Hold on, that can’t be true. How could you possibly be responsible for everything that happens to you when it’s impossible to control everything?
It is true. Except we tend to understand only half of the true definition of what it means to be “responsible”.
If we break down the word “responsible”, we have response-able. In other words, the “ability to respond”.
Responding can be done in two ways, either through action or reaction.
The word responsible is more often used in the context of action which implies that you have direct control. For example, you are responsible for your diet, paying your bills and keeping your room clean. You have direct control of those actions.
But what about when something happens to you where you have no direct control? Such as being mugged, getting rear-ended in traffic, or it starts pouring rain as you arrive on the beach. Because our brains are conditioned to think in the action side of responsibility, we tend to blame the external circumstances (and sometimes ourselves) as if we had the power to control everything.
It’s easy to understand on a logical level that we cannot control everything, and that we certainly cannot change events of the past. So why do we feel and act like we can? Reactions.
Our reactions are simply responses to whatever happens to us. When something good happens, its natural and appropriate to react with happy emotions. On the other hand, when something bad happens, its natural and appropriate to react with unpleasant emotions.
But natural and appropriate responses doesn’t necessarily mean they are useful responses.
Over time, these responses become so automatic and habitual that we lose our sense of control that we have with our reaction response. Yes, you actually do have a choice of how to react in response to any situation (even though it may not feel like it).
Your reactions to life’s ups and downs largely determines the quality of your life experience. Since knowing that you have control of your reaction response, you are then free to control the quality of your life experience. It’s a lot easier to take control of your reactions and change your response than it is to change the world to fit your expectations.
The difficulty, however, is in overcoming your current habitual natural and appropriate responses.
Do you want to take charge of the quality of your life experience?
Follow the steps below to develop the habit of true responsibility.
1. List 10 ways the quality of your life experience will suffer if you remain controlled by your automatic responses, then list 10 ways the quality of your life experience will improve by establishing choice and control for your responses.
2. Write down 3 automatic responses you have to common situations throughout your day, and write down 3 useful replacement responses for each one.
3. Commit to consciously and proactively choosing your useful response over each of the 3 automatic responses when they occur.
4. Continue step 3 until your new useful responses become automatic.
5. Repeat the process for a new set of 3 automatic responses and beyond.
As with implementing any new habit, it will inevitably feel weird and unnatural at first. Do not be concerned whether you’re performing the steps “correctly” or not. Follow the steps and let your brain do its rewiring. It will take some time, so be patient. Change happens before you’re able to see it.
Take responsibility for your life experience now.