A few years ago Jim and I had a very funny experience. We were considering replacing the outdated windows in our home and were in the process of getting quotes from some local companies. One gentleman who came here proceeded to tell us everything he was not responsible for: any broken drywall, any chipped paint, any cracked windowsills. Needless to say we did not pick him!
But really, what is our responsibility and what is not? Let’s look at a deeper level. How about, “I am not responsible for someone else’s response to….” (add in any number of things) “…my choice to have children or not have children, my decision not to travel north for the upcoming holiday season, my reasons for quitting my job to pursue another career path…” and the list goes on. However, I am response–able. I am responsible for my response to any person or situation. I am responsible for my anger at my children. I am responsible for my bad attitude at work today. I am responsible for my own feelings.
The most powerful tool any person has is their ability to choose a response to any situation. Living a life of freedom, a life uninhibited by other’s opinions of you, will not always please everyone. Maybe your at-home mom friend doesn’t support your decision to go back to work after staying home with your child for only 2 years. Maybe your mother isn’t happy that you choose not to attend church anymore. Maybe your neighbor is mad that you put up a fence. But that is when you can say, “I am not responsible.” You are not responsible if another takes offense at your decisions. You are not responsible to make someone forgive if they choose not to accept your apology. You are not responsible for another’s fragile disposition. You are not responsible for another’s feelings of jealousy when you have worked hard to get a promotion. You are not responsible for another’s anger, fear, hate, life. But you are responsible for yours.
This is where the freedom from others comes. If you sense anger, you can acknowledge it is in YOU, not caused by another person or an outside circumstance. You will give up on blaming anyone or anything for your responses to life. You will deal with your own response, looking inside to see why you are mad. Is it a past hurt that triggered your anger? Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way right now?” If you are feeling defensive, ask yourself, “What am I protecting myself from?” If it is sadness over a life that hasn’t turned out the way you planned? Ask yourself, “Who is responsible for my life?” Is it just bad luck? Terrible circumstances? Is it your partner? Or is it YOU? I am not suggesting that everything is in our control, but the more you can accept responsibility for your life the way it is now, and stop blaming, the more power you will feel and the more likely you will be to take action.
Don’t be discouraged. This is a very hard pill to swallow, but it is the medicine that will free us from being the victim to anyone or anything. The more each of us can accept responsibility for our responses to life, the more we can learn about ourselves, and the more we are empowered to take steps to make changes. The flip side is, the more we shift the responsibility to someone else or blame our feelings on circumstances, the more we give up our power and become a victim.
What can you take ownership of today?
- Do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy? Can you take a class to improve your skills and give you more confidence rather than assuming someone else will get the promotion? Can you check out an audio book from the library to learn something new?
- How about your own feelings of depression or anxiety? Could you see a doctor, therapist or life coach rather than dragging your feet day after day, unmotivated and uninspired?
- Do you feel stressed out? Could you make it a priority to schedule an appointment with yourself each week, without feeling guilty, rather than blaming your stress on an out-of-control schedule? Could you start saying “No” to some social or business events to free up some time?
- What about your own unhappiness in your marriage? Could you be the one to fan the flame again rather than allowing resentful feeling to simmer, wondering when he is going to do something for you? Could you go out of your way to surprise your partner?
Stop blaming and start looking within. What can you learn from your life? It is YOUR life to live. Dream big and take action to make the life you want your reality. Each person has their own life to use as they see fit. Let them. Right now, you focus on you.