Taking Responsibility
Ep. 154
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I remember wishing I would get laid off during the 2008 recession. I was to scared to quit so I wanted them to force my hand. Empowering, huh?

They didn’t. And I ended up spending another 7 years doing a job I hated.

On this episode, I talk about what it looks like to take responsibility for your life. Often we mistake responsibility with fault. They are not the same thing.

In this episode, I talk about difference between fault and responsibility, why taking 100% responsibility will change your life, and how to go about doing that. 

Show Transcript
I used to dream that my boss would fire me so that I didn't have to make the decision. Somebody else make this hard choice for me because I don't want to make it, right. Or somebody give me the easy out, maybe I'll fall into a bunch of money and then I can not work again.

Hey, welcome to Lessons From a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello, my friends. Welcome back to another episode. I am so excited to have you here. Uh, this is going to be a good one. We're going to talk about taking responsibility for our lives. A hundred percent of responsibility. What could be more fun? This is actually part of what I taught yesterday in the first day of the guide to getting unstuck challenge that I'm running. It's four free days of training. You can still sign up, even though we started yesterday. If you go to quitterclub.com/unstuck, U-N-S-T-U-C-K, you can still sign up and you will get a replay link that has all of the videos from yesterday. And then, you know, the one from today will go on there. And so you can watch it, but you have to do it soon because the replays will expire on June 25th, 2021. So if you're listening to this afterwards, you don't need to sign up because they're not available. But if you are listening to it the day this podcast comes out and you still want to do the unstuck challenge. You want to get unstuck and moving towards your life that you want. Your dream life go sign up quitterclub.com/unstuck. Okay? But the first thing in getting unstuck and we're going to talk about that today is really taking responsibility for your life. Okay? The entire challenge I'm doing is about being stuck because I hear so many people say like, I just feel stuck. I know there's more than this but I don't know what to do or there's nothing I can do or whatever the way we word it. But in our brains, we feel like, well, there's nothing I can do on. I have to be at this job or I have to make the salary. And just thinking that is what is keeping you stuck. Okay? It's not just semantics. I'm not trying to be picky and say like don't use the word stuck because I don't know for whatever, I don't like it. It's because words matter. As we talked about a lot on this podcast, your brain is a very, very powerful machine and whatever you tell it, it's like, you give it the input. You tell it what to look for and it will find it for you, right? It will filter out everything else and it will find that thing that you want. Okay. So when you tell yourself you're stuck, there's nowhere for your brain to go. Like, how can it look for a solution? You've already told it that there's nothing you can do. This is it. And so it's going to show you all of the evidence of why you're stuck. That's all it's looking for, right? The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself. I want you to think about this. Like, has there ever been a time where you've been annoyed by somebody? Like, there's something about like a quirk or something that annoys you and the more you focus on it, the bigger that annoyance becomes, like it becomes to the point where you can't stand being around that person. And the reality is that most other people that would be around them wouldn't even notice it. Or they would just think it's annoying for like a second, but because you focused on it, you make it a huge problem. And this is what I see happening with so many people that feel stuck is like, they've told themselves they're stuck for so long that there is no solution that because it's hard that there's nothing they can do. And so that becomes a bigger problem than it needs to be. So I want to get something clear before we kind of move on. You're not stuck. I mean, you know that, right? Like most of us understand that we have agency in our lives. It's a big thing to understand though, like you, we know intellectually, but deep down, it really feels like you don't, right, that stuckness feels so real. And I just want you to know it's not real. It's in your head. Okay. It's fear. When I first was quitting law and I was talking to somebody about how insane it is to me that so many people I know so many lawyers I work with or went to school with are absolutely miserable. And I'm talking like dangerous levels of miserable, right? Like needing to be on anti-anxiety or, you know, anti-depression pills or having substance abuse problems or whatever. I mean, just very extreme things that that level of stress may lead you to. And I couldn't understand why they would stay if that is what is causing, right? Like there has to be something else you can do. And I remember somebody telling me like, yeah, lawyers are caged birds with the door open and it was the best analogy to how so many of us are living our lives. And most of us build that cage for ourselves, ight. We build that prison, the doors open. And yet we're just convinced that we're stuck there. And I think that the first step is understanding that you're not, okay. You could quit tomorrow. And I'm not just talking about jobs, I'm talking anything. If you feel stuck in your relationship, you could get a divorce tomorrow or break up if you're not married, whatever. You could move states or countries, you could do a lot of things. And it's important to understand that, right? Like you could quit your job and go work at Uber or a go work at the grocery store or move back in with your parents, or, you know, a friend, rent a room off of Craigslist instead of renting your apartment or your house, whatever it is. There's a lot of things that you could do. You may not want to. And that's a perfectly good choice, right? Maybe right now in your life it's not the best decision to quit your job and sell your belongings or move back in with your parents or whatever the option is. Totally fine. Just know that it's a choice. Okay. Don't mistake a hard choice with not having a choice. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it requires a lot of managing your mind and getting things in order, but you still have a choice. And again, it's not semantics. I'm not trying to say like, you know, a lot of times people say, don't say I have to do this., say I get to do it. And sometimes that feels like we're trying to trick our brain. I'm not trying to trick you into anything. I just want you to really understand that when you say you're stuck, you're lying to yourself. You're not stuck. And part of that is, you know, destination addiction. And we talked about that in a couple of episodes ago, and it's this idea that like, I'm wasting time and I should be further along and if I was somewhere else, then I would be happier. And so we feel as though we're stuck, even though we are making progress towards a life that we want, right? Like we're taking small steps. We're not stuck, but it just feels like it because it's not moving forward. That's one aspect of it. But today I really want to focus on just taking a hundred percent responsibility for our lives. Okay.

