“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” – DR. Stephen R. Covey
It is very easy to pass the blame onto anything or anyone but ourselves for our outcomes. It instantly removes all the responsibility and guilt when the outcome is less than desired.
‘If the weather wasn’t so cold I’d…’
‘If only I had a boss that wasn’t so closed minded, I’d be able to achieve x.’
‘If my husband wasn’t so lazy we would have…’
‘If I wasn’t so overweight I could…’
‘I can’t, because of…’
‘I that person didn’t go and do x, then I’d be able to do y.’
‘I have to deal with it this way because of the bloody Labor/Liberal Government.’
‘If people weren’t so disrespectful, than we wouldn’t have to…’
‘I’d be so wealthy/successful/much healthier if it wasn’t for…’
‘My whole family is big, it’s just our genetics.”
It’s easy hey. Remove all responsibility for your situation and voila! Congratulations you are now a victim of circumstance! Bring on the tears and the ‘poor me’s’ and enjoy indulging in all the sympathy you’ve attracted to yourself. A great temporary fix for your problems. A bit like crack.
“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” – Stephen R. Covey
These are the behaviours of reactive people. Reactive people focus a great amount of their attention towards things that they have little or zero control over, or in their ‘Circle of Concern’ as Stephen Covey puts it in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. They believe that much of what happens to them is a result of their external environment, factors that lead them to say things like, “I can’t, I have to, if only.”
By living a life this way it is easy to get out of just about anything! The reason for your shitty job, the reason you are obese, the reason your relationship is going to shit, the reason you decided to not go on that trip.
But what actually ends up getting achieved?
Nothing. Not a thing that you actually desire or complain about not having in your life or not being able to attain. In fact, you tend to end up digging yourself into a deeper hole of circumstance induced victimisation where it now seems even harder to get what you want.
Told yourself that before? Was it about a thing that many upon thousands of others are managing to achieve? Is it really impossible? Is there really something so different and so defining about those people and how they have managed to achieve it? Or is it just the story you have told yourself because it is easier to pass responsibility than actually be proactive about it?
Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour. They know they can choose their behaviour in response to a situation and they know that they have the power to decide on what to do next to ensure things are moving towards the goal they have set. In Covey’s book, he states that proactive people focus their attention on their ‘Circle of Influence’, they work on the things that they can have control over… their health, their relationships, their jobs, their own responses to any given situation. Much of what happens to proactive people is more as a result of the influence of their internal environment, and commonly use language such as, “I can, I will, I prefer, I’m going to.”
You may not be responsible for what happened to you, but you are 100% responsible for how you decide to deal with it.
Take road rage for example. Yesterday a bloke was dangerously cut off by someone who is clearly not that good of a driver. He was livid.
People tend to react in 2 ways here:
1/ Let her know about it in the most aggressive and hostile manner possible.
2/ Take a breathe, get on with it.
Now have a think…
The event happened.
It was dangerous and could have lead to an accident.
But it didn’t.
Everybody is okay.
The event is now something of the past. Nothing can change what just happened.
Whether you decide to go off your tree, or get on with it, what just happened is now completely out of your control. And you now have little to zero positive influence over what may happen in relation to this event in the future. You cannot make her a better driver. You cannot pull her over and suggest she gets lessons. She probably received the fright of her life too. What she decides to do about her poor driving is now in her control. Maybe she learnt a hard lesson right there and then. But again, whether she does or doesn’t, the unfortunate truth about driving is, we don’t have control over what someone else decides to do in their vehicle.
In just about every occasion in life, especially on the road, reactive responses to an event increase the potential risk of a negative outcome exponentially in comparison to a proactive response.
Do you think this guy’s response was proactive or reactive?
Yeah you guessed it, he was reactive af.
He threw his arms up, he sped up, overtook her on a busy road with only a single lane, created his own gap so he could cut her off as hard as possible. She had to slam her brakes on. They almost had a second accident.
Deep down I wish they did end up bumping into each other. To be a fly on the wall when this aggressive, macho, reactive male cops a fine for cutting a little lady off in response to her accidentally cutting him off… I’d pay to see how big the angry vein on his head grows when receiving that ticket. That victim of circumstance.
You have the choice to respond to EVERY event however you like, but just be aware that the outcome that occurs as a result of your response is guided by unavoidable life principles…
If you get bullied (situation) and decide to hide away and eat your feelings (response), you’re going to become overweight.
If you are stuck in a boring monotonous job (situation) and decide that you can’t get out of it because that is what you studied for and the risk of changing is too high (response), you’re going to be stuck in that boring unfulfilling job until you die.
If you’re husband is lazy and never helps around the house (situation) and you just complain and moan at him about it (response), he’s not going to change.
If you’re a boss and want your staff to do what you ask (situation) but you’re a big demanding arsehole (response), your staff will be calling you a prick behind your back and will give you far less productivity than you desire, plus they’ll probably be searching ways to leave you or overtake you.
You are not a victim of your circumstances, you are a victim of your own decisions. You have the power to change your circumstances if you decide to. Take John Glaude, the @obese_to_beast guy that is doing great things by giving hope to others dealing with obesity that they can turn it around too.
But just today he made a post which said:
“I hate morbid obesity. I hate what it is doing to us. I hate what it did to me.”
As much as John is an absolute legend and his positive influence on others is what we need, and he decided to make a change to his life (I am absolutely not here to knock him, but more take an example from his message). According to his quote, John still views his dealings with obesity as though he is a victim of circumstance. Yes he chose to take responsibility and love himself and make a change, but to blame obesity for what it did to him suggests that he sees himself a victim of obesity, as though obesity is some external and uncontrollable variable. As harsh as I am going to sound, he made the choices that led to his obesity, he was completely responsible for the outcome. Obesity didn’t do anything to him, he did it to him. The same as CrossFit and a calorie deficit didn’t lose him the weight, he lost the weight by making the decisions that would give him the desired outcome, CrossFit and a calorie deficit.
PS – I want to leave with with a little task. Something I learnt from Jason Khalipa’s book ‘As Many Reps As Possible’.
Draw 2 circles. Title one of them ‘In my control’ and the other ‘not in my control’. Come up with as many things as possible that you cross in life and drop them into the circles.
I guarantee that the ‘not in my control’ circle will be full the the brim, where as the ‘in my control’ circle will be quite small.
Keep it with you. Use it to remind yourself to only act on the things that are in your control, and to choose to be ‘proactive’ rather than ‘reactive’ in your responses to any event that is out of your control. Remember, you are response-able.