Since I started my personal development journey in 2013, I have heard thousands and thousands of times the statement “this situation [fill the blank] has changed my life“.
If you spend some time watching videos from the inspiring TED Talks website, you will notice that most of the speakers use a life-changing moment as a starting point for their talks.
We all have life-changing moments in life.
For some people, it might be an intense emotional experience, for others maybe an encounter with a specific person, or merely a moment of realisation that something needs to be changed.
Although we often are not aware of what’s happening when it happens, looking back though, it becomes evident that because of “that particular” situation or person, our life changed, and as a consequence, we are not the same person anymore.
Like many, I’ve also experienced several life-changing moments in my life, but there is a specific one that I believe had a huge impact on who I am today.
MY LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT
A man who is out walking one night and comes upon another man down on his knees looking for something under a street lamp. The passerby inquires as to what the other man is looking for. He answers that he is looking for his lost key. The passerby offers to help and gets down on his knees and helps him search for the key. After an hour of fruitless searching, he says, “We’ve looked everywhere for it, and we haven’t found it. Are you sure that you lost it here?” The other man replies, “No, I lost it in my house, but there is more light out here under the street lamp.
This beautiful little story teaches us the necessity to stop looking outside ourselves for the answers to why we haven’t created the life and results we want. We are the cause of all of our experiences. We have created everything up until now, both our successes and our failures.
If we want to be successful, we have to take 100% responsibility for everything that we experience in our life.
I vividly remember that day as it was now.
Reading these passages from chapter 1 of the book “The Success Principles” written by the Best Selling Author Jack Canfield threw me in a spiral of changes and challenges that I never experienced before. It felt like I was hit by a train running 200 miles per hour.
All a sudden, there was a big decision for me to make. Ignoring those words pretending I had never read them, or taking those words as a possible truth and beginning and applying those concepts to my life.
I knew I was touching something very deep inside me, and although I was not fully aware of what exactly was happening, I knew that I was dealing with a life-changing moment.
It was 2014 when that happened, and since then, my life has never been the same anymore.
THE “SHINY” CAR
Photo by Giorgio Trovato
Imagine you have an old car with 300 thousand miles on it. You drive it every day; it’s bringing you where you want, but you never took good care of it. You don’t know if there is enough oil, you don’t know if all the engine’s parts are working well, and if it’s safe to drive for yourself and others. You just drive it.
For some reason, one day you decide to give the car a paint job.
You decide to spend a substantial amount of money on painting your car with your favourite colour. Happy and satisfied by the result you’ve achieved, you drive your vehicle with pride.
You also get many “WOWs” on how your vehicle looks nice, and you feel even happier about the decision you took of painting it.
All a sudden, though, one night going back home from work, your car stops in the middle of a desert road, and no matter what you do, the car is dead. How do you feel?
How do you feel looking at your shiny, newly painted car being completely useless? Who do you think is responsible for the situation you are in?
LIVING ON THE SURFACE
Image by David Angel
If you reflect for a moment, there is the tendency as human beings of focusing on trying to fix all the superficial things we are not happy about in our lives rather than go deep into who we are inside and take good care of our inner world.
It’s the same as the man in the Jack Canfield story, wasting time searching for his keys outside his house or the person wasting money repainting a 300 thousand miles car, we also tend to focus on superficial aspects of our lives.
We generally search for easy and comfortable solutions to our problems, that will give us instant gratification, rather than working on the real causes of our struggles, often found in our mindset and our beliefs system.
If this is not enough, we often act as victims of our circumstances. We blame people, situations and external factors out of our control, for everything we are not happy about, instead of taking 100% responsibility for everything we do, think and achieve, both good and bad.
I don’t know about you, but I have done that for most of my life.
My main goal was consistently trying to find comfortable and easy solutions for my problems while, at the same time, blaming the world outside myself for everything I was not able to solve.
You are the cause of all of your experiences. You have created everything up until now, both your successes and your failures.
This sentence from the “Success Principle” book was pumping into my head over and over again. It was like a torment.
For a victim like me, believing those words was feeling almost impossible. I was thinking; if I accept those words as a valid truth, it means that I have to seriously review all my life. If I am going to admit that I am the cause of everything that happens to me, I have to doubt everything I have ever believed to be accurate and create a new identity as a person.
Even today, remembering those moments of decision feels overwhelming. Still, I truly believed in what Tony Robbins says: “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”, so I took the decision. I was willing to turn my life upside-down.
I went out, and I bought a poster-size sheet of paper. I taped it on my kitchen wall, and as you’ve probably seen many times in thriller movies, I started to put together all the critical moments of my life. People, relationships, struggles, successes, losses and all those moments that in a way or another, I knew had a significant impact in who I was until that moment.
Trust me; it was an excruciating and emotionally draining task.
I remember I had to stop and start many times, but I learned that challenges are to be faced, so I kept going.
