Being fully responsible for your own actions and consequences is a choice. A foundation for a successful life. A prerequisite for happiness.
In our previous article United We Rise I wrote about the power of the group through the analogy of gaining access to a ship under hostile control whilst underway at sea. Launching yourself onto ladders over rough seas, with the full weight of your ops kit pulling you down. The moment before you jump you have the power of those around you to draw strength from.
But, once you are on that ladder, it all comes down to you. Your strength and your resolve alone are what count until you reach the top and join your team and continue forward.
And so it is with life.
It is true that regardless of your strength as an individual, the people you associate with will have an undeniable influence on the direction your life takes. However, ultimately you are still the one in the driving seat.
Where To Go From Here
How much of your success would you say is up to you—your choices, your actions, your behaviors — versus outside conditions?
I am a strong believer that taking absolute accountability for all that happens to you, good AND bad, is the most powerful attitude you can adopt in life.
This can be viewed as a 3 step process:
Responsibility is a way of thinking and being. When you’re truly responsible, you believe that success or failure is up to you, even if you work within a team or are blind-sided by unforeseen circumstances.
By empowering yourself you take the actions — and the risks — to achieve a result and get what you want. Rather than waiting for someone to declare you empowered or give you that one lucky break, you make things happen, and answer for the outcomes.
Personal accountability — when you’re personally accountable, you stop assigning blame on people and making excuses. Instead, you take the responsibility when your actions cause issues and you learn from your mistakes and adjust your process. When things go well you celebrate, knowing your hard work has made it possible..
Ultimately you always have a choice. The phrase “I had no choice” is false, pure and simple. Just because a consequence is one that nobody in their right mind would opt for, does not alter the fact it is still a choice.
I’m not saying this is easy because it’s not. It’s a simple truth that all of us make mistakes and poor choices. So, always remember that you’re not the first person who has fallen short in the personal behavior department from time to time and you certainly won’t be the last.
I never lose. I either win or learn.”Nelson Mandela
But apportioning blame to other people, or circumstances for your current position in life is one of the biggest barriers to attaining any level of success or meaningful happiness. Every time you do it yo are handing over your control of the outcome and conditioning yourself to think that you are powerless.
Your End Is Not Your Beginning
The argument of how advantaged or disadvantaged you are is one that is very hard to quantify. Does it end with where you were born? How you were brought up? Your physical abilities?
It is absolutely true that there are people out there who have started out with more than you, but equally many have started with less.
Where we start in life is a lottery. And if you were born in the developed world you already have access to the huge benefits of improved nutrition and sanitation, widespread immunisation, greater access to education and health care and greater legal protection.
As difficult as it is sometimes, especially in the world of social media, try not to obsess on what others have and instead turn your focus onto what you are capable of (which is nearly always more than you think).
This is not a ‘just do it’, everybody can do and be anything lecture, because equally that misses the nuance that is life. We all suffer, we all have bad days, and unfortunately some of us have real mental battles that make achieving this mindset incredibly hard.
But for most of us this attitude is something we can cultivate with daily effort. In those moments when it feels like things are against you, and it would be easy to blame someone or something else, try to bring it back under your control.
You can waste your time laying your failures or mishaps at the feet or others, remaining stuck in the same cycle of negative actions and reactions.
Or you can accept full responsibility, stay in control and move forward through life on your own terms.
The Power Of The Mind
Driving our attitude to life is the internal monologue we all have going on inside our heads. And it’s this chatter, giving voice to our emotions, that talks us into or out of the situations we find ourselves in.
We are the sum total of our experiences, biases, genes and so developing a monologue that helps you rather than hinders you can be a tricky task.
This is something I ignored for a long time, always choosing to focus on the physicality of actions. But I now firmly believe if you can master this first and foremost, the rest will follow more easily.
The best tool I have adopted to achieve this (and the research seems to back this up) is some form of daily meditation practice. Resiliency can be cultivated from within by how we perceive and react to stressors.
A recent study highlighting the link between mindfulness and resilience found that:
Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down emotionally. Pausing and observing the mind may help us resist getting stuck in our story and as a result empower us to move forward.
Most of life’s stressors are subjective and with mindfulness (seeing things as they are in this present moment), we have the ability to respond with wisdom vs. react in a harmful way.
There are many ways to start a very simple practice each day such as one of the many meditation apps available. Personally, I think the Waking Up App by Sam Harris is great, and I found 10 minutes in the morning and at night was enough to start noticing a difference.
Being fully responsible for your own actions and consequences is a choice, a mindset and an expression of integrity. Not only is it the foundation for a successful life, but also a prerequisite for happiness.
Being fully responsible for your own actions and consequences is a choice, a mindset and an expression of integrity.
If you want to master yourself then the first step is to stop focusing on what’s happening ‘to’ you and focus on what you can do within your current circumstances to succeed.
That lesson is probably one of the defining factors that make Special Forces teams so successful. Each member knows that inevitably anything that can go wrong on an operation will go wrong.
But they also understand this is not an excuse for the job to fail. Instead you use what you do have control over and make it work no matter what it takes.
It can take time and effort, but cultivating an attitude where you accept full responsibility for what happens to you in life will ultimately lead to greater success and happiness.
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