For all the years I have spent with my own personal growth, self-discovery and spiritual awakening, and all of the techniques & methods I have used, books I have read, counselors I worked with, and more…, I can boil it down to five items that are the most important ingredients to taking charge of your life.
First, what do I mean by “taking charge of your life”? This sentiment would originate if there is a current disatisfaction with a major aspect of your life, and/or, your life overall. There are two responses to such a feeling, to do nothing and complain that life is not providing you with everything you need (e.g. victim response), or to make a conscious choice that you will make changes, followed by action (e.g. victor response). The goal is to orient your life to where YOU want it to be, and WHO you want to be!
Therefore, Making A Conscious Choice to Take Charge is the first ingredient to our magic potion.
The image to the left represents a foundational principle to taking charge of your life, that we can make choices. What is a Choice? It is as Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, suggests, it is that fraction of a moment when we consider our choice to how we will respond to whatever stimulus is happening within or around us.
At any given moment, no matter what is going on around us, we have the power to make a choice regarding how we are going to respond to a situation or circumstance. What a powerful realization! This includes the choice we can make to change our life. To acknowledge this is to understand our free will. To ignore this is to make a choice to being a victim. There is NO such thing as “I don’t have any choice.” To make no choice IS A CHOICE!
“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
This image expands on making our choice. One of the most powerful choices we make at first is whether we choose to be a VICTIM or VICTOR.
The challenge is that most of us are “conditioned” to respond in a certain way based on our past, beliefs, etc. It is an automatic and unconscious response. We simply respond without any thought or awareness to why we are responding as we are. An example of this is when people push our buttons. For example, when we grew up we were teased about some aspect of our looks. Now, years later, as soon as someone makes what sounds like a reference to this, we immediately become frustrated and walk away, or become angry and respond anger. It has become part of who we are to the point that we are even unconscious of this pattern. What can support maintaining these negative patterns is our belief that we are a victim, or in this case a belief we formed that “I am not beautiful”. We blame others for making fun of us and react accordingly.
In my own case, I grew up in a highly dysfunctional household. Name the abuse and truama and I most likely experienced it. I left home with a zillion unhealthy beliefs about myself and life around me, although I was not aware of this then. I struggled in many aspects of my life. Once I made the connection between the negative consequences I was experiencing and my past, it was easy to blame my parents. I did not have to take responsibility for my life because it was my parent’s fault. It was easier to blame others, because otherwise we would have to take responsibility for our actions. We see this all around us today. We are taught to blame others, and find comfort with other victims who share in the same blame game. As I approached my late twenties, the pain and suffering became too much. With the help of some amazing people around me who saw this and confronted me about their observations, I made a conscious choice to turn my life around. I jumped in a new boat called “Choice” where my adventure would begin.
This is not to judge those taking a victim stance, since I considered myself a victim too. The difference came when I was reminded, or maybe initially informed, that I had choices. This relates to the amazing role that those who do take charge of their life, can then play with others by reminding them, that they too have choices and use their own story as a source of inspiration and guidance. Then we must learn to stand back and respect their choice.
Our choices need a focus, which is what our attitude can provide us in a generic sense. As the saying goes, attitude is everything, and becomes the second ingredient we add into our magic potion.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl shares his experience in a conentration camp. It is hard to imagine a situation worse than this. I had visited Auschwitz which was one of many life-changing experiences I experienced. How possibly could Viktor Frankl suggest that he had a choice? Yet he did, and it was with the one thing that no one can take away from you, your ATTITUDE!
Your Attitude is also your CHOICE. So you can begin to see the interrelationship between these 5 factors. My favorite statement on attitude is from Charles Swindoll and shared here.
Once I began counseling in my late 20’s, I discovered the connection between my past and my current issues. But this only supported a victim mindset at first. I could have stopped counseling at that point and lived forever after as a victim. It was in group therapy that our facilitator helped me to see my victim perspective. I had made a comment about a problem in my life and blamed it on my parents. He responded, stating that it was easy to blame others for our issues and challenges, which can be understood at first. However, he asked me if I wanted to remain as a victim which would mean that I would contine to experience negative consequences. Or, he asked, do I want accept that as an adult now that I choose to take charge of my life, and be a victor. From that time forward, every time I complained and referenced my parents, he asked me the same question. It took a while, but eventually I realized that I wanted to take charge of my life. A new attitude was formed, that I AM TAKING CHARGE OF MY LIFE!!
