The debate is still out on how people can find success in life. The problem, of course, remains that success looks different to everyone.
How can I tell you how to find success if my definition of success is different from yours?
Well, it turns out that no matter what you want your life to look like, there are a few key elements that have to fall into place in order to make that life a reality.
One of those key elements is self responsibility.
Which perspective do you adopt?
Some people believe that life happens to them, while others believe that life happens for them. The perspective you wish to adopt can drastically change your life – for the better.
If you are passively passing through your life thinking that life is happening to you, good or bad, regardless of what you do to change it, then you won’t ever get out of your own way to make good things happen.
Why would you? If something bigger or badder than you is in control, shouldn’t you be worrying about other things? It would seem so for some people.
On the other side of that coin, however, is another group of people who firmly believe that they have the power to influence their lives.
And many of those believers are people who used to think that life happened to them. Then, at some point, something happens to change their mind and they start focusing on taking responsibility for their actions, good or bad, and they start to see change in their lives.
There is a famous quote from Charles R. Swindoll that summarizes this perfectly:
Usually, people adopt the perspective that they can change their reality by changing their perspective after they realize they can lose those last 10 pounds, they can get that raise at work, and they can start their own business.
You’re more in control of the outcome than you think
Whenever we overcome major hurdles in life, we tend to want to give up our efforts to luck.
Sometimes, it feels more like dumb luck, but if you trace back your steps from idea to completion, you’ll find that you were probably more in control of the outcome than originally thought.
After all, did fate make you run 5km every morning before work? No, you did that. And if you can do that, what else can you do?
The idea that our lives are just passing us by is a commonly adopted practice and widely accepted human fate. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Everyday millions of people take steps in a different direction than they were previously headed and make real, lasting change in their lives.
Some people leave their spouse, quit their job, or book that vacation. Sometimes, it’s a small choice like choosing fruit over another bag of potato crisps.
The point is that nobody is making you eat that food, stay in that job, or be miserable. We are choosing those things.
It’s just easier to blame someone or something else than it is to take self responsibility. So when you find yourself in a slump, ask yourself what you did to get there. Because if you can will yourself into a slump, you can will yourself out of it.
Success is a matter of perspective
In work, success usually comes in the form of money, promotions, fancy job titles, and opportunity. But it can be about other things as well.
For many entrepreneurs, success is about finding that elusive balance they craved while working a 9-5. It’s about being able to earn money they never thought possible, or clocking out early on a Friday afternoon because they can.
To some people, paying their bills and having enough money for a case of beer on the weekend is their definition of success. To others, millions of dollars in the bank is what they consider success.
Whatever it is that you want in life, you can have it. If you want it bad enough and are willing to put the work in to get it. All too often people think that they will fall into money or that someone will notice them and give them a promotion.
But if you want those things, you need to show up and be seen first.
How to take self responsibility
Taking responsibility doesn’t mean doing way more work than you need to. It’s about accepting that you are the only one who can change your life for the better.
If you don’t like something about how you are living, it’s about taking the time to change it. No one can do that for you. Not your mom, your dad, your rich uncle, Frank: no one can change what isn’t working in your life, except you.
So now you have to ask yourself this question: are you ready to take responsibility for your life? Amazing things can happen if you do.
Take responsibility for your life: the ultimate action plan
What type of person are you?
Do you realize that you control your happiness and success, and when it comes to an obstacle in the pursuit of your best life, you work out a way around it? Do you believe that everything happens for a reason, and you’re in control of that reason? Do you simply don’t give up without trying?
Or maybe you are someone who, thus far, has refused to take responsibility for your life?
When things get tough, you’re more likely to give up instead of taking the path less travelled. You know that your ideal life is out there, but you’ve chosen to live in Mediocre-ville and somehow found a way to enjoy it. Taking responsibility seems like too much hassle.
The awkward truth is that it’s so much easier to be a victim, blame others and have a sense of entitlement, rather than to take responsibility for the circumstances in our lives.
If the second person is you (and it used to be me), it’s time for you to leave the losing team that are playing the blame game and take responsibility for your life. Here’s exactly how to do it.
Start taking responsibility
So you’ve decided to leave the losing team behind and venture out on your own. You want to take responsibility for your life and for your future.
You’re officially getting off the blame train. That’s great – you’ve officially stepped off at the best station you can.