And so what does that mean? Because I think a lot of times we instinctively become guarded and defensive and we want to talk about fault and blame. Okay. Like the reason we are where we are. And I want you to understand that there is a difference between fault and responsibility. We live in such a punitive culture that we think that taking responsibility means you also have to take on blame, right? Like if I say that it's a hundred percent my responsibility than any decision or anything in my life that affected where I am today was my fault. No one's talking about fault here. Okay. The analogy I like to give and I think it clears up pretty quickly is if you get hit by a car. So you're walking down the street and you get hit by a car, it's very clear that it's the car's fault. Okay. The driver is to blame for hitting you. And yet you're the one that has to do physical therapy in order to be able to walk again. Right. You know, you have every right to lay in that hospital bed and say I don't want to it's not my fault that I got hit by a car right. But then you may not walk. That's your choice. That's fine. But if you do want to get better, if you do want to heal your body, then you have to decide like, yeah, the circumstance sucks. Okay. The other person is totally at fault. And yet it's still a hundred percent my responsibility to figure out how I want to rehabilitate myself. It's the same thing with emotional wounds, right? I'm not saying that there could be a million reasons you are where you're at. Right? And for most of us, there are, there's tons of generational trauma and things that happen in our family. And you know, how we're kind of guided into where we are and the programming of society and all these other aspects that affect how we got to where we are a hundred percent. But focusing on that doesn't do anything for you. It doesn't change your circumstance. It doesn't change your feelings. It doesn't change your thoughts. That only happens by you deciding and understanding that that responsibility lies with you now. Okay. And so when I talk about responsibility, there's a couple of steps that I want you to really kind of be aware of so that you can take that full responsibility. One is that most of us start playing the victim in our lives without noticing it. Okay. And to be clear, I'm not victim blaming here. I'm not saying that like, again, nobody's at fault for the traumas that you've endured or the reason you are where you are.

