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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

Answer this truthfully…are you really living your life? Or are you pretty good at existing, flowing with, and reacting to things as they happen? Better yet, are you steering at the helm, taking personal responsibility, or are you sitting in the passenger seat, letting others decide for you?

Whatever your answer is, it’s OK. You’re human, and you’re most certainly not perfect. None of us are, but a victim mentality won’t help, so if you are playing the character that blames their circumstances instead of taking personal accountability, then here’s your wake-up call.

You have the luxury of deciding who you want to be every single day you wake up. It’s the people who have mastered the art of living happily and peacefully that have cracked this code, the ones who wake up content and taking responsibility for their actions.

Keep reading and find out how to change your perspective and start accepting personal responsibility for how your life looks.

Personal Responsibility and Self-Actualization

Humans that are content, living as the best version of themselves, and holding themselves accountable for their happiness are what psychologist Abraham Maslow calls living as “fully human.” You’ve probably seen Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs pyramid[1] somewhere in your life, because it’s a leading human behavior theory explaining the motivations behind us as humans[2].

Use Maslow's hierarchy to start taking personal responsibility.

    People have always struggled with the idea of “self-actualization” (i.e. being fully human) sitting at the top of the pyramid, making it appear like an unattainable peak that few will ever reach. However, that wasn’t Maslow’s intention; he didn’t actually create the pyramid. He wrote about a hierarchy, and someone else assumed it was a pyramid, and after all these years, we’re finding out what he really meant.

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    “In this choppy surf, a clunky pyramid is of little use. Instead, what is needed is something a bit more functional. We’ll need a sailboat.” -Scott Barry Kaufman[3]

    Humanistic psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman reworked and refreshed the pyramid based on the latest science in human behavior in his novel, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. Being fully human, Kaufman stressed, is about living in the moment, enjoying the ride, and doing what you love, because when you feel like you’re achieving your purpose, you feel aligned within yourself, and you’re able to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

    Here’s how to edge closer to that stage through personal responsibility.

    Why You Need to Take Personal Responsibility

    When you set sail, you don’t set off without a direction or destination in mind, right?

    Life is the same, though a lot of us are out there living aimless lives and consequently falling prey to the grips of anxiety and depression. This is why it’s important to have an aim or direction, a North Star to head towards, which shouldn’t be confused with materialistic goals, like getting rich or buying that house.

    If you’ve ever lived the “I’ll be happy when” life, you’ll know it’s a tough lesson to learn when you find out that you never feel genuinely happy because the goalpost keeps moving. It’s also key to make life decisions yourself because living someone else’s life is a sure-fire way to end up unhappy.

    What you need to do is find a balance between deciding what direction will lead you to be your best self and making sure that you’re enjoying all areas of your life.

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    “The hard part is really living in the moment and being able to sail through life without the end in mind. Just like it takes courage to open your sail on a sailboat and see where the winds will take you, it takes a lot of courage to become the best version of yourself.” -Scott Barry Kaufman

    What Is the Best Version of You?

    Aiming to be the best version of yourself is all about acceptance. You need to be able to accept the good with the bad, accept the shadow, and all the things that hide and cower in the dark. Uncover the darkness by giving it some light.

    If you’ve had a rough childhood or suffered trauma, if you feel aimless or lost at sea, whatever it is, you have to accept a portion of responsibility for where you are. You’re not responsible for the beliefs you hold based on things people have told you, but you are responsible for dealing with them.

    People who accept responsibility for their strengths and weaknesses and choose to spend their life developing and improving on the healthy, positive aspects are the ones who show courage. Climb up the mast of your sailboat and rise above your own personal desires and feelings. You might just see that there are billions of other boats bobbing around out there, and some might need your help.

    But you can’t help them until you’ve helped yourself.

    How to Take Personal Responsibility

    The road to learning how to take personal responsibility can be a difficult one, but start simple, and then begin to tackle the more difficult aspects. Here are two steps you need to take based on the sailing metaphor we’ve been working with.

    1. Focus on the Basics of Your Journey

    Just like the ocean, our life has many ups and downs, ebbs and flows. If you start building a solid sailboat, you can withstand the weather and hold course without capsizing or filling with water. The hull represents your basic needs: safety, self-esteem, and connection with others.

