I recently read a great quote from Ben Franklin that I hadn’t seen before. He said, “Joy doesn’t exist in the world, it exists in us.” While the quote was new to me, the concept wasn’t. However, as I began to think it more, I realized that even though I “understand” this wisdom and do my best to live by it and remind others of it, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself living as though I’m simply a victim of the “things” that go on around me and in the world – especially the stuff I don’t particularly like, agree with, understand, feel like I’m on top of, or enjoy.
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 (i.e. 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, our environment at work, and more).
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 examples of 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 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.”
What if we lived our lives with a deeper and more conscious awareness of the fact that we get to create our experience of life at any moment? Imagine what our lives, our careers, and our relationships would look like if we stopped blaming our experience on other people or on external circumstances. We would free up so much positive energy and take back so much of our personal power.
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to own your experience of life in an empowering way:
1) Admit where 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.
2) 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 emotion(s) 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.
3) Make a commitment to fully own your experience. Declare to yourself and those close to you that you’re willing to take 100% 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 (within you and around you) conducive for you to enhance your capacity to live your life with power and responsibility.
Give yourself some space and have a lot of compassion with yourself and others on this; most of us have been trained, educated, and encouraged to live in “victim consciousness” – even though it doesn’t work or give us what we want ultimately. When we’re willing to tell the truth, express our real emotions, and make a commitment to live as designers of our experience – we can literally transform our lives in miraculous ways.
Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com