What I mean by playing victim is that whether we're conscious of it or not, we are constantly waiting for somebody else to come fix it, right. It's like, I hate where I'm at. And I'll daydream about winning the lottery. Or I used to dream that my boss would fire me so that I didn't have to make the decision, right. Talk about empowering, but that's like playing victim in your life. Right? It's like somebody else make this hard choice for me because I don't want to make it, right. Or somebody give me the easy out. Maybe I'll fall into a bunch of money and then I can not work again. But like no one is coming to save us. And that doesn't mean that you have to be positive about everything and you know, be super happy that, you know, now you're taking responsibility. It's just a matter of like accepting that that buck stops with you, right? Like you have to decide what you're going to do with your life. You can validate how you feel. You can be sad. You can be mad. You can have all of the emotions because where you're at is likely difficult and we can do hard things, right. We can decide like this is difficult. I am now in this place where I've, you know, decades have kind of pushed me towards and I have to kind of get out of this now. And that's going to be tough. It's going to be hard. But at the end of the day, it's a hundred percent on me to do it. If I'm going to, if I'm going to make that choice. And if I'm not great, if I'm going to stay, totally fine, then don't tell yourself you're stuck. Choose to stay where you're at. We'll talk about that in a minute.

So the first one is just really understanding, like, where am I playing the victim here? Right? Where am I wanting to shift that responsibility to somebody else to come in and just save me? And this ties into the second one, which is this shame blame cycle that we go through in our minds. And it's usually when we are playing the victim or, you know, we want someone else to be responsible. We start because it feels so terrible to feel stuck, to feel helpless, to feel as though somebody else has that responsibility. We begin to blame other people. Right? My mom and dad didn't understand that I was creative and pushed me to go to school and do this. Like my counselor told me I would never amount to anything. And like, you know, whatever made me go into a trade school or whatever it is, like society has told men that they have to be the breadwinners. And I have this like complex about, you know, my wife making more than me, whatever the thing is. It's like, we, it gets rooted in anger and it feels good in the moment. Anger – it gives you this false sense of control. And that's why so many of us go from like sadness and disappointment to anger, because it allows you to feel as though you have some semblance of control, which you don't. And so it feels good in the moment, in the short term, but it feels awful over time. It keeps you in that victim mentality. It does not serve you in any way, right. And I've talked about this in a previous episode about clean pain versus dirty pain. And oftentimes our anger, I'm not saying always, but oftentimes our anger is dirty pain. So the clean pain might be disappointment or sadness that your career didn't turn out the way you wanted, right. That kind of, that future that you had envisioned didn't come to fruition and you can be disappointed about that. That's totally fine. But because we don't want to sit with that disappointment because if we just sit with it, then it comes to the question of like, okay, now what do I do? Okay. Now it's back on me. And that's a really big responsibility that we often don't want to take. We just shift into blame. We shift into anger or it's like, who can I blame for this situation? And then it kind of goes back and forth. It's this like cyclical thing where we blame other people. And then we shame ourselves, right? Why am I such a people pleaser? Why can't I stand up for myself? Why couldn't I just tell my parents I didn't want to go to law school? Why did… whatever. And then we heap on a lot of shame of the fact that like I'm now in my thirties and I have no idea what I want to do. Uh, I should have figured it out by now. I'm so behind. Everybody else has their life together. Right? And we create like this really awful amount of negative emotion for ourselves, instead of just feeling that disappointment, right? Knowing like, hey, this didn't work out the way I wanted to. And so when you're doing this, when you're playing victim, and then you're kind of going between this shame blame cycle, you're not taking responsibility. And when I talk about responsibility, all I mean is acceptance, right? Self-acceptance like forgiving yourself for whatever's happened. Whoever nudged you this way, whoever, you know, convinced you that the job you were going to do is like you needed this for a stable living, whatever. It's fine. They didn't know any better either. And you made that decision and you went down that path and now you can pivot, right? Accepting like this is where I'm at now. Whatever happened in the past doesn't actually matter. Right? I can sit and think about and regret decisions and blame other people and talk about all this like anger and all this other stuff. It doesn't change the fact that this is where I am. It doesn't change any of the past.

And so what is going to serve me the most is forgiving other people and myself, is not spending any more time worrying about whose fault it is or why this happened. And just understanding like this happened, this is my path. This was my journey. I know it might be a little woo hoo for some people, but like, and I'm not even saying, like, everything happens for a reason. It's just that it happened, right? Like let's not argue with reality anymore. Let's not wish away like we sit so many times like replaying our past. What if I had done this? What if I had, but you haven't. So let's stop wasting our time. I made the decisions I made. I'm now learning from them. I'm here today where I'm standing and nothing I think about now or fantasize over is going to change that position. So the question just becomes, what do I want to do from here?