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    Check-in and ask yourself whether your basic needs are being met. Do you feel confident about who you are as a person? Do you struggle with willpower and motivation? Do you have enough connections with others?

    “No human being is exempt from the dire consequences of loneliness, and no other basic human need satisfaction can substitute for a deep connection.” -Abraham Maslow

    2. Open Your Sails and Be Willing to Fail

    Maslow was all about not focusing and stressing too much on the destination. Yes, head in the right direction, but focus on enjoying the sail by finding purpose and following that desire to explore.

    When was the last time you took the courage to really open your sails? To be vulnerable and willing to fail[4]? When was the last time you were in a flow state, in a moment where you were so engrossed in what you were doing that you forgot about your insecurities and worries, where you were just happy?

    Maslow believed we all had our own form of peak experience:

    “Whether an excellent athletic or music performance, creative experience, aesthetic perception, the love experience, sexual experience, childbirth, moments of insight and understanding, religious or mystical experience, or overcoming a profound challenge — it is any experience that comes close to perfection for that person.”

    Being fully human means that you seek out new, challenging, and uncertain events to further develop yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to raise the tide for the other boats and seize amazing opportunities? Imagine if you could just forget all about what’s negative and just focus on being in the moment.

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    3. Move Forward With Intention

    As you sail through life, are you making intentional goals and plans, or are you simply letting things happen and watching life pass by without grabbing hold of the moments?

    To start taking personal responsibility, work on goal setting. When possible, set SMART goals so that you can measure your progress as you move through them. When you know when and how you should be completing goals, it will be easier to measure your progress and take responsibility for all you have and haven’t done to achieve them.

    You can learn how to set SMART goals here.

    4. Live in the Moment

    As you’re moving through the ups and downs on the ocean of your life, are you really honing in on each present moment, or are your thoughts focused on the past and future? Do you dwell on the mistakes others made that forced you into a difficult position? Do you complain about what’s happening now?

    Stop blaming other people or situations if you really want to relish each moment in your life. Start taking personal responsibility for each thought and emotion that passes through you. Stop reacting and start analyzing.

    If you have trouble with this, try starting a mindfulness meditation practice to give your mind the space it needs to exist in the present.

    Final Thoughts

    If you don’t remember the last time you felt truly happy, if you feel uninspired or lost, if you feel like you’re on the wrong path, then start with the basics. Make sure your basic needs are being met before you move closer to self-actualization.

    Look at the mistakes you’ve made in life, learn from them, and move on to doing bigger and better things. Once you start taking personal responsibility, you’ll find your compass naturally points you in the direction of happiness and success.

    More on Taking Personal Responsibility

    Featured photo credit: Alex Blăjan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Daina Worrall

    Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

    Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice) How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

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    Published on February 19, 2021

    8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

    8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

    Whether it’s planning a public speech or a kid’s birthday party, our intentions lean toward success no matter the endeavor. And whatever success we are hoping to attain, there will likely be obstacles that we must face. When these obstacles surface, we can either shy away and miss our chance or meet these challenges informed and ready.

    Although obstacles can seem like the outside world is plotting against us, in reality, these external challenges are merely triggering hurdles that already exist within. They might be memories or beliefs we have about ourselves that act like mud and slow us down. We can be trapped by our own self-sabotage.

    What could happen if you knew about and prepared for these obstacles beforehand?

    If you knew what you were up against, perhaps you could come equipped with just the right tools to get through anything that threatens your chance at success. Perhaps you could take an obstacle that felt like a mountain and turn it instantly into a mere molehill!

    Here are 8 of the greatest obstacles you must overcome on your way to success:

    1. Perfection

    One of the most common obstacles we face is the need for perfection. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, shared that her mother always used to say, “done is better than good.” Anyone prone to perfectionism is going to find it difficult to remain on the road to success if everything has to be “just so” all the time.

    Perfection is the killer of creativity, vitality, and accidental discoveries! There are so many instances of people fortuitously discovering things that we use every day.[1] If they had been so concerned with perfection, they may never have enjoyed the success of their “mistakes!” Plus, learning from our mistakes is how we develop and grow throughout our lives. Therefore, “perfect” will never provide a straight shot to success.

    How can you stop going for perfection? Just as it may have taken years of practice to “perfect” a skill you have acquired, it takes practice to undo perfectionism.

