By Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
There is immense truth and wisdom behind a simple statement that I came across in an episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass: “You are responsible for your life.”
On the surface, most of us would probably agree that we’re responsible for our lives. But when you take a closer look, it becomes obvious that very few of us are actually taking responsibility for the way that we live. We have good intentions—we want to live healthier, happier lives—but these intentions rarely manifest.
In January, we typically set resolutions: “I’m going to lose ten pounds,” “I’m going to quit smoking,” “I’m going to eat healthier,” “I’m going to go to the gym.” Then around two weeks later, we find ourselves stuck in our old routines. Why? Because it’s easier.
Thich Nhat Hanh put it perfectly when he said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
In many cases, we stay stuck in our old patterns because they are familiar to us and because we’re afraid of change. We continually put our goals off until “tomorrow.” Until we make more money or the kids leave home or the ever popular “I’ll get to it when I have more time.” This is a vicious trap that leads to a deeply unsatisfying life. I promise that this line of thinking will send you to your grave with immense regrets. Regret that you didn’t follow your dream. Regret that you always put everyone else’s needs before your own.
As Wayne Dyer says, “Don’t die with your music still in you.”
Earlier this year, a palliative care nurse revealed the top five regrets that her patients expressed before they died:
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard.
- I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Do any of these sound familiar?
I bet that in their final moments, many people who have died of a heart attack thought to themselves, “I wish I’d taken my doctor seriously and gone to the gym,” or “It really would have been worth the extra time to make myself a healthy breakfast every morning.”
Today, I’m asking you this: Is your life worth it? Is your happiness worth it? Is your well-being worth it?
If the answer is “yes,” then you need to start taking responsibility for your life. Stop blaming other people for your current situation. Stop saying that you can’t take care of yourself because you’re broke. Your life is worth the cost of a gym membership or a therapy session or a naturopath appointment. When I was on antidepressants, I went into debt by spending money on therapy, naturopathy, yoga classes, and a host of other wellness services. But guess what? That debt got me off antidepressants. It also made me a happier and more confident person, which helped me land a job and eventually pay off my credit card.
You owe it to yourself to stop making excuses and start living life like you mean it.
Albert Ellis once said:
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
In her Lifeclass, Oprah shared that we are also responsible for the energy that we bring into a room. Start paying attention to how your energy is affecting those around you. Is there a specific relationship that’s ticking you off? Get honest with yourself about how you might be contributing to the situation.
Even if you’re suffering from a serious health condition or are recovering from a traumatic event, you are responsible for how you perceive and react to these situations. It’s up to you to make the best of everything that you encounter in life—even tragedy.
What are you putting off until “tomorrow?” Are you pinching pennies to save for your retirement thirty years from now instead of taking your dream trip to Europe? Are you convincing yourself that it’s ok to stay at a substandard job because the economy is bad right now? Are you settling for an unsatisfying relationship because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re too old to find your soulmate?
Stop it. Right now.
Get up off your butt and take responsibility for your life. No one else is going to do it for you. When you leave this earth, would you rather feel immense regret or a deep sense of inner peace?
It’s your choice.
Cheryl Richardson put it perfectly:
“You are not your mother, your father, your history, or your cultural influences. You are uniquely and originally you. Be bold and daring and fearless and unconventional. Be willing to use your voice in service to your soul. Go on. Rock that damn boat. The wave you create might just change the world…”
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
*Photo by cosmic stellar