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In my experience as a coach, one of the breakthroughs I’m most excited for with clients is when they discover that they get to be the master their own thoughts, feelings and experiences rather than by mastered by them. It can be a doozy of a breakthrough to generate because having someone or something to blame and place the onus on (other than ourselves) is pretty comfortable and comforting for many.
But, and speaking from personal experience here, there is so much freedom in learning how to take responsibility for our personal experience because therein lies the access point to changing and transforming our reality.
On that note, I’m excited to share with you this excerpt below from Chapter 12 of my book Belonging: Overcome Your Inner Critic and Reclaim Your Joy.
I still remember that Monday morning. I woke up and, having intentionally stayed off email over the weekend, opened my email, excited to start the week. To my dismay, there were two dozen new emails in my inbox that all required my immediate attention. I felt so powerless that morning. I questioned how I would ever handle my true priorities while making time for these urgent emails.
I’ve come to find humor in my relationship to my email inbox, but it has frequently served as a weapon I have used to victimized myself for not having enough time or being sufficiently on top of things. When you become your own boss, you are responsible for endless tasks and priorities, which I swiftly realized after making that transition for myself. I had a call with my coach that afternoon and requested coaching for the stress my inbox was causing me. I still remember him telling me, “Cat, I have 10,366 emails in my inbox and I’m not stressed out about any of them.”
I was dumbfounded. “How could that be?” I cried out loud as I withdrew in utter shock. I learned a tough lesson in business and in life that day. I can either be mastered and victimized by my thoughts and circumstances or become the master of them. Dr. Athena Staik suggests that our thoughts become activators of life-transforming inner processes:
“We are conditioned to think too highly of our ability (power) to change others (mostly illusion), and sit passively on what is the real miracle-making power to change self from within. Several actions are necessary to transform thoughts and limiting beliefs, however, the most important has to do with what you choose to believe about yourself in relation to life around you. More specifically, do you overall perceive (think and feel) yourself as an active choice maker or agent, a conscious creator of past and present outcomes in your life (yes… acts of Nature are exceptions) — or do you overall perceive outcomes to be a result of what others or life has brought your way? These states of mind are also known respectively as being “at cause” versus “at effect.” Regardless of your decision, each produces a feeling state of mind and body that accordingly has the power to shape the direction of your life. Whereas the latter leaves you feeling you’re passively watching your life on a movie screen, in the former, you are in the movie taking the reins of your life, with set intentions of what the story is about in the theater of your mind: your imagination. A person is either in a place of protection or a place of growth. For healing to take place, you need to make a conscious choice, at any given moment, to step into a place of growth and learning.”
One of the hardest lessons I have learned in business is I am ultimately responsible for all of it. It is always our responsibility. This became a lot more obvious when I became self-employed. It required me to come to grips with how I allowed myself to be victimized by other people, the weather, and, yes, most certainly, my email inbox. I’ve created more excuses than I’d like to recount, letting myself off the hook over the years. Circumstances will always get in our way, and they won’t change until we do. Learning personal responsibility has been one of the most difficult and crucial lessons I’ve learned as a business owner. As soon as we start listening to this mindset in our day-to-day life, we will see just how common playing the role of victim is. Every time you blame it on the traffic, the metro being delayed, that person not getting back to you, or the birthday party at the office that caused you to eat two slices of cake, you are playing the victim.
Certainly, we’re entitled to play the role of the victim. We get to have all of our feelings and reactions. Our victim mindset may make us feel better about our current reality and provide us people to collude with about our grievances and buy into our excuses, but it will be temporary relief. Ultimately, our experience will never change until we change it. That starts and ends with taking responsibility for all of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I know it might feel good to be right and to make someone else wrong. But this strategy won’t last, even if playing the victim has been effective in the past. It will run out. I don’t know when, but I guarantee you, it will.
Be proud of learning to champion yourself and what you are creating in the world. It will give you personal freedom—freedom to avoid being so negatively impacted by others and their choices; freedom to express yourself; freedom to give up resentments and blame; and the freedom to be fully yourself.
TAKING ACTION: TIME TO REWRITE YOUR OWN STORY
Today, we will begin listening to ourselves. Please be gentle with yourself. Rewriting these scripts will require grace and self-compassion. All of your feelings and the places in life where you feel powerless to change are valid. We have been conditioned to think too highly of our ability to change others and too little of our ability to change ourselves. We have potentially had this modeled for us by our loved ones, and it may have worked in the past to get us what we want. However, the benefits are minuscule compared to the freedom and peace available to us in being fully responsible and proactive for creating our own experiences. No one or nothing can take that away from us.
So how can you show up in life and take responsibility for everything happening around you?
Begin by writing below the places in your life where you have become victimized by someone or some external circumstances. For myself, I might include (yes, still) my email inbox, my resistance to getting up early to work out when I travel, my inability to stay on track with all the books I want to read on my wish list, my challenge with eating healthy when our refrigerator is empty. There’s no wrong answer—just brain dump all that comes to mind now.
Now, go back through your first list and brainstorm how you can shift your experience of these circumstances and become the master of them. Some of mine are as simple as surrendering and choosing to be at peace with my email inbox, or perhaps scheduling in thirty minutes each morning and afternoon to handle email only during those times. Journal now how you can rewrite your own story:
In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Belonging: Overcome Your Inner Critic and Reclaim Your Joy. I hope you enjoyed this post — if you enjoyed what you read, let’s connect. You can reach me via email, my website, or connect with me on social: Instagram, LinkedIN, or Facebook. Also, you can also find my book on Amazon — here is the link to buy it.