Attitude helped me to put a rudder on my new boat, Choice. I had a direction now.
If we do not believe in ourselves than our attitude can be tainted. Therefore understanding the power of our beliefs and aligning them with where we want to do in life is critical. Beliefs are the next ingredient to add.
Most of the research on the influence of attitudes on beliefs has demonstrated that attitudes have a congruent effect on the retrieval, formation, and change of beliefs, and that variables that increase salience of one’s attitude through thought, elaborative processing, or personal importance of the attitude object will strengthen this congruence.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259892934_The_influence_of_attitudes_on_beliefs_Formation_and_change
Our behaviors, how we act, are strongly influenced by our beliefs. Once this connection is made, the next step is to identify your current unhealthy or limiting beliefs and to learn how to transform these into healthy beliefs. For example, one of the core unhealthy beliefs I had was that “I would not amount to anything.” I heard this almost every day while growing up. It is any surprise that I developed a core belief that “I am not good enough” as one of my core beliefs throughout my early adult life. This belief played havoc in my personal relationships. As relationships ended, this would only support the limiting belief that I had formed.
Limiting and core beliefs are assumptions that are held deep in our subconscious about ourselves, the world, and other people that automatically affect our behavior in positive or negative ways.
“We create limiting beliefs all the time, but core beliefs are formed before the age of 7. Core beliefs are the root of the tree, and limiting beliefs are like the branches of the tree. You create this belief that’s not serving you, and you see everything through that lens. So any time something happens, you make it mean something that’s consistent with that belief. It takes a lot of detective work to discover a deeper limiting belief. It’s like peeling away the layers of an onion.”https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-main-ingredient/202109/are-negative-core-beliefs-wrecking-your-life
Does this mean that I was eternally damned? Only if I CHOOSE to retain this belief! The great news is that you can choose and change your beliefs. Once again this goes back to understanding that we have choices. The goal is to identify your unhealthy beliefs, that are contributing to negative consequences in your life, and change these into healthy beliefs.
How can you do this? Primarily through the power of Affirmations and the use of a Journal. The following quote suggests this method.
Start with a level of belief that you can accept. For example, you can’t just jump from “I’m not confident” to “I’m very confident.” It must be gradual. Begin with “I’m becoming more confident every day.” Then start recording accomplishments in your journal. Then when the limiting belief arises, you can point out to yourself that it is no longer true, that the new belief is what is actually true.https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-main-ingredient/202109/are-negative-core-beliefs-wrecking-your-life
With new beliefs and a steady diet of affirmations to develop my new beliefs, and a journal to document my progress, I put a sail on my boat which allowed me to gain momentum.
Plans without action are fruitless. In order to take action we must first take full responsibility for our life and choices. We now add the ingredient, Taking Responsibility, to our magic potion.
#4. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
Others can attempt to push and prod you, influence you, suggest actions, support you, help you, BUT none of this is effective unless YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE CHARGE AND RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU!!!! I had talked the talk for several years that I would change my life. But it remained as all talk and no action. If I took actions, they were half-hearted, and when they failed, I blamed the action, stating that it does not work. My motivation in the beginning was saving a relationship, so I would say anything, including empty promises. It was not until I felt the fiery passion followed by relentless action that the change began. This time it was for myself, and only for myself.
Whatever changes you seek to experience, you must first take responsibility for your life and never put your life fully in the hands of another person. When we do this, we give other people the power and permission to steer our lives in whichever direction, usually at the expense of our progression. To start taking responsibility for your life, you should implement the following habits:
Take Responsibility to Prioritize Yourself. …
Stop Playing the Blame Game. …
Make Time for Self Reflection. …
Take Accountability. …
Don’t Internalize Judgment. …
Practice Compassion Towards Yourself. …
Be Mindful of Excuses. …
Take Responsibility to Remove Toxic People. …
Eradicate Negative Self-Talk.https://declutterthemind.com/blog/take-responsibility/
Changing my life meant taking on many of the items listed above. I recall an event that clearly marked my desire to change along with how I took responsibility. I would research topics that I was learning about in counseling. These topics related to growing up in a highly dysfunctional family. It was during my counseling sessions and group therapy that I realized how disconnected I was from my feelings. I had learned to how detach from them in order to not feel the pain. This came up in group therapy as well. I learned about a clinic that provided an intensive week-long session to deal with many aspects of “healing the inner child” along with learning how to get back in touch with our feelings. I called them and learned about their program which sounded like exactly what I needed. I registered for the program. During my next counseling session my counselor was very upset that I made this decision without first talking with her. At first I felt the “I am not good enough” and insecurity beliefs surface, suggesting that I was indeed wrong to do this on my own. Instead, I stated that I am doing this, and I did! The program was life-changing and had a signficant impact on one key aspect of my healing work. I was learning how to take charge of my life!!
