THE BLOG

Believe it or Not, You Got Yourself Into This

08/16/2013 05:21 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT
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businessman pointing his finger ...

This may come as a surprise: You are where you are today because of choices you made. In other words, you got yourself into this.

This sounds crazy, right?

You might be saying to yourself: It's not my fault that I'm underpaid, even though the work I do is really hard.

Well, who chose that job? Who chose to keep it?

You might be saying: It's not my fault that my marriage is a bit dull. My spouse doesn't talk to me any more, and we don't do anything together. It's not like the old days...

Well, who chose that spouse? And more importantly, what about you? Are you contributing to the marriage in the way you once did?

Here's the hardest one: It's not my fault I got sick.

No, of course it is not. But, as we are about to see, you are making a choice about how you handle your illness today, right at this moment.

Here's an example: One of my clients, a vice president of finance, came to me one day with a common complaint. She had no time to do her work: "Everyone comes to me with their problems, and I'm the one who has to solve them. I'm the only one who has the information."

She was working for a large company, and every day employees three levels down from her would file into her office with minor problems, like what to do with the contractor who didn't get a quote in on time, or how to resolve a routine office conflict. They should have figured it out themselves, or asked their boss rather than the VP. But she let them in. She listened to their problems, and solved them efficiently. Which created a problem for her: She was so busy solving everyone else's little dilemmas that she didn't have time to deal with the big ones on her desk. It looked to her like it was everyone else causing her stress and time issues, but soon she saw it was actually her.

This does not mean you should launch into it's-all-my-fault mode. Blaming yourself doesn't help. However, if you take responsibility for the choices you have made up to now, and recognize you made choices that put you in the situation you're faced with now, you will be taking the first step in regaining power over your life.

After all, if you got yourself into this, you can get yourself out.

Choose the Way You React

To regain power over your life, start with this: You always have a choice. Always. You cannot change what has already happened, of course, but you can always choose how you will react right now. And the beauty is that no one can stop you from deciding how you will react -- even if what happened was out of your control!

To do this, you have to make an important distinction: between what happened and the meaning you give to the event that happened. It's easy to confuse the two. Many of us fuse them, so we think that if something happens, our reaction is a logical consequence of that event. We might even assume it's the only possible response to that event. That really limits our leeway to act.

Accepting responsibility means looking at your role in everything that happens or has happened in your life. Even though there will be situations that are or were beyond your control, you still need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for how you respond.

Choose How You Think and Feel

Part of taking responsibility is choosing your thoughts and feelings. Yes, this may sound odd. You may be saying, "But you can't stop the way you think or feel. If I feel it, it must be valid, and if I think it, it must be true."

The fact is that you can choose your feelings. You can also choose your thoughts. You may have feelings arrive uninvited, but you can dismiss the ones you don't want and replace them with others.

Stay tuned for my next blog later on this week, in which I'll explain...or, if you can't wait that long, go and grab a copy of my new book, The You Factor: A Handbook For Powerful Living, on shelves and available via all major online retailers as of Tuesday August 20th.

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