Speaking creates life, Listening shapes it
Every word you say on a conscious level either retrains the synapses in your brain on a subconscious level to fire in new ways in response to old stimuli, or reaffirms and cements your current frame of reference.
“You made me mad because you ________…” vs “I’m mad that you ________…”
“You make me happy/sad when you _______…” vs “I feel happy/sad when you _______…”
“You make me feel so _______…” vs “I feel so _______ with you…”
Have you ever considered that the way you speak about everyday things may affirm a subconscious “personal truth” in your brain that your happiness, feelings, and circumstances are outside of your control, and live in the hands and at the whims of others, based on their words and actions? Don’t take my word for it, simply listen to how you speak, and you can hear the frame of reference you are living inside of on an unconscious level, whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not.
First and foremost, own your words, and you can own your reality.
Take ownership of your reality, and you can look to your left, look to your right, and take responsibility for the outcomes you’ve created in your life. Without shame, blame or lament, you can own the fact that everything you have, everything you don’t have, everything you do, everything you don’t do, everything you’ve done, everything you haven’t done, everyone in your life, everyone not in your life, is a direct result of or has fundamentally been impacted by YOUR thoughts, YOUR words and YOUR actions.
This isn’t a “good” thing or a “bad” thing, it’s just something for which you can own responsibility. It’s not “the truth,” it’s a context you live inside of by choice, that leaves you firmly at the helm of whatever results you are or are not producing in your life with regard to your family, your relationships, your health, your career, your finances, etc. So inside of that context, one accepts that as adult human beings, we’re responsible for ALL the people and circumstances that are currently present in our lives, some of which we love, and some of which we want to change.
A context of personal responsibility is like a coat, feel free to try it on, or not.
Everyone doesn’t like the context of personal responsibility, because what about your childhood, and upbringing, and mother, and father, and church, and failures, and sexual orientation, and tragedies, and losses? That’s what makes us who we are, right? That’s what defines us and limits us, our past…right? How dare I suggest that you can just leave the past in the past and choose a new narrative to live inside of that you actually enjoy playing in your head over and over, all day, every day, like that new song “Caroline” by Amine (I like what I just did there, see how that lightened the mood?). The nerve of me, because NOBODY’S blues are like yours…right?
That’s a question only you can answer. What I’ll share is this…it’s not what happened to us in the past that is at the root of our present day pain. It’s the stories, the narrative ABOUT the things that happened that we take forward with us, and replay over and over and over again for a lifetime, that continue to keep that painful moment from the past, and the limitations we feel as a result, alive in our present.
Is it possible to learn how to take the unedited version of our past, fire the old narrator, and literally construct a new narrative about the same old people and same old situations that give us new interpretations, ones in which we actually feel empowered through how we’ve come out on the other side as the people who we are today? Well hell, Spiderman has been rewritten and re-adapted like 10 times in the last 10 years…can we give ourselves the grace of at least one rewrite on our story, for an audience of one? Maybe even two? Five? We get to choose…but only if we ACCEPT that we ARE choosing, either way.
If you like this context, great. Keep this coat on for a little while. It’s kind of like a warm snuggy. If you prefer another context, stick with that personal truth, if it’s working for you. If that other context is not working for you, and you still want to stick with it, be my guest. I have no assertions about what anyone SHOULD or SHOULDN’T do.
The cavalry ain’t coming.
Inside of the full personal responsibility context, we can also accept that we’re responsible for creating new thoughts, saying new words, and taking new actions to (re)design our lives in a way that works for us. The cavalry isn’t coming for us, and things won’t “happen if/when they’re supposed to.” Things are ALWAYS happening. It’s us who choose how we INTERPRET those things.
Committed vs attached
As long as I get to choose how I interpret the world of thoughts, words and actions that I’m surrounded by, I’m going to choose a context of personal responsibility, because it’s a powerful state of mind that leaves how my life goes up to me. I can’t control the thoughts, words and actions of others, I can only control how I choose to respond or react to them. Sometimes personal responsibility means knowing when to step away from people and circumstances because they are unhealthy for me, no matter how bad I may want to be there.
For me, personal responsibility means I am committed to doing all that I can do to create the circumstances I desire, and I do that without being attached to the result looking a certain way, when I know I have done all that I can do. The rest is up to God, universal energy, or whatever your belief is. It doesn’t mean I can change people, or make every situation go my way. It means that I get to choose MY thoughts, MY words and MY actions, and own the results, however the chips may fall. That is a life I’m willing to live.
Thomas started his entrepreneurial career selling luxury custom car accessories online from New York to California out of his dorm room at Tennessee State University, and never looked back. Over 15 years later, beard grayed from the trials of entrepreneurship, Thomas is an author, an emerging tech startup founder, a speaker, a Google Entrepreneur in Residence, and the creator of a global membership organization for Black and Latinx founders of emerging tech startups, whose members cover almost all 50 states, 4 countries, and have raised + generated over $415MM in their startups. Learn more about Thomas’ current projects at ThomasKRStovall.com.