Toward More Effective Living, Self-Responsibility And Self-Leadership
We are living in a time of escalating stress, anxiety, anger and violence. Simply turn on the TV, the computer or your smartphone to witness the negative thoughts that are flying around, nonstop, in the atmosphere in which we live.
As far as I can tell, there seems to be a current of thought in our culture that says, “I deserve ______________.” Fill in the blank with whatever you feel is lacking in your life: a great life, happiness, that promotion, fame, love, money, your attention, ad infinitum.” The framing of the demand with “I deserve” points to the underlying notion that someone else is meant to provide those things. Some people think it is the government’s responsibility to provide us with a good life. Others think God, or their parents are meant to provide for their every desire, wish and whim. Others think it is the job of their lover or spouse.
The truth is each and every one of us is responsible for the quality and content of our lives. We are responsible for our level of achievements, the quality of our relationships, our income, debt, fitness, beliefs, feelings, thoughts and behavior. So many of us humans are easily duped and conditioned on a daily basis into believing that outside forces are to blame for the things that don’t go well in our lives and for being deprived of the things we want and don’t have. Continuing to blame others keeps us in a constant state of being stuck, feeling upset and acting out of a sense of victimhood instead of from integrity.
In our society, there is no one holding a gun to anyone’s head making them eat food they don’t want to eat or making them stay at a job they don’t like or stay in a relationship that is unhealthy and unproductive. We live in a society where we are free to make decisions for ourselves, yet we act as if we are victims of circumstances.
Jack Canfield says it very clearly when he advises that one has to give up blaming. He writes,
“You are the one who ate the junk food
You are the one who didn’t say no
You are the one who took the job
You are the one who stayed at the job
You are the one who chose to believe
You are the one who ignored your intuition
You are the one who abandoned your dream
You are the one who bought it
You are the one who did not take care of it
You are the one who decided you had to do it alone
You are the one who trusted him
You are the one who said yes to the dogs.”
As long as you stay in a blaming mindset, solutions will be evasive. However, when you decide to give up complaining and blaming you can embark on the journey to true leadership which is self-leadership. You then begin to ask more compelling and fruitful questions. Instead of “why me or why not me” questions, you’ll begin to ask “how” questions. “How can I learn to cook healthier foods. How can I stand in my truth in the face of pressure? How can I find a better job or a better relationship?”
On this journey toward self-leadership I am reminded of the power of the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This points to inner strength, inner courage, inner wisdom. It says nothing about anyone or anything external.
Be The Change You Want To See
Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” This is the very essence of self-responsibility and self-leadership. From this quote someone has boiled it down to, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would go further and say be the change you want to see in your day-to-day life. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions.
Rigor, confidence, leadership, dignity, courage, awareness, compassion, acceptance, authenticity are attributes borne from the ability to ask oneself, “How did I create that? What was I thinking? What did I do our not do to get that result? What could I do next time to improve my chances of success?
One must be willing to let go of stories, projections, assumptions, and replace those old habits with new practices. Practices that help include conscious breathing, slowing down, willingness, focused attention, awareness, curiosity, deeper listening, trust, asking questions. A new way of being requires trying something new. In the spirit of discovery do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Pilots and sailors must course-correct constantly in order to navigate to their desired destinations through air and on sea. Likewise, we must continually course-correct to find the peace and success we long for. Giving up blame and shame is a major first step every individual can take to put an end to the collective and individual resentments so pervasive in our culture today. It is the first principle toward self-leadership. It may sound simple, but it isn’t easy. With practice though, it becomes easier and the results are well worth the effort.