But this station is quite deserted. You’re not sure whether you need to catch another train or wait for a bus. There’s a reason that hardly anyone is here. They’re still firmly on the blame train and have no intention of disembarking at this, or any other, station.
However, you’ve realised something and it’s going to change your life. You’ve realised that only you can take responsibility and succeed. Only you can take the necessary action to live your best life.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of conscious effort and some brutal
honesty, but I hope you like a challenge. You know that nothing worth having, including a meaningful life, comes easily.
You need to suit up. Superman can keep his ability to fly and his rather tight-fitting attire. Wonder Woman can keep her bracelets and shields.
They’ve got nothing on you because your super power is… well, you. If you’re willing to change and decide what meaning you’re going to give to the events in your life, you’ll be taking that all important responsibility and reaping the rewards.
Step one: Attitude and reflection
It’s time to get ruthless.
You need to do what your teacher always said and ‘take a good long hard look at yourself in the mirror.’ Without using your metaphorical mirror, it’s going to be hard to make the necessary changes to your attitude and your overall responsibility.
The truth is, you might not like what you see, but that’s okay. You know that change is a journey not an event. We all have to start somewhere.
Along with your willingness to change needs to be a more proactive attitude of responsibility. You have the power to respond in the right way. You have the power to create your own future and your own success. It’s right there at the tips of your fingers. You’ve just got to flex those responsibility muscles each and every day. Only then will you have the power you need to change your life.
Reflection on past behavior can be painful or awkward. It’s a natural part of the process. Don’t shy away from it because you can learn so much from being a reflective person.
Listen to the feedback that you might have had from other people in your life, e.g. your spouse, your colleagues or your close friends. Are they suggesting that you need to change your attitude or response to something? By considering some of their suggestions, you’re taking your responsibility seriously.
Step two: Understanding your power
In his groundbreaking book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Viktor Frankl used his experiences as a prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp to try to understand how man reacts when in adverse situations.
His findings and the book itself give us all a greater understanding of how we can live our lives and take greater responsibility.
Upon arrival at the camp, Viktor realised that he had the power to decide how to respond to the terrible situation he was in. He soon became conscious of the fact that his chances of survival rested on his ability to acknowledge this situation and his response moving forward.
Viktor knew that he was in complete control of his responses and decisions.
No matter what else came his way, no matter how awful the conditions or his treatment by the guards, by turning inwards and focusing on his responsibility, he was able to survive the ordeal.
Many people try to find their life’s meaning first, before they undertake new responsibilities or decisions.
Frankl believed that it is only through your actions and responses that you can find the meaning to your life. It is unique to you. There is no general meaning to life. We can create and change ours at will.
In a situation as awful as Frankl and his fellow prisoners, he was able to understand that blame had no place in the camp. Focusing on his internal state of mind, rather than the external factors that were at play, meant he could survive.
Even when working shoeless in the snow to build a train line, Viktor was able to picture his wife in his mind and focus on the love he had for her, rather than the conditions he was faced with. He took responsibility for his reaction to the pain he felt, turning it upside down and into something good.
Step 3: Finding your internal power and perspective
Man’s destiny is certainly affected by his circumstances, by those external factors. But we are ultimately able to choose our own path. Even in the worse situations known to humankind, you have the freedom and the power to choose your attitude to life. Every human has the capacity
to change his behavior and response to any situation.
That’s the power of responsibility. By doing so, you’ll be happier and in more control of your life. You will no longer shout at inanimate objects or become angered by the weather.
Just remember you have the power to:
• Be reflective and learn to improve.
• Choose how you feel and respond to different situations.
• Be happier and in greater control of your life.
• Be responsible.
It all starts and ends with you.
Action Steps for self-responsibility:
So now you’ve established that you’re ready to kick blame to the curb and take responsibility by the horns, you want to know how to do it.
Here are 3 action steps you can start on today to take responsibility for your life.
1. Sit somewhere quietly and reflect on decisions and responses you have made in the past. If you were faced with the same problem today and with this new understanding of personal power, how could you do things differently?
2. Make a list of the circumstances that you find yourself in frequently. Instead of looking at them as situations that can’t be changed, how could you find a way to look at them differently? How will you approach these situations in the future so that you feel happier? If you have some planned responses and reactions to difficult situations, you’re more likely to succeed.
3. Read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl. It will transform your understanding of finding your life’s meaning and taking responsibility for everything going forward.