How to Take Responsibility for Your Life and Change What Isn’t Working
“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.
I spent a devastatingly large part of my life trapped, blaming others for my troubles. I felt like I was bumbling around aimlessly and my life was out of my control.
I was working a soul-sucking job, with a huge amount of student debt. I was surrounded by fake, unsupportive friends, in a toxic relationship, and had extremely low self-esteem.
All of this was everyone else’s fault. I didn’t take responsibility for anything in my life that was causing me pain.
I became a victim, and my sorrowful existence felt like too much to handle.
So I entered a nightmarish tailspin and turned to food, drugs, and alcohol to escape the suffering.
I rationalized that nothing about my circumstance was my responsibility and spent years playing the blame game. I was the victim.
But because I blamed everyone else, I never took any steps to improve my circumstances. This mind-set got me nowhere. I was stuck.
I’ve since realized the only person who can change my life is me. Through mindfulness practice, meditation, and coaching I began to understand that I’d gotten myself into my situation and I was the only one who could get myself out.
Everything in my life, regardless if I am to blame or not, is my responsibility.
We all have the power to change our situation. The first step is take responsibility for our lives and make conscious decisions to steer ourselves in a new direction.
Today I present to you three reflections I’ve had when it comes to taking responsibility for my life.
I hope these reflections can help you take responsibility for creating the life you want to live, and take action to get there.
1. No one else is responsible for our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
Accept that you are responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, and no one else can make you think, feel, say, or do anything. No matter what they say or do, you are still responsible for how you respond to them.
Thoughts happen in your mind, which triggers feelings in your body, which leads to words coming out of your mouth and actions coming from your body.
What part of this process involves anyone else? None.
When I was in an abusive relationship, I constantly felt like I was the victim—and I was, in the relationship, but I didn’t have to remain a victim in my life.
I would mope around the house feeling depressed, and I refused to take responsibility for my choice to stay in the relationship. This mind-set rendered me powerless to change things for the better.
Eventually, I came to realize that although I may not be responsible for my boyfriend’s actions, I was responsible for how I responded to them—and I then decided to take action and leave this relationship. I shifted from out-of-control victim to empowered, resilient, and in control of my life.
I’m in the driver’s seat now!
2. Blame only keeps us stuck.
Blame is a glorious defence mechanism. It can seem much easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility for something that has gone wrong.
The problem is, blaming keeps you in victim mode. When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
When you stop playing the blame game and accept responsibility for your role, you shift from fearful victim to supreme victor.
When stuck in blame mode, I ask myself, what role did I play in the situation? Like the time I acquired thousands of dollars in student debt. I spent years blaming my parents for “forcing” me to go to University when I wasn’t sure of my career aspirations.
The truth is, though they influenced me, it was my choice to go to school and spend that money, and it is my responsibility to pay the money back. I spent many years angry with my parents, blaming them for my financial troubles.
Eventually I understood my role in the situation and I was able to let go of the anger and focus my energy on repaying my debts.
I became empowered to focus on what was in my control and that enabled me to proactively address the problem.
3. No one else can make us happy.
I’ve come to see that happiness is something that comes from within, and it’s not dependent on circumstances, people, or possessions. Our situations can change, our relationships may end, and we’ll likely lose things we own. If we pin our happiness to any of these things, we’ll always be at their mercy.
No one feels happy all the time, and that’s totally normal. However, we can be happy with our lives on the whole if we make a conscience decision to work on happiness every day.
The biggest gateway to happiness, for me, at least, is gratitude. When I view the world through the lens of gratitude I notice things in my life to be happy about.
When I’m low I often ask myself, what is there to be grateful about right now in this moment?
When I was feeling completely shattered and broken after a recent breakup I had lost all hope in the world and myself. At this time the only thing I could find to be grateful for was breathing.
That’s totally fine. At least it’s something!
I also make time to do things that make me feel good, like listening to music, dancing around the house, and expressing my creativity.
Another thing that helps is my morning self-care routine, which gets me energized and in the right headspace. This involves one hour of time dedicated to activities that nourish the mind, soul, and body—things like exercising, listening to informative podcasts, and meditating.
And I look for opportunities for random acts of kindness throughout the day because giving to others is a joyful experience.
Lastly, I try to search for a benefit from my suffering. There is always something to be learned from a situation; it’s just a matter of looking for the lesson.
Take my abusive relationship as an example. I was completely broken with zero self-esteem, and I was a mess. Constantly crying. I sobbed so hard I threw my back out for weeks! It was intense.
But that situation is what drove me to discover mindfulness and meditation, and it’s allowed me to understand myself in ways I never thought possible.
Ironically, it forced me to build myself back up to become a confident, resilient person. Had this relationship never happened, I wouldn’t have written this article and I wouldn’t be here connecting with you today!
I’ve found taking responsibility to be a transformative experience because it enabled me to change what wasn’t working in my life. If you’re stuck in blame, waiting for someone or something else to make you happy, I am confident it will be helpful for you as well.