Challenges are part of life.
We are constantly being hit with new challenges that take many different forms: Difficult people. Losing a job. Marital difficulties and divorce. Sometimes things just suck.
But you can still have peace of mind.
The single thing that I’ve found most powerful is to start with your mindset. Chances are you’ve heard clichés like “every cloud has a silver lining” and “every challenge is an opportunity.” Clichés exist simply because they are universally true.
The truth is this. Every challenge, every form of adversity, happens for you, not to you.
It means you have something to learn. We all do.
Of course, you’re not likely to know what it is you have to learn when things really suck.
So, the mindset – and the access to learning – is knowing one simple truth: Everything that is or will be is up to you.
In other words, we are each completely responsible – for all our mistakes, as well as our successes and happiness. This was a sobering, yet powerful, realization for me.
It’s so easy to blame others for our unhappiness. But one bitter pill I’ve learned to swallow is that nobody else is responsible for my reactions but me.
Whether it’s your unhappiness, frustration or anger – you get to choose.
Choosing to take responsibility for our circumstances empowers us to make the changes we want.
By blaming others, we actually make ourselves powerless to change anything.
Likewise, when something goes wrong, the most powerful thing you can do is own up to your part.
For example, suppose the new employee you just hired is screwing up big time. No matter how many times you try and steer him in the right direction, things just don’t seem to improve.
You can blame your employee for being incompetent. Or you can own your part in making the decision to hire him in the first place. For instance, were there any red flags or warning signs you might have overlooked or rationalized that might have indicated he might not be a good fit for the job?
It takes real courage to take responsibility. Because it can really sting, I know.
When we feel attacked, denying responsibility or blaming others can be a great defense.
When someone blames me, my first instinct is often to fight back.
But if it’s someone close to you, you know that fighting back can potentially destroy the relationship.
Blaming others pushes people away and cuts us off from valuable friendships and other meaningful relationships.
On the other hand, taking responsibility by owning your part builds trust, promotes respect, and ultimately strengthens relationships.
When you take responsibility for your situation, you’re likely to immediately feel lighter, like a heavy weight has been lifted.
Taking responsibility empowers you to make the changes you want.
That’s when you know what you need to learn. And that’s when you grow.
In the inspirational words of former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt:
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves.
The process never ends until we die.
And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
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