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Who Controls Your Life?

You're probably reading this because you have an interest in improving some aspect
of your life. The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to
improve your experience of life and will cover many of them in the articles on this
To begin, I'd like to ask, "Who is going to have the biggest effect on your
future life?"
Many of us would answer that it's our spouse, our children, or the government.
Others might say it's the trials and tribulations of their everyday lives; the driver who
cuts them up on the way to work; the queue in the supermarket on Saturday
afternoons; or the fact that someone let them down with a delivery. All of these
examples pass responsibility for our mood, thoughts and experience of life to other
people or external factors over which we have no direct control. From this
standpoint, we live our lives reactively moving from one crisis to another, waiting
patiently for the day when these external 'diversions' settle down. When that day
dawns - we tell ourselves - then finally we'll be able to turn things around!
Put in these simple terms we can see how this attitude would seem to lead to a
poorer experience of life. However, for many of us it's our chosen norm and it suits
us just fine. Whilst it may not always be obvious what the 'payback' is for continuing
with this way of thinking and behaving, there MUST be one, or else we would simply
not continue with it. The payback could be as straightforward as the fact that
operating in this way brings us extra attention, or gives us something to have a good
old moan about! By far the biggest 'benefit' of this attitude is that it ensures that
there's always somebody else to blame - and that feels good!
In sharp contrast, there is a different way of operating in the world that, if we choose
it, allows us to exercise control over our lives. It involves totally accepting personal
responsibility for the life we are living.
Taking personal responsibility for our own life can be very scary at first. After all, if
we're going to give up blaming everybody else, does that mean we have to take the
blame ourselves? Not at all! The ultimate way for most of us to begin making
significant and enduring improvements to our lives is to abandon the concept of
'blame' completely, and in its place to embrace the concept of 'responsibility' . Where
appointing 'blame' depends on us making (often damning) judgements, accepting
'responsibility' requires us to have a mature grasp of the realities of life. We'll wait a
very long time for a perfect world to emerge. We might as well make a start on
dealing with the imperfect one that we're all currently inhabiting.
So what exactly does taking personal responsibility mean? Personally I think it boils
down to recognising that ultimately the only absolute control we have in our lives is
over how we choose to react to what happens to us. It is in these moments between
stimulus and response that we as humans can exercise a choice. Do we react

consciously and thoughtfully, to bring us closer to the result we seek, or do we react

subconsciously and as our prior conditioning programs us to - excusing ourselves
along the way with one of our favourite platitudes. Take your pick - we all have them
in abundant supply! I can't help it! That's just me! It's how I am! I can't do anything
about it! I can't change it! In reality, of course, there are very few 'givens' in this life
to which we are truly tied.
The lives we are living today are a direct consequence of the decisions and
choices we have made up to this point in time. We will create our future in the
same way, whether we choose to recognise our role in this or not. Once we accept
this fundamental truth, we will begin to see that it's in our moments of decision (or
indecision) that we create our own experience of life.
Choosing to take responsibility for our own lives and creating the future we want is
an amazingly empowering experience. We no longer feel the need to control
everyone else (not that we ever could of course) but instead aim only to assert
control over ourselves. This absolute control can be subdivided. We actually have
control over three things, but only three things - our own thoughts, our own feelings,
and our own behaviour. It follows, therefore, that we carry responsibility for three
things and only three things - our own thoughts, our own feelings and our own
behaviour. Trying to control any more than this is futile. Accepting responsibility for
anything more than this is misguided. So if all we need to do is be in control of
ourselves - and most of us emerge into adulthood with reasonable skills in this area then we are already equipped with all the basic tools we need to build the lives we
If you feel ready to make a start, you could begin with the following pointers:1. As already outlined, the first essential step is to truly decide to accept total
responsibility for our own life and commit to this decision. You must be ready to be
proactive in creating the life you want and to recognise that you have the power to
choose how you react to any situation.
2. To help consolidate this new way of thinking and make it habitual, practise
recognising when others around you are not taking full responsibility for their own
lives, and more importantly, when you yourself are not taking full responsibility for
3. To undermine any unhelpful prior conditioning, you can practise interrupting any
negative thoughts (usually rattling around in our heads in the form of negative 'selftalk') and replace these with positive and affirmative thoughts and beliefs that
embody your new sense of personal responsibility and your fresh 'can do' attitude
You will notice that both steps 2 and 3 use the word 'practise' - this is deliberate. It
is very important that when we start on the path to improving our lives we accept
that it won't always be an easy ride . There is some truth in the expression, 'practise
makes perfect' but that said, the pressure to be perfect is often unrealistic and even
debilitating in many areas of life. In practising our new thought and behaviour
patterns, we need to aim for a steady and sustained improvement instead. Of course
we must also strive to avoid using the fact that we are 'only practising' as an excuse
for not making progress.

It bears repeating that taking responsibility for our own decisions in life is the
single most important step towards creating the future we desire. Whilst it
may at first seem a trivial and simplistic change in perspective, the effects of even
this one step can be quite profound in changing our experience of life. Throughout
these chapters I will attempt to provide information on other key ways to trigger
long-lasting positive changes in our lives once the reality is accepted that we can
decide to create the life we desire.
As ever, the theory is all well and good, but 'the proof of the pudding is in the
eating'. It's getting out there and applying this learning to our lives that will really
make the difference:
"The learning is in the living".
My question to you, then, is - are you prepared to take responsibility for your own
The choice is yours, but always remember...
"If you don't run your own life, someone else will" (John Atkinson)