In the same way detectives try to connect clues to solve a crime , I was looking for all the causes of my unhappiness. I had to find the reasons for all the emotional pains and grudges I was still holding onto to certain people and to certain situations. I had to find why I was miserable on the inside, despite what I was showing to the outside world.
I worked on it for a few days, and the result was a massive amount of information to work with. The poster on the wall was complete in each one of its parts. People, situations, struggles, everything was now connected in some way. The most critical moments of my life were now clearly displayed in front of my eyes.
Starting from my childhood, passing through the school period, my relationship with my parents, the struggle with being obese for most of my life, my love relationships, mistakes, regrets and unforgettable moments, everything now was on my kitchen wall.
It was like having all the pieces of a giant puzzle laid out on a table, but you don’t know precisely how to put them together, and you have no idea what’s the picture coming out of it.
I had to be brave, and for each one of those pieces of life, I had to ask. How responsible I was for the results I had in each one of those experiences? The tendency of always blaming someone or something else was powerful.
“But, they did it, she said that it was not my fault…” acting as the victim was my usual way to avoid responsibility, but now was the moment to change that. Then, with the willingness to be brutally honest, for each one of those critical moments of my life, I have asked myself again: “How much responsibility did you truly have for what happened to you?”
With a disorientating feeling of surprise and pain at the same time, I started to see the light.
I was always responsible for everything that happened to me, not because it was always my fault, but rather because I was still in control of how to respond to what was happening.
LIVING BY CAUSE AND EFFECT
Image by Timo Stern
Let me ask you a question: “Do you believe you are the cause of everything that is happening to you in your life or do you think that what happens to you is dependent on something or someone else?
Please, as I was, be brutally honest with yourself because the way your answer to this question will make all the difference in how you will live your life from now on.
We mostly live based on “effect”; which means responding to the whims, desires or emotional states of others, losing complete control over our lives drifting like a boat without a captain in an ocean tossed by the wind.
You’re basically acting as a victim of your circumstances.
The good news though is that there is a much more empowering way to live your life, and it’s living by ’cause’. Which means taking full responsibility for all your past, present and future, circumstances (good and bad) and start to act as the sole creator of your life, very much like a painter or sculptor at work on their craft.
When you live by the “cause” you are in charge; you are in the driver seat of your life. It helps to release all the emotional burden that we place on ourselves ci es regarding our responsibilities for others.
Taking full responsibility for everything that life throws your way whilst stopping blaming someone or something else for what isn’t coming out the way you want, is the key feature that distinguishes the most successful people from the rest.
It’s the moment to ask yourself: “do I still want to act a Victim, or do I want to become a Victor.”
You know, despite what you might think, we’re always in charge of our decisions, and from now on, who you want to be, and you want to do it’s only a matter of decision. Another motivational and inspiring quote I love by Tony Robbins says, “You’re one decision away from a completely different life”, and you must decide to start to create your circumstances, and not let your circumstances make you.
When you are in a troubling situation, the key is not to panic. Don’t be overly anxious and full of worry, as being in an emotional turmoil will only make the issue more prominent. We are here to learn to take full responsibility for our own life, including all the matters and problems with it. So in every struggle, find the time to follow the 7-step process below and answer the related questions.
Step 1 – Evaluate the SITUATION/PROBLEM
- What is the issue/situation/problem am I currently facing?
Step 2 – Evaluate the BENEFITS
- What are the benefits am I getting by keeping the problem as it is?
Step 3 – Evaluate the COSTS
- What are the costs am I paying (psychological and physical) for keeping the situation as it is?
Step 4 – Take 100% RESPONSIBILITY
- How am I creating this situation/problem?
- How am I allowing it to be like this?
Step 5 – Unleash BRUTAL HONESTY with yourself
- What am I pretending to not know about this situation?
- Behind what excuse(s) am I hiding, and what are the reasons for me doing so?
Step 6 – Elicit Solution-Focused desires
- What do I really want instead of this problem?
- How does my life look like without this issue?
Step 7 – Take action.
- What actions could I take to solve this issue?
- What steps do I know I must take to solve this problem?
- When will I perform those actions?
THE END RESULT
The goal of this 7-step process, though, is not really to solve the problem. Actually, it doesn’t really matter if you do it or not.
What’s important, instead, is your decision to spend time with your issue, and then take full responsibility for it.
Moving throughout this 7-step process, you’ve started to be the one in charge of the situation you are in—the one with the power to change things.
It’s essential to highlight though that in life, things might not always work out in your favour or in the way you want despite your good intentions and effort. But, the fact that you’ve decided to empower yourself by taking matters into your own hands, and start to take action to solve those matters, make you no longer at the mercy of other people or circumstances.
You are not anymore the one who avoids responsibilities, that always blames others, and that makes excuses and complains about how life is hard or unfair.
You’re now on the driver seat of your life. You’re always willing to respond to any situation with responsibility and in the best way possible. You’ve finally decided to live at the “cause” by being the protagonist of your life, which will allow you to achieve every possible success.
Main image by Chris Hayashi