I used to blame others for my life state when I was younger. I blamed my parents. I blamed my teachers. I blamed other kids. I blamed everyone and everything for my unhappiness, for the things that didn’t go my way, essentially, for all of my misery.
When I started my professional career and things were always challenging, I would still blame an employee, colleague or customer for every failed situation or stress I found myself in. It was “so and so who screwed something up and now I am in this situation.”
I would also blame loved ones for my stress or mood swings. In my mind, I would often play out the same narrative — “You put me in this mood”, “You ruined my day/trip/vacation” and “You prevented me from getting something accomplished I really had wanted to.”
But as I got older, I realized one of the most profound lessons of my life…that I am the only one to blame for whatever my life state is. And this simple change in my thought process has literally changed everything in my life and led to a much happier and stress-free existence.
I see so many people around me who blame everything but themselves for their moods or life conditions. I also see so many young people who are taught to find fault in others as an explanation as to why their own situations aren’t what they had hoped for. Especially in this era of social media where so many people seek affirmation from others in their “likes” and “follows” and, of course, that perfect, filtered photo. These are all forms of seeking approval and validation from others.
This total lack of “self-ownership” is one of the things that I think really holds so many people back from realizing their full potential and living a much happier life.
When you go through life reacting to every situation you find yourself in, whether it’s in everyday situations with other people or with the direction your life is heading, you become a passenger in your own existence as opposed to the driver. When you live in a powerless state, assigning power and blame to others, you become a victim your whole life.
I was on that path in my own life and decided I was outsourcing my life. So I decided to change it. And I discovered that all of the answers to “owning” my own life and living the life I always wanted existed within me — in my thoughts. And once I understood that, everything changed. Here’s how it worked for me…
- I control my own reactions to every situation. In virtually every situation, I recognize that I am not in control of the external situations: the people I am in contact with and their own reactions to every situation. But, I am in control of my own thoughts and reactions and so I am the one that determines my responses, not them.
- Whatever I think becomes my reality. I just have to keep my thoughts positive and focused on the things I want. A few years ago, I wanted to make a career change. It started with my thoughts focused on the direction of the professional life I wanted. And while of course I made the tough decisions, I did so with a clear, focused positive mindset. I realize now that if I want something in my life, I have to focus my thoughts in that direction and remain positive in the certainty of its outcome.
- I do not seek approval from anyone. When it comes to HOW I live my life, I don’t ask for permission nor do I seek someone else’s approval or affirmation. I simply am governed by my own spiritual path of always being kind, helpful and good to everyone and everything in my life. And knowing that is my life state, I can go through life effortlessly and without any real struggle to find my place in the world. I live in the place of eternal gratefulness and joy.
- I pass no judgment on others. Key for me was also learning how NOT to pass judgment on others. I see now that everyone has their own burden or cross to bear and it’s not for me to judge them, for then I am no different than others who judge me. I accept everyone for who they are and the journey they are on.
- I control no one but me. I used to be frustrated by people who’s actions and behaviors I couldn’t control. As a parent and happily married husband, this is particularly challenging for any family or couple, even the happy ones:). But understanding how to let go and surrender, has been one of the greatest gifts. And it’s truly the only way to live a true life where you own no one’s thoughts but your own.
I am blessed to have discovered Buddhism a few years ago and truly credit it for completely changing my life condition. It helped me understand that I alone am responsible for my happiness — not outside forces or conditions. And it has led me to really understand how to finally let go of my own sufferings and pain. It led me to see that I can turn any “poison into medicine” if I just controlled my thoughts and, of course, my actions.
One of the most beautiful parts of our buddhist practice is when people tell their own stories about how Buddhism has changed their lives. Often these stories involve tremendous hardships and the solutions virtually every time was that they simply took ownership of their thoughts, turned anger into appreciation, stopped letting others determine their sense of happiness, focused on gratitude and committed to positive thinking despite the situations they found themselves in.
I truly believe that you can achieve this life state with any religion or spiritual practice as long as you go from being a witness in your own life to the owner of it. From the passenger to the driver.