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Personal Responsibility

Irresponsible People Are the Most Responsible – Part Four of Four

Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you’re hungry? Scratch that. Remember the last time you went grocery shopping when you were hungry? You either bought more than you needed, or you bought stuff you probably shouldn’t have… or both.

As you know, this blog is about getting rid of roadblocks. In this, part four of four of this little series on taking responsibility (how to take responsibility and, thus, how to take over more control of your life), we’re discussing…

1)     The Pause. There’s a tiny little pause between all the individual events that occur in life and how we choose to respond to those events. That pause is a space of time within which a decision is made as to how we will respond. Most people “outsource” their responses, seemingly unaware that they have a choice to do otherwise – saying or doing whatever seems natural, or doing whatever was done in the past under similar circumstances. In other words, most people hand over control of their responses to other people and circumstances! This outsourcing is exhibited in phrases like, ‘He made me mad,’ or ‘She brings out the worst in me.’ Those are rationalizations to excuse our own bad choices and are a way of saying, ‘I am just fine the way I am. Other people are the problem.’            

2)     Awareness. The beginning of the ability to take control of your life is being aware of the pause; aware that you actually have the ability to choose how to respond to all the things happening around you.

3)     Skills. If you are aware of “the pause”, but choose not acquire the skills that will give you the ability to take back control of your life, you’re now being even less responsible than you were before you became aware of the pause! Whether it’s better decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, relationship skills, or the skills associated with being more competent in any of a myriad of trades, vocations, professions, or hobbies – if you don’t summon the necessary drive & desire to learn and practice, then rinse and repeat a few thousand times – then get out of the way! Get out of my way and get out of the way of everyone else who’s serious about massive, dramatic obstacle blasting. Overcoming roadblocks requires skills – a new way of thinking and doing.  

4)     Take control. That’s what we’ll cover in today’s entry. And that’s why I asked if you remember the last time you went grocery shopping when you were hungry.

Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry!

Is it really possible to control your life? Well, yes and no. No first.

We certainly cannot control all that happens outside of our sphere of influence. And frankly, when it comes down to it, of all that’s happening around us, there’s really very little over which we can exert outright control.

At this point, you might be saying, “Wait a second! At the end of the first post of this four-part series, you said ‘We’ll talk about how to control both Occurrence Events and Interpretation Events; controlling things that occur and controlling how those events are reacted to.’ Now you seem to be saying the opposite.

Not at all.

There’s very little over which we can exert outright control. That is a fact. So, here’s the key: I must take ultimate control over those few things in my life that I am able to exert outright control over; namely, my own choices as to how I will react to what’s happening and whether or not I will proactively move forward in life. Isn’t that really a definition of being responsible?

When I think more deeply about the relationship between what I choose to do & say and the likely unintended possible negative consequences of that, I’ll likely start to more carefully shape and mold my choices in order to affect better outcomes.  I’d be at least a little insane if I kept saying that I want to avoid experiencing the same negative scenarios that keep happening in my life, but if I kept failing to recognize my role in them.

Einstein wasn’t being a genius when he observed that we can’t fix anything if we’re still functioning at the same level of thinking we were at when we broke what we say we want to fix. Or was he? I mean, isn’t it obvious that a new level of thinking is required in order to blast through seemingly intractable obstacles in our path? Well, not to most of us.

Most of us keep lamenting the existence of various personal, interpersonal, and professional roadblocks that seem to recycle through our lives; roadblocks that we, too often, choose to blame on others rather than on ourselves. Until we see that we’ve at least had a role in putting those roadblocks there in the first place, not much will change and we’ll continue to encounter the same consequences… of the same choices and behavior patterns.

I enjoy the movie Groundhog Day so much; it seems I’ve seen it over and over again. A funny little irony.  No so funny, though, when it’s my own real life that feels out of control, complete with undesirable scenarios being repeated over and over again. Over and over again, that is, until I “get it”; until I figure out that there are some things I actually can control. Actually, just one thing: me. Me and my choices.                 

When I choose to learn the skills to better govern my own behaviors, I am influencing current and future events. When I choose to relate better with those around me, I am doing my part to create better personal and business relationships. And I prosper from those choices. And others do too.

When we become more “choosy” as to our entertainment preferences; the things that we read, listen to, and watch in our “discretionary” time; we are moving toward being more congruent with who we say we are and who we really are. And we are taking control.  The same is true in all the other aspects of our life. Spiritual. Physical. Intellectual.  

And when we take that kind of control and really own it, then we find that we’re actually starting to influence Occurrence Events , the things that happen in life. We find that we don’t get into trouble like we used to because we physically, mentally, or emotionally don’t go to the same “trouble places” that we used to go to. Things start to change for the better, personally, interpersonally, and professionally.

Here’s an easy one: what’s the ultimate way to control (ensure, guarantee) that you’ll never get mugged in a dark alley? Bingo! You’ll never get mugged in a dark alley so long as you choose to never take a stroll down a dark alley.

In conclusion, we don’t have to be an Einstein to facilitate the broken things in our lives getting fixed. In getting things moving in the right direction, we simply need to be willing to acknowledge that we’ve had at least some role in creating the obstacles we’re dealing with. And then act. Responsibly.

After every individual big and little event that happens in life, there’s a pause within which we can choose our response to that event. Be aware of the pause. Don’t blame others for your out-of-control reactions. You can control how you react. We all have a choice. More than that, we can learn the skills that can take us on a new course; to rise above the old obstacles.    

Obviously, the image of grocery shopping on an empty stomach is symbolic of the many choices we make in life that can lead to unintended undesirable consequences. Let’s take control. Have a snack before you go. Think ahead. Think big picture. Be responsible.


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Author Jim Aitkins

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