All these big ideas about the universe — the “impermanence” of things, not being “too attached” to things and the best one, my favorite, is the idea (and fact) that we’re the “creators of our lives”— are stunning.
Every day, though, just getting through a to-do list can fill up every minute. Pile on a few situations that go wrong… or mistakes… or dramatic revelations… and suddenly it can feel like those philosophical big ideas that we’re able to create life on our terms are exclusively for gurus and sages. They sound good but they’re just not practical.
Every time I have a problem that won’t go away easily, my first stop is my Buddhist temple where I’m usually told by at least 1 and sometimes up to 10 different people that my problem is biting more than my karma to overcome.
What that means: Whatever’s happening in my life is something I’ve created. It’s all Cause and Effect. We do things and then live the effects of what we’ve done.
So, over sixteen years- and a many of those early sixteen spent blaming other people for what they’ve done or how they affected my life- I came to see life as my own creation. Sickness, mishaps, heartbreaks, love, power and success are all creation; they are all being created every single day.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a blame streak in me. In fact, I’m waking up from a big one right now, where I couldn’t shake the idea that someone deliberately was putting a really big dark cloud over my life.
Of course… I realized that I allowed it to happen. Now, that I see that I participated in putting this cloud over my days, the cloud is gone.
That ability to flip things from dark to light is how I fell in love with the very big idea of being the creators of my own life.
When you’re the creator, you can always make things right. You can always grow from adversity. You can always find much more than a silver lining– you can find real gold– even the hardest times. And, you can, most excitingly, make anything happen without any luck needed at all.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
There are many situations, fortunes, misfortunes, achievements and failures that seem very much out of our control. External forces such as chance, destiny, or even just other peoples’ actions are not in the realm of being controllable. But, there are ways you can still take responsibility for your feelings, choices, actions and reactions to the resulting outcomes.
Responsibility represents the ways in which you are able to respond to your environment. “Personal” responsibility, is taking accountability for your actions, decisions, and the outcomes of your choices.
Life is bountiful with choices to make, and those who decide to accept their role in the end result of their actions, choices, decisions…these people play a more active role in creating their life. And with this action of taking personal responsibility, comes a sense of power and freedom in their sense of self and excitement for their future, knowing they can achieve their dreams and create the life they want.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who don’t take responsibility for themselves and blame other forces and people for their problems, leaving themselves powerless in the creation of their lives.
You are not a victim of circumstances!
I can tell you, the more I’ve found ways to take responsibility in just about every problem, every conflict, every mishap… It’s given me an incredible roadmap to personal growth. It’s awesome. It’s hard. But if you get into this idea of personal responsibility on a super-high level, not only will you never be a victim again, you’ll also never fear taking risks and living boldly because even if you don’t win, you win in big personal lessons that are life-changing.
As Jennifer Hamady states in Psychology Today, “By distancing ourselves from our own potential role in problems, we also disregard the possibility of our place in the solutions, as well as the joy and affinity that come from problem solving effectively together.”
Excuses don’t help.
The “It wasn’t my fault” mentality is tempting because it dissipates our role of responsibility, leaving us feeling light and guiltless. Yet, in the end, making excuses all the time will just make you powerless and a victim of circumstance.
I know someone who grew up in such a punitive environment that excuses were second nature to him from a young age. It was too scary to take responsibility, because responsibility was met with deep pain or even abuse. By surrounding himself with other excuse-makers, blanketing life in behaviors that “justified” the excuses, blaming outside forces for the way things were— no matter how much he said he was “evolving” (and he loved to use that word), in the end, there was always someone else who made the bad stuff happen, someone who “made him” lie, someone who tempted him into dark behavior… someone else who destroyed things. It was a blur of so many excuses it was almost impossible to know him.
In fact, the longer I’ve known him the less I seem to know him.
Excuses are, essentially, a great way to hide, vanish, to get stuck and to avoid all chances to grow.
De-clutter your go-to vocabulary.
Take note of your internal and external thoughts and words.
Are you habitually pulling lots of dramatic phrases into life that sort of shift the spotlight from your own creation of every single day.
“It wasn’t my fault…”
“I had no choice…”
“I couldn’t help myself…”
“He/she made me do it…”
The more you entertain the stories that paint your life as somewhat of a victim of stronger personalities, the pull of love, the mistakes of parents, or anything else, the more those words will seem very true.
You’ll find other people who believe those words are true, too.
But… if you can kick those words out of your head when you hear them, stop yourself as you say them… you’ll be able to look at things freshly.
What about trying things like…
I made a mistake…
I allowed this to happen…
I made a choice that wasn’t in my best interest…
Now… suddenly… you’re a creator!!! It doesn’t matter if you did things you aren’t thrilled about, what matters is that you did them, you can learn from them and as the author of your own story, you can change now, for real! You don’t need “luck” or astrology or anything to be on your side because you are on your side, all the time.
Handle your own “stuff.”
Clinging to past misfortunes and negative influences in our lives can help to funnel the blame for bad situations toward those bad people from the past and what they’ve done to you. Leave the past in the past by actually reconciling the traumas of the past. Therapy is miraculous, art therapy, trauma counseling, grief groups…
If you believe the idea that your whole life is a reflection of you, by handling these traumas and clearing out the heavy stuff lingering in your life, you make a lot of space for a whole new brighter reflection of you. You become super-responsible for the great things you’re creating!
Taking things personally isn’t necessary.
It’s #2 of The Four Agreements, and it’s a big one.
Part of personal responsibility that I’ve struggled with is not taking responsibility for other people’s moods that have nothing to do with us.
Everyone has good days, bad days… We wouldn’t know good if we didn’t know bad…nor would we understand pleasure, without the existence of pain. But, the big deal is realizing that if you’re on the flip side of someone else’s bad day, or you’re sitting on the other side of their trauma or you’re in the midst of someone else’s crisis… it’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. Or, at least, try your best not to…!
So, if you’re not sure what to do and you feel wronged, run-over, kicked around or otherwise in a situation you’d rather not be in… can you see how you can be responsible right now for making it right? Can you see how you can be responsible for healing? Can you see ways to grow from whatever happened?
After all, the idea that your world is a mirror of your life is a powerful one.
If you believe that the world is your mirror, then every single “wrong” thing is helping you dig up more of your own greatness and polish it up and move through life stronger and with more integrity, power and grace. Heartbreak is a chance to love. Losing is a chance to win the right thing. Closed doors can show you where you need to open up inside of yourself.
It’s truly awesome. Not at all easy… but all truly awesome.
You’ll see if you look around enough that your home is a mirror of your life, too, in all it’s greatness and it’s perfect imperfections and opportunities.
What would happen if you started being super-responsible for what things look like, feel like and sound like? Filling your days with what you want, not just what you’re used to? What would happen if you start sitting in the role of creator of your universe?
If you’re the one making things happen, there are no limits, no excuses and there’s no more feeling painted into corners.
Instead… there’s just so much greatness to make!
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