Now in episode 128, I talked all about short-term and long-term goals. Like the difference between short versus long and part of this responsibility, taking a hundred percent responsibility might be understanding that in the short term I have to stay in this job, right? Maybe that's the decision that you make like quitting and going into working for Uber is not going to work because I have way more expenses then that's going to cover. Or, you know, I have these student loans and I can be mad about it. I can be angry about it. I can feel like shame for why did I take on so much debt without knowing what I was getting myself into? I can do all that. Or I can just stop and be like, this is the amount of debt I have. It's a number. How do I start paying it off?

And maybe that means in the short term, I stay in this job for two more years to figure out what I'm going to do. So that in the long-term I can start working on my dreams. I can go after things that I've always wanted to. I can explore. I can do whatever. When I say that you have a choice, I don't mean that you have to uproot your life right now. And I actually would highly suggest that you don't because that typically never turns out well. And so it's not about quitting today and running off and trying to like find your bliss because normally most of us don't know how to manage our mind enough for that. And so you end up in just like a panicked state of figuring out how you want to make money. But really understanding that you have that control, that you have time, that you can change the course. That you have all of the responsibility and all of the control. That if you don't like where you are at, you can move.

You can take a step and then another step and another step in the direction that you want to go. You may not get there this year. You may not get there in six months. And part of this is the patience of understanding that if you're going to write the direction that you're in, right? It's like it's just a 1% shift in the direction you're going like little 1% shifts will change entirely where you're at. If you think of the analogy of like an airplane, if you shift the nose of the airplane, one degree, it ends up in a completely different city over time, right? Over a long distance. It's the same thing with you. You don't have to change everything, you don't have to do a 180. But before you can do anything, before you can take any step, you have to accept a hundred percent responsibility. And I know in the beginning, that feels kind of awful and it can feel scary, but I promise you, it is the most liberating thing you can do for yourself. Because when you stop wasting your time, blaming other people and sitting in wishing for someone to come save you, you start realizing how much control you have over your life. You start working on like, how do I make the decision that is best for me right now? How do I stop letting other people dictate what I do in my life and what I don't? When I realized that like when I'm making this decision to please my mother it's still my decision and I'm going to have to live with the consequences. So maybe I'm okay with my mom being upset because at the end of the day, I don't want to hate my life in 10 years. So like, I'm going to have to work on that, like sitting with the discomfort of my parents not understanding the decision I'm going to make, but this is my life. Nobody else’s. I'm the one that has to live this. And so I'm going to decide every step of the way what my choice is. And I'm still gonna make mistakes. I'm still gonna make some bad choices. And I will still accept myself not beat myself up. I won't engage in the shame blame cycle and I'll take the next step. And the next step. I promise you that this is the first and one of the biggest steps in changing your life is understanding that no matter what other people do to you, at the end of the day, the responsibility for your life always lies with you. And when you can really understand that that's when you can start changing it.

So I hope you will start understanding how much agency you have. And, you know, the last episode I did was about living the most fulfilled life. And part of that, in that episode, I talked a lot about the things you can do to find joy right now, right? Small things, just one thing a day, whether it's off of your bliss list, if you haven't listened to that episode, I would go back and listen. And I give you suggestions of like what you can do. But even that, right, is taking responsibility. Understanding how much control you have over your own happiness, how much control you have to rest. Even if society is telling you you shouldn't, right, you get to decide, how do I want to feel about taking a nap every day or on the weekends? How do I want to feel about not doing anything and being okay with the fact that I don't need to be productive all the time. I get to decide that. Sure society might be giving me other messages but when I decide, like what is right for my life, that's one of my life changes. So I hope you all go forth and take that responsibility and understand that you're not stuck. And even if you're moving slow, listen, slow and steady wins the race. It's fine. You're still moving towards your dreams. All right, you guys, I hope this was helpful and I will see you next week on another episode.

Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, it'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at Lessons From a Quitter and on Twitter at QuitterPodcast, I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.