It’s not often that I struggle to decide what to write about, but I confess I hit a wall when trying to come up with a topic to kick-off National Self-Improvement month. Self-help is a billion dollar industry and heaven knows there is no shortage of topics, information, and advice available about every possible question associated with how to be your best self. But there is one question that has tugged at me for some time.
When you clear away all the advice, tips, and rhetoric, is there a single strategy or line that must be crossed within each of us in order for self-improvement to actually work. I mean, let’s be honest, one only needs to look at the abysmal statistics on abandoned New Year Resolutions to see that many of us are great starters, but never make it to the middle mile, let alone the finish line.
So why do we so often fail at self-improvement and how do we program ourselves in such a way to turn that around and make it really work for us?
It Always Comes Down to Accountability
The notion of taking full responsibility for your life is going to be a tough one for some people to accept. After all, it does somewhat bump up against the reality that there are things that we have no control over, especially the behavior of other people.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that we do have control over our own choices and behavior and that includes the way in which we respond to life’s inevitable challenges … and other people. What this means is that not only your growth but the willpower, self-discipline, and motivation to do the work to achieve your goals, is an inside job.
I’m going to take that one step further and dare to suggest that choosing to coast for awhile – or even not to grow – is also your choice. With so much hoopla over how and why you should never stop striving to be your best self, some may feel pressured into joining the self-improvement club. But taking responsibility for your life means you also get to say “I really am okay with who I am and my life just the way it is, thank you very much!”
In fact, taking responsibility for your life is the key to everything you are happy with and everything you are not happy with. Accepting this truth is an empowering prospect!
The Price of Responsibility
Taking responsibility requires making a shift from the role of victim of your circumstances to being an intentional creator. Intentional is the key element here. If you are stuck in an unsatisfying life, be brutally honest with yourself about what would make you happy. Write it down, be very specific, and whatever you do, ditch the “buts”.
The “but” excuse is the hallmark of a fixed mindset and is like a knee-jerk reaction to anything that threatens the status quo. “But I don’t have the money (education, contacts, resources, etc.).” or “But I’ve tried before and failed so why should I put myself through that again?”
Admittedly choosing not to take responsibility is less demanding, involves fewer unknowns, and it’s certainly more comfortable. You can just sit back and blame the lack of success, unfulfilled goals and all the problems in your life on someone else. The problem is there is always a price to pay for relinquishing your power. Not taking responsibility for your life is by default accepting the victim card and choosing to remain powerless, which inevitably results in issues of low self-esteem, and lack of self-trust.
Of course, if you accept that you have choices and responsibility for your life now, then there’s the decidedly uncomfortable reality that you also have to accept that you had choices and responsibility in the past.
In her book The Top Five Regrets of The Dying, author Bronnie Ware states the number one deathbed regret by far is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Realizing at the end of your life that you’ve honored so few of your dreams and have to die knowing that it was due to choices you have – or have not – made, is a bitter pill to swallow.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can wake up to the power you have to take responsibility for your choices and instead of wasting energy feeling ashamed or guilty about past mistakes, accept that at the time you did the best you could with what you knew, and recognize the lessons learned and how you’ve grown from those experiences, which is definitely something to be very proud of. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes to learn the lessons of responsibility so long as we do.
To change what’s wrong, reach for your dreams and goals, or simply celebrate all that’s right in your life, you must believe you’re the one in control. Don’t blame, complain, or criticize. Accept full responsibility for everything in your life, whether you are the source of it or not; even external problems can have internal solutions. Taking responsibility for your life empowers you, fosters success, and heightens self-esteem, all of which leads to increased happiness.
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.