Each of us has the power to act. We were given free will and every moment of every day we have the capacity to exercise a choice. We choose everything in our lives. Every act is one of choice. Wherever you are—that is where you have chosen to be. Simply put, there is almost nothing about our behavior that is outside our capacity to choose.
Responsibility is what you take when you acknowledge that you constantly and continuously have the power to choose. “Blame” is what you give when you are trying to get out of responsibility. We simply are responsible for our choices whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not.
Because we have the capacity to choose, in every instance, we can begin making these choices in ways that are good and healthy for us. In every choice, I can do something that is good for me, or something destructive. Living a healthy life means making one self-care decision after the next—moment by moment.
Taking care of ourselves should be a life-long endeavor and our number one job. When I say this I am aware that it sounds like I am preaching selfishness and narcissism. When I do a great job taking care of myself—of making the decisions that fulfill my needs—I feel fulfilled. I feel great. I am no longer needy. In this great, fulfilled state-of-mind, I now have the capacity to give freely and generously—without asking anything in return.
The needy person gives so that others will give in return. This seldom works to the needy person’s satisfaction and because he gives with strings attached, he ends up feeling cheated and bitter. This is the essence of co-dependency—to give to others so that they will give something back. This really isn’t giving—it is manipulation. And, it is patently unfair to assign someone else the job of taking care of us or of fulfilling our needs. We each have a dream, a goal or a purpose. It is for each of us to make the decisions that lead us there. No one can do this for us.
So, how do I get started on the path of responsibility? Practice the following program until it becomes automatic or second nature:
Step one.: Say “I am responsible for my choices and for the quality of my life.”
Step two: Ask “how can I take care of myself in this situation?” This is the responsibility question. We are constantly meeting different situations, problems and dilemmas. To behave responsibly, we must ask ourselves this responsibility question.
When I exercise my responsibility—my power to choose—it makes me feel powerful. I can make a choice that affects me positively even if I am ill, hurt, tired, discouraged, or addicted. When I choose powerfully I feel great. This is the essence and foundation of mental health.
We are at a fork in the road all of the time. Taking responsibility instantly gets us out of feeling victimized and instantly leads to a feeling of power and satisfaction. Let’s get started with the next great choice and the one after that and so on. By doing this, each of us can fulfill the great gifts, skills, and potentials we have been handed as human beings. Once we get rolling in our responsible lives, there is almost no limit to how far we can go.
Submitted by Bryce Lefever, Ph.D. Captain, United States Navy. For more information on Dr. Lefever, please visit www.drlefever.com/pieces.html