I just want to get my shit together.
Ever felt like this?
If you have, you are not alone.
I am currently in the process of decluttering my flat ready to move house in the (hopefully) not too distant future, and as part of that process I am aiming to leave behind (aka burn) as much as possible so that I am moving on with fresh energy, a clean slate.
Going through my cupboards and drawers I have found eleventy million (yes, that is a number) notebooks, most of which I clearly started with good intentions of this being the year (2008, 2009, 2010…you get the picture) that I finally got my shit together.
Phrases such as “Time to pull all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together” and “I will live at cause and not at effect” crop up repeatedly.
Equally repetitive are the lists of books I have yet to read, the areas of my life I feel need attention and the things I want to accomplish in life.
All of this has served to confirm a realisation that I had already come to; It’s time I took responsibility. If the same desires are on my list year after year then I either need to admit I don’t really want them or figure our why nothing is changing.
And, as if I needed any more confirmation, resources extolling the necessity of taking responsibility for your life started to flow to me.
In her book Becoming Magic Genevieve Davis introduces us to the things that we must do before we can even hope to manifest the life of our dreams:
- Take responsibility for your life
- Stop complaining, moaning and criticising
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Be aware of the results of all of the above
In the same vein Wayne Dyer presents us with a list of eighteen excuses, an excuse catalogue as he calls it, in his book Excuses Begone!. According to Dyer these excuses are used by many of us to prevent us from having to take responsibility for creating and living the life we claim to want.
Here are just a few. Do any of these sounds familiar?
- It will be difficult
- It’s going to be risky
- It will take a long time
- I don’t deserve it
- I’m too busy
While some of the above may appear to be or feel absolutely true, when we drill down into what lies underneath each of these excuses, their inherent truth and validity become less certain.
Let’s take “It will be difficult” as an example.
Firstly, perhaps it will be, but is that a reason to not do something? And who says it will be difficult? Are you absolutely certain it will be? 100%? Have you tried?
You get the idea.
Start noticing some of your common excuses and apply this process. Question their truth, see what is really at the core of them and, more importantly, whether they really are good enough reasons to not live the life you want.
Now, although I have just referenced a couple of books, buying books, even reading books, is not enough. You actually have to IMPLEMENT the ideas and advice given in those books. You have to do the exercises and apply the findings to your life, make changes, take ACTION.
Making a vow that this year will be different is not enough, you have to actually approach life in a DIFFERENT way, show up every day with the intention of things being different.
Sometimes it feels as though by buying the book, going on the course, quitting the job, writing the resolution, we are taking responsibility. However, unless our mindset and, subsequently, the way we act change, then we will arrive at the next New Year’s Eve with the exact same resolutions in our hearts, arrive in the next decade still sitting in the same traffic jam on the way to the same job dreaming the same dream.
In fact, I’ve come to realise that buying a book, going on a course or quitting a job may be subconscious ways of handing responsibility over to somebody else for our problems; “It must be this job that’s causing me to be so stressed and unhappy, reading this book will fix everything, going on this course will solve all my problems…”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for self development, for learning and for working with people who have the skills to help us change our situation (I am a coach after all, it’s my business to help people). What I am trying to convey is that nothing can take the place of doing the work required to change our lives. Nobody can do that for us (damn it) and, until we ourselves make changes, then the same patterns will continue to repeat.
Have you ever noticed this in your life? You quit that hateful job only to find three months into the next one that it is similarly hateful, you meet someone new only to discover that they are already in a relationship just like the last person, or you finally clear all of your debt, vowing to be debt free from now on, only to find a year later your credit cards are full to the brim once again?
Eventually it becomes apparent (or at least it did for me) that you are the common denominating factor. Frustrating but at the same time liberating. After all, what better chance do we have of changing our lives than when we recognise that we are the masters of our own destiny?
Cause or effect
So why, when we have all the resources we could possibly need at our fingertips, don’t we make the changes necessary to create the life we claim to want so badly? Or, if you’re like me, why do we make changes but hold back from committing fully, always keeping something in reserve?
What causes us to live at the effect of our lives (things happen TO us) rather than at the cause (things happen FOR us)?
I have a few theories that may explain this.
Familiarity and Certainty
As humans our drive to avoid pain is far greater than our drive to pursue pleasure.
What this means is that we often find ourselves to be more comfortable with certain misery than we are with uncertain happiness. We are more fearful of the unknown happiness that lies over the horizon of taking action than we are of the certain unhappiness in which we currently reside.
Ever find yourself thinking that happiness and fulfilment are such foreign concepts that they are almost impossible for your brain to compute and therefore it is far easier to just stick with how things are? And anyway, things might not be any better if you changed job/moved house/took control of your finances. That’s true, they might not be, but maybe, just maybe, they would be.
All of this thinking is founded in an attachment to certainty and a fear of the unknown. Taking responsibility would mean that life would change and change is something that many of us find tricky to handle.
It is also simply easier to continue doing the same thing, to stick with old habits as opposed to putting in the effort required to make changes. It does take effort to create a new habit but perhaps not as much as your excuses might have you think.
Sense of self
Another of the excuses that Wayne Dyer talks of in Excuses Begone! is the excuse of “It’s not in my nature”.
We have grown quite attached to our identities, perhaps too attached.
