Once upon a time, a trip and fall was one of the simplest of human errors. It is a simple mistake that we do from the day we learn how to walk. Now, a fall is a lawsuit over not enough yellow markings, or not enough handrails, something was slippery or the path is uneven. Once upon a time, spilling a cup of coffee on yourself simply made for an extremely inconvenient day. Now it is grounds for a lawsuit and the required “Caution: Hot” label on many coffee cups. Once upon a time, obesity was a disease of overindulgence. Now, “[Insert any fast food restaurant here] makes you fat”, or sugar makes you fat, or it’s “contagious.”
Now don’t get me wrong. The liberal in me is a huge proponent for corporate responsibility for companies’ customers, employees, community, and environment that they operate in. There should absolutely be laws to protect the consumer, the worker, and the environment. As you will find in this blog, I am also a huge supporter of social responsibility, protecting our neighbors and family from discrimination, cleaning up and supporting our own communities, helping each other grow and thrive. But somewhere along the way we’ve lost the concept of personal responsibility. We can now blame nearly everything in our lives on the government, or our parents, or some corporation, the city we live in, the car we drive, the places we eat, the air we breathe. Life is just happening to us, it’s not our fault!
But really, we’re just handing our lives away to those corporations because we don’t want that responsibility. I’m not going to worry about my diet, I’ll let McDonald’s decide what goes into my body, and if it’s unhealthy, I’ll blame them. I’m not going to control my budget and save my own money, I’ll let the government bail me out when I need it, and blame them for not creating enough jobs (even though I don’t want to pay taxes to fund those jobs or unemployment [I told you that social responsibility thing would pop up eventually]). I didn’t give myself diabetes, the sugar did it to me. I’m not in control of my health, so big pharma better create a drug to fix me soon– but it’s also their fault I’m so sick in the first place.
Sorry to break it to you (and to myself), but while sometimes it is their fault, usually, it’s actually our own. I didn’t get that job because I didn’t follow up well enough. I’m not making money because I didn’t put the hard work in to building a business or becoming an asset to my company. I didn’t get into that school because I wasn’t qualified enough. I am not in the shape I want to be because I didn’t work for it. That’s rough. One of the hardest things to say to yourself is “man, it really is my fault, this really is my responsibility.” But that’s only part of the process. The way I see it, we have two steps: 1. Realize which aspects of your life you have control over, and then 2. Take ownership of those things.
Realizing how much of your life is within your control can be paralyzing. It often means we have to admit that all of the things we currently have control over we’ve had control over the whole time. So wherever we are in our lives up to now has been a result of the decisions we did or didn’t make. But it can also be liberating. I may have made mistakes in the past, but I also have the power to make different decisions in the future. This whole time I thought that the world was out to get me, but I can take control of my life and show the world who’s really in charge. Drug companies and healthcare systems don’t make me healthy, I am control of my own body, and I am in control of my health.
Take ownership. Take control of your life. Once you’ve realized “Hey! I’m in charge here”, you have two options. As mentioned in this post, you can let all of those unmade decisions crush you, or you can choose to see each of those decisions as an opportunity for growth and accomplishment. You can say “this is way too hard” or you can say “this won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” There’s a million sayings– “it’s the climb”, “it’s the journey that matters”, “just one step at a time” — and they all say the same things. It might not always be easy, but the decisions I make, and the responsibility that I take, are going to define who I am and where I go in life.
I’ll write a step-by-step for finding ways to take action and empower yourself in a future post (I’m still trying to figure it out too–aren’t we all?). For now, take a look at your life and start to sort through where you are versus where you want to be. Which things are genetics, the government and its laws, big business, our upbringing, our boss, our shoe size? But which things are really under our control, what can I change to make a difference, how can I take back my life? I’ll give you a hint to help you get started: it all starts with a good attitude and seeing the world as an opportunity.Good luck!