Q. ‘What do you mean when you suggest we take full responsibility for how our lives unfold? If I’m mugged am I responsible? If a meteor destroys my house am I responsible? If I get cancer is it my fault? Aren’t you just blaming the victim?
Hardly. I’m not asking you to take responsibility for what that happens in the world, only for how you respond to what happens. Big difference. And the more you focus on how you respond to the world, the more powerful you will feel and the more resilient you will become. If you can handle having your house destroyed by a meteor you will fare a lot better, won’t you? That’s what taking responsibility is all about – responding in a healthy manner to what happens in your life.
Q. ‘So, how do we respond to what happens? How do I respond to my house being destroyed by a meteor?’
By taking responsibility for the emotions you feel, and for your actions following the event. That’s a big chunk of what this book is about.
We also need to look for the part we played in an incident. We can ask ourselves, ‘What part did I play? What could I do differently next time? What worked? What didn’t?’
‘What part could I possibly play if a meteor destroys my house?!’
I’m not saying you necessarily play a part in your troubles; I’m only asking you to look for the part you played. It’s a good habit to get into.
Q. ‘What’s the point of looking for the part I played?’
When you are in the habit of looking for the part you played when things go wrong, you get good at anticipating problems, and solving them. By focusing not on your mistakes, but on rectifying them, you become competent. You develop that feeling that whatever happens, you’ll handle it. Which means, of course, less anxiety and increased core happiness.
Q. ‘If I look for the part I played every time something goes wrong, I will feel burdened.’
On the contrary, you will feel lighter and stronger, and far more resilient, because you will discover that the solution to many of your problems rests with you. It’s the people who refuse to see the part they play in their troubles who feel burdened, because they encounter the same problems over and over.
Q. ‘If someone takes responsibility for how they respond to an incident, isn’t there a good chance they will blame themselves?’
Don’t confuse taking responsibility with taking the blame. The word ‘responsibility’ means ‘a duty to respond’. This book is about how we can take responsibility for how we respond to Life’s events; it’s not about taking responsibility for Life’s events. Self-blame won’t get you anything but suffering. It’s a cop-out. To spend time blaming yourself is to avoid taking responsibility.
Q. ‘What if everything goes to plan?’
Just as importantly, the next time something goes right in your life, look for the part you played. You will discover techniques worth applying again, and discover that you are more skilled than you thought you were. That’s a great confidence booster, and another step towards developing that feeling that whatever happens, you’ll handle it.
Q. ‘Mr B, you say we should take responsibility for how our lives unfold. Does that mean we should avoid seeking help?’
Not at all. If you need help in life, ask for it. Finding help is a good way to take responsibility.
Q. ‘Are you saying beggars can’t be happy because they don’t take responsibility for themselves?’
If a beggar blames passers-by for not giving money then yes, the beggar is abrogating responsibility. But if the beggar accepts the refusals without complaint and without judgment, then as far as I am concerned, that beggar is taking responsibility. It’s about how we respond to what happens in our life.