It's Not the Circumstances, It's You
The circumstances of our lives, especially when they seem stressful or intense (as is the case for many people I know and work with these days), do have an impact on us, for sure. However, all too often, we give away our power to these circumstances and situations. We act as though it's a foregone conclusion that we will feel a certain way, based on specific circumstances like the economy, the weather, our health, our level of activity, the state of our romantic relationship or lack thereof, the behavior of our children, our families, the state of our career or business or our environment at work.
Our experience of life (grateful, worried, peaceful, angry, excited, sad, alive, depressed, joyous or anything else) is much more of a reflection of us and what's going on within us, not a reaction to what's going on around us. We've all had many times in our lives when things were going great on the surface or we accomplished or experienced some wonderful external success, only to feel a sense of disappointment or sadness underneath because whatever it was didn't satisfy us at a deep level. And, on the flip side, most of us have had moments of incredible joy, excitement and bliss that weren't directly connected to anything worthy of these feelings externally.
Even though we know this dynamic to be true, we still seem to get caught in the hypnotic, erroneous notion that if we just got rid of some issues, altered some circumstances, manifested some increased success or changed some specific situations in our lives, then, we'd be happy, peaceful and relaxed (or whatever it is we say we want to experience).
Author and spiritual teacher Byron Katie says: "The definition of insanity is thinking that you need something you don't have. The mere fact that you exist right now without that which you think you need is proof that you don't need it."
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to own your experience of life in an empowering way:
- Admit when you play victim and give away your power. As is always the case, "The truth will set you free." Take a look into your life, especially in the areas where you find the most pain, suffering and struggle right now. Without judging yourself, can you find places where you're acting like a victim of your current circumstances, as though it is simply "happening to you"? The more honest and specific you can be about this, the more freedom it will provide for you.
- Acknowledge, own and express your underlying emotions. Whenever we go into victimhood, there is something we don't want to deal with, take responsibility for, experience or express emotionally. Even thought it can be a little painful and scary initially, by dealing directly with the emotions we're avoiding, we go to the source of the issue and address it at the root. Ironically, once we're able to acknowledge, own and express the emotions involved, much of the suffering and struggling go away—if we're willing to really take responsibility for and express what we're truly feeling.
- Make a commitment to fully own your experience. Declare to yourself and those who are close to you that you're willing to take 100 percent responsibility for your experience of life. This doesn't mean that stuff won't happen, but it does mean that you make a commitment to live your life by design, not default. It's also likely that you'll forget, slip up and fall back into victimhood from time to time (or often). However, making a commitment to yourself and to others—and also asking them to hold you accountable with honesty and kindness—can create an environment, both within you and around you, that is conducive for you to enhance your capacity to live your life with power and responsibility.
Keep Reading: Forget about creating a new you: Just be yourself!
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best- selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken . He and his work have been featured on ABC News , in Forbes , Ladies Home Journal , Self and many others.