Unlocking the Door

A few years ago, my life looked very different. My levels of overwork, over-responsibility and resentment were at an all-time high. Friends and family saw a busy working mom juggling life and all its demands, but the truth is I rarely felt like I was doing anything very well—working mother, wife, sister, or daughter. The overachieving personality that had gotten me so far was relentless and wreaking havoc on my wellbeing, as I went from my kids to my marriage to my in-laws and clients care-taking, people-pleasing and approval seeking. I was exhausted down to my core. What I didn’t know is that I was always holding the key to my freedom—and so are you.

Opening to a New Level

It wasn’t until I learned an essential truth about human freedom that things changed for the better. Fundamentally, there is only one thing keeping you in a state of dis-ease of any kind.

You simply haven’t realized yet
that you are not a victim
of the events or situation
that you’re in.

Imagine yourself peering out of a window observing the weather. It’s raining. If you need to wash your car, you might think, Hooray, now I don’t have to deal with getting car washed today! If you have big weekend plans and wanted a clean car you might think, Damn, I wanted the car washed today. Notice that in either case the rain hasn’t changed. The rain is not the cause of your mood. The only thing that has changed is what you think about the rain and what you’ve decided that means.

The same is true for any situation in your life.

When we’re young, we are simply not taught the skills necessary to access all of the unlimited power inside of each of us to improve, enhance, and redirect our lives. As a result, how we feel about our lives is often left to the whim of the weather, the traffic, the news, other people’s actions, and the various situations and events happening around us. We become more drained and less happy, more overwhelmed and less satisfied. Shifting back into our power happens by learning how to practice a new level of personal responsibility.

Now, the first time I heard that, it felt like an accusation. I thought how is other people pissing me off or things going wrong in my day be my responsibility? But here’s the thing:  practicing personal responsibility has absolutely nothing to do with something being your fault.

Rather, it is about your freedom.

The single most liberating thing you can do for yourself in any situation is to take personal responsibility.

For many years I ran a public relations firm. If a client called with a complaint, I would often get upset that a mistake had happened and have a terrible day as a result. The same was true in my personal life. If my kids, friends, or husband were in a bad mood, I’d often allow their upset to become mine, trying to fix it and essentially wrecking my day in the process. It took years to see that getting upset because someone else is angry or unhappy is actually choosing to play the victim. From that place, you’re left living in constant fear that another person might get upset and the day will be ruined. Rather than giving my power away to clients, my partner or anyone else, I could take greater responsibility for my own experience. We all have the ability to respond in lots of ways. Ideally, we choose responses that are best for our health and wellbeing.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor

Personal responsibility acknowledges that you are the observer of all the events of your life. As the one in charge of your experience, the more aware of your thoughts you become, the more you can actively choose thoughts that make you feel stronger, happier and better. And, you can choose thoughts that result in you feeling, upset, unhappy, and unfulfilled. Personal responsibility is about recognizing who you really are, and the source of your real power.

For example, two people are looking out of a high-rise window at the road below. It’s rush hour. The driver of a black sedan screech to a stop mere moments before plowing into the rear of a grey SUV. One onlooker thinks, Nice reflexes—that driver hit the breaks in the nick of time!  This person is likely to feel a little relieved, maybe even hopeful that a disaster was narrowly averted. The other person seeing the same event thinks, OMG—seriously?! No one knows how to drive around here! Both reactions tell us something about how the person is thinking at the time. And both will have an experience of the world commensurate with that choice.

When you get this truth, that no one can do it for you, a major shift happens. You become the antidote to every bit of upset in your life. It’s not your boss, your partner, your in-laws, or your neighbor’s responsibility. It’s not even within their power! You are the owner and source of what you want to experience. Your happiness comes when you take ownership of being happy. Your growth and your healing come from your choice to grow and to heal.

The solution to any problem comes from the inside out. When you stop looking outside yourself, you will feel a giant boost in your energy and confidence. That’s your cue that you are now back in your rightful position: in the driver’s seat of your life.

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