Are you any good when it comes to taking responsibility for your life? Chances are, you’re pretty good at meeting the needs of others — partner, children, friends, pets, employers, employees — but what about your own?
Stephen Covey defines responsibility like this:
“response-ability – the ability to choose your response”
In other words, responsibility isn’t about controlling what happens in your life; it’s about controlling how you respond to it. If you’re really up for taking responsibility for your life, here are two words to avoid, no matter what you’re responding to: if only.
If only I hadn’t lost my job. If only I was 20 pounds lighter. If only he hadn’t left me.
If only thinking is 100% focused on history. If you’re serious about taking responsibility for your life, you need to change your way of thinking. This doesn’t mean ignoring where you’ve been or forgetting what you’ve been through. It simply means acknowledging it, processing it, and then, when you’re ready, moving on.
1. Taking responsibility for your life involves putting your wellbeing first.
You owe it to yourself to exercise self-care and practice self-love, so what’s with all the self-sabotage? Here you are, taking care of everyone else’s needs and using the resulting busy-ness as a reason for not putting your own wellbeing first. But you can put yourself first. You simply have to ditch the if only mentality.
If only your daughter was old enough to stay home by herself, you could go to the gym. If only there wasn’t ice cream in the freezer, you’d eat berries for dessert. If only you didn’t still have a mortgage, you’d be able to afford that course you want to take. This thinking will get you nowhere fast.
If you believe in taking responsibility for your life, try this on for size instead: Your daughter isn’t old enough to stay home alone, so watch an exercise video instead. There is ice cream in the freezer. If you can’t resist it, wash it down the kitchen sink. And you do still have a mortgage. You also spend about $300 a month on clothes. You need the home but do you really need the new clothes? You’re in the driver’s seat. Make a choice and own it.
2. Remember, you’re responsible for creating your own happiness.
In 2017, B.J. Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, was the feature of an article that appeared in The New York Times Magazine entitled One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die.
The article shares Miller’s reflections about his youth, when he was a privileged, able-bodied suburban boy. It explores how, back in the good old days, “he saw unhappiness as an illegitimate intrusion into the carefree reality he was supposed to inhabit.”
His perspective isn’t uncommon. Most of us tend to consider divorce, sickness, death and other unhappy events as interruptions to the happiness we’re entitled to. Miller goes on to say:
“Don’t we all treat suffering as a disruption to existence, instead of an inevitable part of it?” Think about it. Suffering to some degree is inevitable. Sad perhaps, but true.
Pursuing the career of your dreams, finding your perfect life partner, perhaps even starting a family — these are things you aspire to in the interest of finding happiness. But what happens when all doesn’t go according to plan? Like when your partner leaves you, or the company lays you off, or you can’t get pregnant?
Are you supposed to make lemonade out of these lemons? No. But you’re not supposed to curl up and shut down in despair over how unfair life is either. As Miller observes, these events aren’t intrusions into your life. They are life. When you can appreciate this, you’ll be better able to take control of your happiness, which is key when it comes to taking responsibility for your life.
3. Taking responsibility for your life means pursuing personal growth. Always.
Whether it’s emotional, spiritual, intellectual or physical, personal growth will help you fulfill your potential across all facets of your life — because wanting isn’t enough.
It’s not enough to want inner peace. You need to take responsibility for the spiritual and emotional growth required to get you there. It’s not enough to want business success. You need to take responsibility for the intellectual growth required to get you there.
Maybe you can fulfill your material wants without personal growth (assuming your bank balance permits), but health, happiness, and prosperity — these wants need to be cultivated from within. Sure, a therapist or coach may be able to guide you, but only you can do the real work required to ensure the outcome you aspire to.
Where you are going in life has everything to do with how you are growing in life. Taking responsibility for your life means being open to that growth.
4. Prioritize your needs.
Putting your needs before the needs of others can be one of the most difficult things to do, particularly when your family counts on you for everything.
While I’m sure you have infinite love to give, it’s important to reserve at least a little for yourself. If you don’t, here’s what will happen: you’ll keep powering through your responsibilities towards others until, one day, you’ll find yourself begrudging everyone around you for being so needy.
Suddenly, there you are, back in the world of “if only…”
If only others weren’t so demanding of your time, you’d be able to focus on yourself. Here’s the thing, though. They are demanding of your time. That’s a fact. And here’s another fact: You have the power to say, “nope, nu-uh, that’s not going to work. I can’t do it all. Something has to give.”
What’s that something going to be?
Will you ask your husband to do the school run two mornings a week? Will you give up your weekly date with The Bachelor? Will you hire a cleaning lady, decline invitations to events that don’t delight you, reach out to your parents for help?
Taking responsibility for your life requires taking ownership of the inevitable challenges. Whatever’s standing between you and the fulfillment of your needs, own it and address it. Seriously, you can do this!
5. Taking responsibility for your life will likely mean disappointing others.
It’s practically impossible to avoid. You simply can’t please everyone all of the time. When you decide to make choices that best serve you, you’re going to end up disappointing someone else.
Your best friend invites you to go to a movie tonight but you’d rather curl up by the fire and read a book. By choosing to meet your need, you’ll fail to meet hers. It can’t be helped. You’re going to disappoint people and they’re going to judge you for it. Trust that if those people value you, they’ll get over it. And if they don’t — well, it’s up to you to get over their judgment.
To be clear, I’m not proposing that you don’t give a second thought to the needs of others. No one gets anywhere in this world by being a taker. I’m simply suggesting you toughen up a bit — just enough to be good to others without compromising your happiness, your growth, your needs, your wellbeing, your life.
Your life is your responsibility.
So ask yourself, how do you want to live it?
About the Author
Viv Singer is a copywriter and personal growth writer who is passionate about living life with peace, joy and positivity. Wanting the same for others, she launched vivfortoday.com in 2017, where she blogs regularly. For more from Viv, subscribe to her email by completing the form on her website, or get social with her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.