“The truth that you are in charge of your life will set you free only after it really irritates you.” ― Sky St. John
It took two phone calls for my sister to realize she wouldn’t get what she was expecting from me.
Lisa is struggling to fit in at her new job and wanted my advice. She didn’t expect me to push back. “Really? How so?” — I asked her. She just wanted sympathy.
My sister assumed I would take her side. I didn’t take her boss side either. I told Lisa that she needed to take ownership of the situation: to stop expecting and start doing. “What are YOU going to do differently?” — I asked.
Inaction won’t create a different outcome. When we start blaming others for our suffering is because we expect them to change. But the only change we can manage is ours.
I love my sister, she is smart and emotionally intelligent. But today, she lost ownership of her emotions and behavior. Pain is inevitable; suffering is a choice. The difference lies in being in charge of your life.
You Create Your Own Problems
“It’s not the shit we face that defines us; it’s how we deal with it.” — Ahmed Mostafa
Life is challenging. Not even the Dalai Lama is immune to being human. When he has a hard day ahead, he meditates for two hours — twice the time than usual.
Things happen to all of us. It’s just that some are more prepared than others. I’m not saying anticipating to what’s going to happen, but taking ownership. When you stop expecting, you start accepting.
It’s not what happens but what you do about it. Stop fighting what you can’t manage, what you don’t like or what didn’t go your way.
Being at war with reality will only turn you into a casualty, as I wrote here.
You create your own suffering.
The good news is you can stop it too. When you take responsibility, you can take ownership and improve how you feel. Rather than expecting reality — or other people — to treat you better.
Why Your Reality Hurts
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Reality is not bad or good. Life just is.
Our dramatized version of reality is what hurts. Imagine a snapshot of you smiling. It could remind you of a beautiful moment, a lovely memory of the joy you felt. Or you could scrutinize each detail and get sad because you look full of wrinkles or don’t like your haircut.
There’s nothing wrong with your photograph. What you choose to see becomes the problem.
In Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), responsibility means that you accept your role in ‘creating’ your own suffering. Taking ownership is not about blaming yourself, but becoming in charge. How we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion) and how we act (behavior) all interact together. Precisely, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior.
This phenomenon is well illustrated by the famous ABC model developed by Albert Ellis. A represents the activating event, B stands for the belief we hold about the event, and C represents the emotional and/or behavioral consequences of holding that belief.
It is not what happens that causes our reaction, but our judgmental beliefs about the event.
“People don’t just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness.” — Albert Ellis
An irrational belief will drive you into unhealthy emotions. A rational belief will create healthier emotions, thus avoiding unnecessary suffering. You cannot change an event; you can change how you react to it.
Don’t Let Others Dictate Your Life
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you try to fulfill other people’s expectations, you lose clarity and focus.
People put you in a box that you can’t get out. That happens when they label you. Don’t let other people’s expectations define who you are.
The same way you shouldn’t blame others, don’t let your friends, co-workers, or family’s expectations define you. Unless you want to be blamed when things don’t go their way.
You can’t change people; you can change how you deal with them.
I realized my sister was upset because she expected her boss to appreciate her ideas. She was looking for approval. But her boss won’t change.
When we expect, we stop accepting reality.
We all get lost from time to time. It’s natural to look for help when you lose clarity. But the best advice comes in the form of a question. One that encourages us to search inside.
Change Happens from Within
“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” — George Eliot
The meaning of life is about discovery.
Living is about drawing the map as you travel. To discover your own path, rather than follow someone else’s. You don’t need 50 ways to live; you need just one: yours.
Trust yourself. You have what it takes; you were probably looking in the wrong place. Be patient.
Your mindset is the lens through which you see reality. If you are not using the right one, it can distort your vision, as I explain in my book “Stretch for Change.” Moving from a “Stuck” to a “Change” Mindset is a cycle that begins with letting go of dramatization while we embrace the desire to stretch beyond our comfort zone.
Your mind is not your friend — and it’s not your enemy either. It just needs to be tamed, so it doesn’t get in your way
A. Improve Your Self-awareness:
Let go of dramatization. Stop playing the victim in your life, as I wrote here. Self-doubt can get you paralyzed rather than move into action. When you doubt yourself, you doubt others. That’s the origin of blame.
Learn to accept reality and stop fighting what you don’t know. Frustration is the gap between our expectations and our realities. Realizing that will save you a lot of suffering.
Self-awareness is the first step towards self-acceptance. Develop your mindfulness skills: to pay attention with flexibility, openness, and curiosity
B. Take Ownership:
When you stop complaining and take ownership of your destiny, it’s easier to move into action.
Let go of empty excuses like “I’m busy” or “that’s not my job” or “I don’t know how to do that.” It’s liberating. Instead of playing the martyr, stop reacting and start adapting.
The words you say to yourself have a powerful effect. If you lie to yourself, you’ll believe your own lies. But positive words drive encouragement. As Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg explains: “The longer you concentrate on positive words, functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself.”
C. Gain a Superpower:
It’s our limitations that define our humanity. We are not perfect. We are not invincible. We are not going to live forever.
Self-discovery is an all-inclusive tour. It’s not just about discovering your strengths but also becoming your own limitations best friend. Accepting our limitations is liberating. It allows to turn your constraints into fuel rather than being limited by them.
Life is an obstacle race. You can live in denial or learn how to overcome them. That’s where your resilience is built. Take frustration, for example. It can get you stuck, or you can use it to your advantage. That’s when constraints can become a superpower.
Ray Charles lost his vision when he was seven. Imagine that, losing your vision as a young kid. But that never stopped him from becoming a successful musician, songwriter, and singer.
D. Experiment More:
Learning happens when you cross the boundary of your comfort zone.
Overthinking is paralyzing. If you stick to all your options, you don’t make choices. Happiness is the art of sacrifice: sacrificing — saying no to something — is critical to feeling (and being) happy.
Life is unexpected. Embracing an experimental mindset requires you to realize that you cannot control every event. Learn to go with the flow, to improvise more. “Improvisation without a plan is like tennis without tennis balls.” — Lars Von Trier. But a plan without improvisation is like playing tennis but only hitting back the balls that are served where you expect them.
Perfectionism is the enemy of change; do new things, do things in a new way, launch something even before it’s perfect. Be open to hit any ball, especially those that are coming from unexpected places.
Being in charge of your life is more than a Pinterest-like motto. It’s the realization that, as Walt Disney said, “Whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
Reaching your full potential is your call. Not someone else’s.
Stop searching outside. The answer is within you.
What do you see?
Upgrade Your Life
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