importance in your life. Relationships are like trees. If you nurture them, they grow. Otherwise, they will wilt and die.
8. Pay equal attention to your actions and goals because both are important to create the life you want to lead. You should set your goals according to your skills and abilities and match your actions with the goals you want to achieve. To achieve anything in life, you should have clearly defined goals and action plans.
9. Do not make any excuses for your failures. When things go wrong, accept responsibility and work out better alternatives. Do not blame extrinsic factors when you do not reach your goals. Failure is an essential part of the progress. When you accept failure for what it is, it becomes a learning opportunity. Do not let any failure impair your ability to stay motivated and take corrective actions.
10. Focus upon how you respond and interpret your experiences. You may not have control over the situations in your life, but you can control your responses. When certain situations in your life trouble you, analyze your thoughts and emotions and examine whether they are triggered by irrational beliefs and habitual thought patter-ns. By learning to control your responses to external events and changing your perception of them, you can greatly control your behavior and responses.
11. Use positive affirmations to take responsibility for your life and keep yourself motivated. You may use the following affirmations every day, until they become part of your thinking and behavior.
- I take complete responsibility for my life.
- I can make things happen or not happen.
- I am in charge of my life.
- I am responsible for my life and destiny.
- I may not have control over every situation, but I can control my responses and perceptions.
- I create my future largely through my thoughts, words and actions. I therefore pay close attention to my thoughts and emotions.
- I recognize other people's right to be themselves and live their lives according to their expectations.
- I can change myself and my actions with resolve.
- I create my life with my thoughts, desires and beliefs. I attract things into my life according to my fears and expectations.
- I refuse to interact with negative people, and I will not let them control my life or destiny.
- I refuse to live my life passively. I take action to resolve my problems and reach my goals.
- I forgive others so that I can move forward and let the past bury itself.
This planet belongs to a multitude of living beings, not just humans. We come here as guests, enjoying the hospitality of the earth. We may own things. We may celebrate our victories or stand apart from others in what we do and how we think. However, but none of this matter, if we spend our lives here feeling miserable and depressed. Just as we share the environment, we also share many common problems the world faces today. However, not all react alike to them or live their lives alike. When there is a crisis, some panic and loose hope, while some remain calm and rise to the occasion. Some live in self-denial, while some acknowledge the situation and accept the reality. You can always do something about any problem or situation in your life. You may not have control over the world or people, but you do have control over your thoughts, actions and reactions. It is how you think, act, react or respond to external situations, which matters. It is where you can assume responsibility for your life and empower yourself to make things happen.
Therefore, take charge of your life today and accept responsibility for everything that happens to you. Make things happen, through your thoughts, dreams and actions. The sun may rise in the east without your permission, but you can decide when to wake up and how to spend your day. Do what is possible and what you can control. You are the lone warrior, who has to shape your own destiny and work out your own salvation. When you sit on a horse, you have to hold the saddle. You cannot let others hold it for you.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Power of Determination
- Factors Which Contribute to Happiness
- Mental Maturity and Adult Behavior
- The Power of Your Thoughts
- To Think Outside the Box and Its True Meaning
- How to Avoid Stereotyping People
- Meditation and Levitation
- Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life
- 10 Reasons Why Plans Fail
- Thought, Energy and Manifestation
- How to Deal With Unpleasant Situations
- Stop Blaming Others
- Ten Effective Ways to Improve Your Self Esteem
- Determination, The Sustaining Power
- Are you Bored With Your Life?
- What Do You Think Success Means?
- Why People Worship Celebrities and Film Stars?
- Dealing with Adversity
- The Success Mindset
- Why Older Workers Find It Difficult to Get a Job?
- Invite Peace Into Your Life
- How to Practice Forgiveness in Daily Life
- Effective Listening Skills
- Being the Best - A Book on Self-help
- Think Success : Essays on Self-help
- Essays On Dharma
- Esoteric Mystic Hinduism
- Introduction to Hinduism
- Hindu Way of Life
- Essays On Karma
- Hindu Rites and Rituals
- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
- Symbolism in Hinduism
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Concepts of Hinduism
- Essays on Atman
- Hindu Festivals
- Spiritual Practice
- Right Living
- Yoga of Sorrow
- Mental Health
- Concepts of Buddhism
- General Essays
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