There’s just no easy way to say this: your biggest problem is you.
It’s not the weather, or the economy, or the government, or the alignment of the stars. It’s you. Phew! I’m glad we’ve sorted that out. Now, we can start getting you out of your own way.
Prepare yourself for Operation: You.
The Stuff That Happens TO You vs. BECAUSE of You
In life, there’s stuff that happens to you and stuff that happens because of you. One you have control of, the other you don’t.
The stuff that happens to you is often out of your control. Your boss is in a bad mood. Your football team got beaten in the playoffs. Your car won’t start. Many of these things you cannot control. Perhaps you can influence them. For example, servicing your car regularly means it probably will start, but largely that stuff just happens. If you put too much effort into worrying about it you’ll waste the energy you could actually use to effect some positive change in your life.
The stuff that happens because of you and your actions is completely in your control. In understanding this, you put the power in your own hands and remove it from those around you. Meaning, no one else can prevent you from getting what you want. And that’s why I wrote earlier that you have to get out of your own way.
Are You at the Cause or the Effect?
Psychology students are taught about external and internal loci of control. An external locus of control is when you believe external factors control your situation. While an internal locus of control is when you believe you are in control. An internal locus of control sees you taking responsibility for what is happening in your life.
The key is personal responsibility. When you take responsibility for what is happening in your life, then you put yourself in a position of power. You put yourself in a position from which you can achieve your dreams.
NLP practitioners learn about cause and effect. When you are in control, you are at cause — you cause your results. When you are at effect, the external world affects your outcomes. Understanding the differences between these two positions is essential.
Cause is a position of empowerment. Effect is disempowering. The position of effect allows you to explain away your poor outcomes. Cause doesn’t let you off the hook. If you want positive outcomes in your life, you have to be responsible and in control of your responses, actions, and outcomes.
You will often hear people say things like, “You really make me mad!” Sounds reasonable, right? Yet no one has the power to make you feel anything unless you allow it. No matter what someone else does, you always have control over your response. You can choose to get mad. Or you can choose to disengage with the person. Or you can choose something else. The person in question cannot make you mad unless you give them the power to do so.
This understanding flies in the face of common thought. It is both frightening and liberating. To be in control means nothing can stand in your way. And if something does get in the way, you can find a way around it. It also means your excuses are null and void. To take full responsibility for your life means whatever goes wrong comes back to you. It’s not the easy road, that’s for sure.
3 Ways to Empower Operation: You
It might be a leap to suggest you should change the way you think in an instant. Although that is possible, it’s very difficult. Instead, here are three exercises you can undertake to help you start to take full responsibility for your outcomes and your life.
1. Start a Journal
It can be difficult to understand what is happening in your life if you leave everything to memory. The way you remember things might not be the way they actually happened. And over time, those memories can become more like stories than realities.
Tracking your progress can also be difficult. If you don’t have a clear written record of what came before, it is all but impossible to understand how far you’ve come. Without such a record you may either overestimate or underestimate your development.
A journal is a simple way to record your progress. Exactly how you choose to maintain a journal is up to you. However, I recommend you start simply. At the start of each day, write down three things you can do to make your day wonderful. At the end of each day, write down three great things that happened that day, and also one thing you could have done to make the day better.
By simply writing down your experiences and reminding yourself of what you are in control of, you will start to take more responsibility for your outcomes.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what is happening in your life right now. We often miss what is going on right in front of our eyes because we are so focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do have.
Mindfulness is not religious, and it need not be spiritual unless you want that to be so. One of my favorite mindfulness exercises is sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and fully engaging with the experience. Savoring the sensations of touch, smell, taste, sight, and even sound. It takes only five minutes and is a powerful reminder of how much we miss everyday as we skate through our lives.
Mindfulness teaches that you have everything you need right here in this present moment. This understanding allows you to let go of anxiety. Anxiety is emotion based upon a projection of what might happen in the future. If you pay attention to the present, you cannot agonize over the imaginary future.
When you remove anxiety, you free up valuable mental capacity that you can dedicate to doing the work required to get the outcomes you desire. And when you understand that everything you need is right here and right now, then you remove any excuses you might make for your mistakes or poor results. The finger gets pointed back at you.
3. Model Your Idols
Success leaves clues. Those who have come before you and have done what you want to do can teach you how to get what you want. You don’t have to meet your idols to learn their methods. You can listen to interviews, read biographies, and even attend events.
Many of the people you admire have amazing and educational stories. Consider what you can learn from those who came before you. Determine what it is you want to learn and then start your research. Pay particular attention to the systems, routines, and habits your idols implemented on their path to achieving their dreams.
You will find that those you admire took control of their lives and would not let obstacles get in their way. Most of all they took full responsibility for their outcomes. You can do the same.
Over to You
The actions you take lead to the outcomes you achieve. Those actions are based on the beliefs you hold to be true. If you believe you are in control, you empower yourself to charge forth and get what you want from this life.