How helpful is it to tell someone to take responsibility for their life?
“The most empowering thing that you can do is take responsibility for your own life”
These are the words of someone that I recently stumbled across on Facebook. As a statement, this sounds quite positive and like it’s pointing in a good direction, right? Well I’m not so sure. In fact, slight alarm bells rang for me when I read it. The reason I’m not so sure is because it is open to interpretation which could send the reader off in an unhelpful direction. Here’s how I’d say it:
“One of the most empowering things you can do is realise that your happiness/life experience has nothing to do with external circumstances and everything to do with what is being projected from In to Out”.
Okay this doesn’t sound as straightforward or inspiring as the first statement. If anything it sounds rather cumbersome, but this why I’d choose to say it this way:
- You do not have absolute control over your life
- Believing that external circumstances and people have the ability to affect you is not helpful
Now I know that the orignial statement did not explicitly suggest that anybody does have control of their life, OR that external circumstances do affect you – but I can imagine that a large percentage of people would read that message in between the words. I want to address my above two points individually to clarify what I mean.
You do not have absolute control over your life
To me, pointing people in the direction of taking responsibility for their life infers that it’s up to them to change the circumstances of it. In some cases that will be very difficult or impossible. If that’s the case then “take responsibility” kinda starts to sound like “take the blame” and that doesn’t feel good. It’s definitely not empowering to believe that you are to blame for the circumstances of your life. Everything that you have done, you have done innocently in the moment that you were experiencing at that time. That’s all we ever can do. Sometimes we are experiencing (and believing) thoughts of all the reasons that we can’t do xyz thing which we later have thoughts of regret for not having done! But at the time of experiencing those thoughts about why we couldn’t do it, it felt so real!
Suggesting that people take responsibility/control also implies that there is a right way and a wrong way of living, and you’re either getting it right or wrong. Life happens. If we were to consider for a minute that all of it is of value and all of it is out of our control, then we would be left with how we perceive it – being the only thing that determines our experience, nothing else.
It’s so clear to me now that it’s our perception that creates our reality. It’s hugely freeing to have this change in understanding. It can’t work any other way. We are viewing life through a lens, which is clouded with thoughts, beliefs, conditioning and so on. We cannot experience anything without that interpretation.
Believing external circumstances and people can affect you is not helpful
Without this understand “taking responsibility for your life” looks like walking away from people who aren’t behaving the way you want them to. It looks like leaving your job, working really hard at things, beating yourself up if you’re not doing well enough. When we understand that we are looking through a lens we can see life rather differently. Suddenly we can acknowledge that the partner is only bothering us a small percentage of the time, and actually at the time that EVERYTHING is bothering us, so maybe it’s not the partner. Maybe later we’ll look at them with love and compassion and understand things differently. Our job might look different too, or the reason we think we can’t leave our job might look different, so maybe you WILL make some changes – if it feels good to. But you’ll make these changes with the understanding that these circumstances aren’t what creates our experience.
Most importantly, we realise that something only isn’t good if we think it isn’t. So we are only ‘not doing well enough’ in our misguided thought/belief that we are having at that time. The next minute we could be really happy with how we are doing, but without anything changing. So how helpful would all the change and hard work have been if we’re not understanding our own perceptual lens? If we’re not allowing our experience to move through from feeling bad to feeling good, because we’re so busy believing that we need to change our circumstances in order to be happy. If that was the case, when would it end? There would always be one more thing we’d look at that needs to be ‘better’ if we keep buying into the illusion that taking responsibility means making life situation changes.
In my mind, the most empowering thing that any individual can do is learn that we don’t need to believe or trust any thought. Least of all those we are thinking when we feel bad. Feeling ‘bad’ is a sure sign that our perceptual lens is clouded and we’re not seeing the perfection of life exactly as it is.
Want to know more about how I can help? Drop me a line or give me a call. A successful coaching relationship depends upon a great rapport, so it’s important to talk. I want to get to know you, see inside your world and we can assess how we’d go from there!