    Try the following:

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    • Try new things and let go of your expectations.
    • Don’t do everything on your “To-Do” list. See what happens when you leave it for tomorrow.
    • Learn how to prioritize (no, everything isn’t equally important all the time).
    • If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, send an email with a typo in it!

    Have fun with this and learn how to laugh at yourself. Welcome to the wonderful world of being human.

    2. Fear

    Fear is triggered when we have a thought or perception that we are not safe and secure. This is quite a useful tool when there is a real threat to our safety. However, when the threat is imaginary, fear can actually prevent us from doing the work we need to do to achieve our goals.

    As with perfectionism, the best way to deal with fear is to become more mindful.

    Here are some steps you can try in working through fear:

    1. Sit with the emotion of fear and notice where you feel it in your body. Notice the thoughts that accompany the feeling.
    2. Ask yourself what you are afraid will happen and write down your answers.
    3. Visualize yourself experiencing your worst fears. How did you feel imagining your worst fears coming true?
    4. Ask yourself when you have felt this way before. How did you cope with it that time? What strengths could you use in your previous visualization?
    5. Imagine yourself using your strength with the imagined worst fear. How does it feel to know that no matter what happens, you have the tools and resources to handle it?

    In this exercise, we’re trying to be okay with the emotion of fear. Fear is actually trying to help by keeping you “safe.” It calls upon memories of when you were threatened in your life. But when we spend all of our energy trying to prevent the feeling of fear, we make it stronger. We also deny ourselves the memories of all the times we have faced our fears and triumphed.

    Allowing the fear to be present and calling upon memories of making it through challenging times helps to convince our minds that, as President Franklin Roosevelt said, the “only thing to fear is fear itself.”

    3. Lack of Clarity

    Imagine that you are going on a trip and you need to pack. Your suitcase is out, but you don’t know any details of the trip. You haven’t decided where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, or what you’ll be doing. How easy will it be to pack for this trip?

    If we’re trying to run our careers or lives without clarity, it can be nearly impossible to figure out what we need to be doing to get to our destination of success. So, how do we get clarity?

    Author and speaker, Simon Sinek, had some excellent advice for businesses on how to get clarity, and it applies beautifully to just about any area of life. According to Sinek, when clarifying your “message,” you should start with your WHY.[2] In other words, why are you doing what you do? Once you are clear on your “why,” it will be much easier to figure out your “how” and your “what.”

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    Let’s go back to the packing analogy. Perhaps your why for vacationing is to get some much-needed rest as you have been stressed out lately. That tells you that a quiet vacation might be better than one with lots of museums and crowded attractions. Your “why” tells you that you don’t want to be very active, but you do want to take care of your body, mind, and spirit, perhaps by spending a few days at a nearby spa. Less travel means less stress. Looking at the spa, you see they have a 3-day retreat. Now, you know how to pack.

    See how easily those details fell into place once you got clear on your “why”? Imagine what success you could achieve once your “why” is uncovered!

    4. Making Comparisons

    It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to other people. That’s how we know whether we’re doing things correctly or not and how we can continue improving. When we get into a habit of making comparisons all the time and feeling bad about not being able to “keep up with the Jones’,” this can pull our energy down. And when our energy is down, so is our motivation to keep working toward our goals.

    As with perfection, it’s important to be mindful about how much importance you’re placing on “keeping up” with what you think everyone around you is doing.

    Want to stop sizing yourself up to others? Try the following:

    • Notice the feelings that come up for you when you compare yourself to someone else.
    • Ask yourself, “what information am I really getting from this comparison, and what’s helpful about it?”
    • Keep the helpful bits from that line of questioning and let go of the rest.

    Remember that when you compare yourself to another person, oftentimes you are seeing the potential that already resides within you.[3]

    5. Untamed Inner Monologue

    How do you talk to yourself? Do you tend to say uplifting and encouraging things to yourself? Or is your self-speak often negative? An untamed inner monologue can serve as a great obstacle to many people.