My boat was ready to go, and with this step I was ready to head out to sea and discover a new life. I had a lot of stops to make, but I was prepared and ready to do the work and realized that without this choice, the boat would just wander aimlessly, as would my life.
Everything we learn on our journey can help us continue to move forward and accomplish our goals in life including who and what we want to be. Awareness is this collection of learnings that help to ensure that we stay on the correct path. We now add the final ingredient to our magic potion.
If I was to only select one item as the most important ingredient to taking charge of you life, it would be AWARENESS. However, I realize that without the prior four ingredients, that awareness alone would not have made a big difference. But with the other four ingredients, awareness became my primary focus throughout my life, continuing today, and tomorrow! Prerequisites include an open mind and being open to new ideas.
Awareness is the greatest agent for change.Eckhart Tolle
Why? Because the concept expressed carries the most value for the greatest number of people. How so? Most people try to solve their inner problems by attempting to directly change their behaviors. For example, a parent feels badly that they lose their temper when their young children act up. And they say to themselves, “I have to stop blowing up at Brian when he smacks kid sister Cindy.”
Non-judgmental awareness is key
The better, more effective way to deal with this is for the parent to make a point of just being aware when they do this. And, crucially, to be as non-judgmental as possible when doing so. So the next time mom or dad becomes furious with Brian, right afterward, or even better, during the incident itself, they merely step back and say to themselves, “Okay. I just lost my temper with Brian again.”https://medium.com/change-your-mind/eckhart-tolles-most-important-saying-awareness-is-the-greatest-agent-for-change-21e713d64a90
Referring back to the initial image on the topic of Choice, that tiny little moment in-between the stimulus and our response, where we make our choice, can be SIGNIFICANTLY influenced with our awareness.
Using the above example, awareness is that tiny little voice that would remind us with something like, “I am about to lose my temper and I don’t want to do this.” The choice would then consider an option such as taking a couple of deep breaths and regaining my composure before speaking.
I share this image in my workshops on Personal Growth & Self-Discovery. As we peel away the many layers of self and learn what lies deep within, all of this information we gather becomes our self-awareness. This self-awareness can then be used to help us make more effective choices and ultimately choose the best actions to take.
As we continue to grow we become intimately familiar with ourselves. We come to know our personality, strengths, weaknesses, personal issues, values and beliefs. We begin to make the choice to what we want to keep and what we want to change. We learn to use our awareness as we approach circumstances, decisions and challenges. This awareness is like an angel that sits on a shoulder and whispers that little thought or idea into our minds. We always have free will to make our choice.
As I have grown my awareness, there are times when I respond in a way that I did in my past, even though I knew better. These become incredibly challenging times since my self-awareness reminds me that I did know better but instead allowed my ego or old belief to make my choice. But it is in this struggle that my awareness continues to play a part.
Awareness was the mirror that I put on my boat so that I could continue to reflect on my life and decisions compared to where I wanted to be, along with suggesting adjustments as needed.
You can take charge of your life, and it is up to you. This choice may be the hardest choice you make in this life, but the most rewarding. After all, this is your life. It has a beginning and an end as we know life here on Earth. So why not make the most of it. Here is to you taking charge of your life. After all our life is this life, our ultimate journey. What will you make of it?
May we meet on our journey, and smile as we pass.
Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Career Coaching, Leadership, Personal Growth & Self-Discovery. Check out “Discovering Michael: An Inspirational Guide to Personal Growth & Self-Discovery” You can also view my latest development book on Leadership, “Leadership From The Inside Out: Building Your Leadership Foundation” which utilizes the concepts covered in this Framework to develop great leaders. Visit my website for more information growhumanpotential.com including links to my YouTube Channel, “The Ripple Effect”, Podcasts and more. You can contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org