How much of your identity is your truth and how much is conditioning and learned behaviours from the people you grew up around? If nobody had told you or shown you who to be and how to behave, who would you be?
How much of who you are is actually a protective persona that you developed based on things that happened in childhood? These things don’t have to have been traumatic. I certainly have several ways of being that I developed based on seemingly trivial events in childhood that have, in combination with other influences in my life, shaped my story and my reality.
Taking responsibility often requires us to remove the labels we have put on ourselves and start afresh.
Here’s a simple example from my own life.
When I was at school I was not naturally sporty. Always last to be picked for Netball and Hockey (I would have been far happier not to be picked at all to be honest) and no great shakes when it came to running, fast or slow. I expect I also got some validation for this belief from other people in my life who had their own P.E. scars as I like to call them, along the lines of “You’re like me, I was never any good at sport”. My story was, therefore, that I was not sporty.
Once I left school, however, I started to train in the gym and found that I was actually quite good at strength work. I also started to recognise that, although I was never good at team sports or the other forms of exercise offered at school, I started swimming and horse riding aged seven and then went on to dance from the age of thirteen, reaching a very good level in all of them.
My story of not being sporty was, therefore, based solely on the definition placed on it by somebody else.
The truth, my truth, is that I have a very strong body as well as a strong mind, and that I don’t always do so well in team environments. That is not where my greatness shines. I am now in the process of qualifying to be a personal trainer and intend to use my own journey to help others rewrite the stories they have about their bodies.
What labels have you put on yourself that might not be true? How would things change for you if you replaced “That’s just the way I am” with “That’s just the way I learned I am”?
Attachment to story
Talking of stories, another reason that we don’t take responsibility, I believe, is that we can be extremely attached to our story and our struggle.
Who would we be if we no longer struggled with our weight/love life/finances? Would people still like us? How would we relate to others around us if we broke free from the struggle in which they are still mired?
Part of this is about belonging, wanting to be part of a tribe. In evolutionary terms, it was imperative that we maintain our place in the tribe in order to ensure our survival and, therefore, the survival of the species.
Nowadays, however, we are less reliant on our tribe for our survival.
When we are on the path to living from our truth it’s likely that we will reach a point when it is more desirable to seek out a new tribe than it is to stay in the old one where we just don’t fit. It takes courage and there is a period of transition but ultimately it is essential for the evolution of our souls and for our self actualisation.
As Brené Brown would say, it is vital that we own our story so that we get to write the ending. If we disown it by claiming that our circumstances or other people are responsible for how it turns out, if we play the victim, then we never get to craft the ending we really want.
I also believe that through owning our story and taking responsibility for our lives we inspire others to do the same. By choosing the road less travelled we give others the permission to question the road they are on and to forge their own path.
And finally, a note on fear.
I would say that everything I have talked about above comes back to fear in some way or another.
Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of ridicule, fear of not fitting in and on and on.
The final fear I want to talk about is our fear of success, of what we might be able to accomplish, who we might be able to be.
Ultimately, not taking responsibility is a way of avoiding becoming the best version of ourselves. If we don’t really show up, if we don’t go all in, if we hide behind our story, then we get to say if we’d really wanted to, if we’d really given our all we could have been great, we could have done something great. Not taking responsibility is a way of protecting ourselves from being faced with the reality that we gave our all and found out we really weren’t quite enough.
Taking responsibility is a commitment to owning our gifts and our power, a commitment to being who we truly are.
Taking responsibility requires vulnerability.
Taking responsibility means to do the best we can and give all we have and to trust that we are enough.
Taking responsibility takes courage and it’s the only way to embody our true magnificence and escape the trap of mediocrity.
Having said all of that, how do you go about recognising where in your life you aren’t taking responsibility but would like to and how do you actually start taking more responsibility?
Firstly, take a look back through old journals if you have them or think about the resolutions you set every year. Are there any areas in which the same old story repeats? Start to question whether you really want to make changes/take responsibility in those areas or if they are changes you think you SHOULD make.
Once you’ve defined the areas in which you genuinely want to take responsibility get clear on what your excuses are for not doing so. Start to question their validity, get to the core of what is really driving those excuses.
Next get honest about what you are not willing to do in order to create the life you were meant to live (a technique from Excuses Begone! by Wayne Dyer). When I did this exercise it felt really icky to admit that I wasn’t willing to do certain things in order to create the life I want, especially things as simple as getting up at 6am every day.
If you find there are things you are willing to do but are finding it hard to do them without help then those are the areas in which you may need support from a nutritionist, personal trainer, coach etc. No matter how much we want to do certain things, if our biology is not cooperating there may be additional things we need to take responsibility for before we can get to where we want to be.
And finally, once you have that list of things that you are willing to do, set yourself some goals, do the mindset work required to keep you on track, enlist the help of whoever you need to in order to support you in creating your new future.
If you find yourself wobbling or slipping, don’t beat yourself up. Instead tell yourself that you are human and then get right back on track. Always keep in mind that you only get one life and you are here to make the best of it. Nobody can do that for you. It’s down to you.
And if you would like someone to walk alongside you on your journey and you feel that I am the right person to do that I would love to hear from you. Simply head on over to my contact page and drop me a line. I’ll be in touch to schedule a free 30 minute call for us to get acquainted and discuss working together.