    Many people grow up with the idea that the inner monologue is what drives us to become better people. We get “tough” on ourselves to prevent laziness or sloppiness. If unchecked, the monologuing can quickly become negative and purely critical. Despite our intentions for self-improvement, this constant habit of pointing out what’s “wrong” with what we do and who we are can become a huge energy drain.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, overcoming negative self-talk is good for our health.[4] Some of the benefits of maintaining a compassionate inner voice include lower levels of depression, better immune function, and improved coping skills in stressful times.

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    Activities to develop awareness about your inner monologue and make it more compassionate include:

    • Keeping a thought diary (there are so many great apps for this!).
    • Reframing negative self-statements neutrally or compassionately.
    • Asking yourself what a trusted friend might say to you.
    • Thinking about what you might say to a friend if they were in your shoes.
    • Considering EFT Tapping or saying affirmations.
    • Allowing yourself to follow the inner critic down the worst-case-scenario path (this version might have you laughing at how ridiculous your inner critic’s imagination truly is).

    6. Unclear Boundaries

    So far, we’ve covered several ways that internal boundaries are necessary on the road to success. These include monitoring your fear, limiting your need for perfectionism, lacking clarity about what you want, making unhealthy comparisons to others, or having a mean-spirited inner monologue.

    How about those boundaries we need to clarify with other people in our lives? To be clear, boundaries are not about saying “no” to everything and cutting yourself off from everybody. Healthy external boundaries are about being communicating to others about what you want, how you want to be treated, and what your plans are.

    If we have unclear boundaries with others, success will result only by accident, if at all.

    People pleasers and empaths especially know how challenging it can be to set boundaries with others. The desire for harmony can be so strong for some people that they convince themselves that it is easier to let others make the decisions rather than risk creating conflict.

    The problem here is that no matter how hard we try to avoid conflict with others, we will create conflict within ourselves that results in roadblocks to success. If you have trouble setting clear boundaries with others and you want to be successful, start building your muscles around this skill slowly.

    Here are a few steps:

    1. Identify little things that you like and want.
    2. Tell people about what you like and want in your life.
    3. Notice what happens in your body when you say this out loud.
    4. Identify things you don’t like or want.
    5. Notice what happens in your body when you think about these things. (Your body is really smart when it comes to telling you what you don’t want!)
    6. Tell trusted people what you don’t like or want.
    7. Notice how it feels in your body to say this out loud.
    8. Practice saying “no” to something really small that you don’t want and work your way up to bigger things.

    Without boundaries, it’s like being water and trying to hold a shape without being in a container. You get to create your own container and watch your success take form.

    7. Unreasonable Expectations

    It’s important to dream big. It’s how we allow inspiration and big ideas to come to the surface of our awareness. But if our dreams are not grounded in the reality of our current resources, we might be headed for some disappointment or even worse, the loss of our dreams!

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    Setting reasonable expectations is the bread and butter of success. If you haven’t been introduced to setting SMART goals at this point in your life, it would be a good idea to try it out.

    It might not always be possible to know whether or not something is reasonable, especially if you’re trying out a brand-new-to-you project. If the expectation is for a new project to work without any bumps or glitches, this is likely to be unreasonable. The consequences of this experience could be losing your drive to succeed.

    If the expectations for a new project include the idea of bumps and glitches that hold seeds of learning and growth, then even the perceived “mistakes” will turn out to be a success. This has the positive benefit of fueling your motivation to keep working toward even more success.

    Be mindful of where you set the bar—neither too high nor too low.

    8. Unreasonable Definition of Success

    What is your definition of success? Asked in another way, from what perspective are you seeking success?

    It’s easy to think that success means achieving the goal(s) you set for yourself. But there are so many ways to look at success. You might be missing out on some opportunities to really feel like you are shining in your life.

    An unreasonable definition of success might be one that only allows for one specific outcome. If that outcome is not reached, then success is not the result. But if we allow for multiple definitions of success, we might find that success is much easier to come by than we previously thought!

    To expand your definition of success, ask yourself the following:

    • What would need to happen to make me feel successful?
    • What else could happen to make me feel successful?

    Keep brainstorming all the outcomes you could experience to create a feeling of success.

    Final Thoughts

    Being successful requires overcoming a lot of obstacles, and many people will fail at some point. The key is to tackle these obstacles one step at a time. In the words of Joyce Brothers, “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success.”

    More Tips on How to Overcome Obstacles

    Featured photo credit: asoggetti via unsplash.com

    Reference

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