The way you look and feel, how satisfying your life is, and how all of these things will be in your future depends primarily on you. Unless you are aware of this, unless you have an active sense of participating in and being responsible for your own well-being, you are unlikely to develop the motivation you need to make the best of your potentials in every aspect of your life. Self-responsibility holds the key.
SHEEP ARE EVERYWHERE
For most of us, the idea of taking full responsibility for ourselves is not easy to embrace, no matter how attractive it may seem in the abstract. This is especially true today. Our 21st century culture rewards conformity, not autonomy. The man or woman who spends half an hour a day exercising, goes away for a weekend retreat of meditation, or insists on eating a genuinely good diet is too often treated like some kind of nut—joked about, teased, or simply undermined by other so-called "normal" people.
The status quo—THE SHEEP—live their lives accepting all illness as inevitable and all misfortune as something beyond our control, to which we fall prey as “innocent victims.” Such beliefs are powerfully self-perpetuating. And, the values of wellness and self-responsibility are a direct challenge to conventional values.
As a result, each of us has to go to special lengths to assert a healthier and more rewarding way of life. For instance, at times we not only have to put up with contempt voiced by the media. We may have to go out of our way to pursue the simple goal of optimum health—choosing to buy real food instead of opting for over-processed supermarket fare. We may also have to excuse ourselves from irrelevant social commitments in order to do what we love most and believe is best for our own lives and the lives of those we love.
THE GOOD NEWS
At this point in history, a current of awareness of the power and importance of self determination, wholeness and health is beginning to challenge dumbed-down conformism. This makes it easier than it would have been twenty years ago for us to discover our own truths and live them. A steadily growing number of men and women have become determined to live life their own way and fulfil their full potentials. I believe that there is more support around us than ever before to help us do this.
There are some good books (and a great many not-so-good ones alas) which give useful information about real nutrition, meditation, exercise, and self reliance. There are a number of interesting programs and techniques that encourage personal growth. A few of the best-known include bioenergetics, Transactional Analysis, transpersonal psychology, Reiki and Alexander Technique. None give any final answers, but all offer modalities that can be helpful in breaking up old, inappropriate belief systems, habits, and behavior patterns pointing the way toward greater autonomy. I personally steer clear of organizations and “gurus.” I mistrust personality cults that surround leaders who claim to show you step-by-step the path to enlightenment or whatever else they happen to be selling. The truth is never to be found outside of ourselves.
FORGE NEW HABITS
Just as regressive choices and negative behavior patterns tend to reinforce themselves, so growth choices and choices for individual freedom, authenticity, and self-reliance make it progressively easier and easier for us to grow, discover our values, and learn to live our truth from the core of our unique essential being.
What in the beginning may seem a bit difficult—say, turning aside from eating something that looks delicious but does nothing to contribute to your wellbeing—gets progressively easier each time you do it. The rewards that honoring yourself and making growth choices bring—wellbeing, and a steadily increasing sense of personal strength and self-respect become more satisfying.
YOU CONTROL YOUR LIFE
Building self-responsibility begins with acting on the conviction that you trust yourself, not the media, the “experts”, or other people’s opinions. Behaving as if you are in control, and accepting personal accountability for your health and your life, is a simple but powerful way to make it all happen. It steadily brings the control you seek. There are some other things which I believe can be helpful in building self trust and self reliance too.
1. DECIDE THAT YOU MATTER.
Accept yourself as you are right now. People who are chronically ill or dependent on drugs, alcohol or non-productive behavior patterns have very little self-esteem. Self-esteem is not something that comes only after you have made the changes in your life which you decide to make. Making positive changes is far easier once you accept yourself and treat yourself with the respect you deserve right now. OK, so you’re not perfect. Who is? But you are just fine as you are. Then you are well on your way to becoming who you will be.
2. TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE.
Although you may be influenced by other people's ideas, by what you read, hear, or see—as we all are—ultimately only you can make the choices that are going to work for you. Where you are right now is the result of past choices you have made. Where you will be in the future depends on the choices you make now. Once you accept this responsibility both emotionally and intellectually, you discover you are no longer blaming other people or fate for your situation. Scapegoats get cleared away. You no longer see yourself as a victim, nor do you consider yourself impotent or inadequate.
3. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HAPPY.
It is a good thing to fulfil this right. It is not selfish, nor need it lead to disregarding other people's happiness. For when you are happy and healthy, you become free to share yourself, your abilities, your beauty—both external and of your spirit—with those around you. And the better you feel about yourself and your life, the easier you will find it to make choices that are good for you and ultimately good for others.
4. SET SOME GOALS.
Goals matter, both little goals and large ones. Not only are they helpful in accomplishing things you would like to achieve, they can protect you from falling into old habit patterns that no longer serve you. No matter what goals you choose, they should be your goals—things you genuinely want to achieve. Goals someone else has created for you or goals you believe you should want to accomplish are worthless. Goals not only carry a sense of purpose. They help you remain well-grounded. It is good to know where you are going.
5. CHECK OUT YOUR BELIEF SYSTEMS.
What has formed the habits and assumptions behind different decisions you make? Are the things you have always assumed to be true appropriate to you now? To the goals you have set? To your new sense of self? Or are they outdated? When you choose something, is it a choice you make because you believe it will bring you greater happiness, independence, better health and creativity? If so, go for it. If not let go of them. The more aware you become of why you make choices, the more free you become to make positive choices and trust them. Sympathy from others, or the temporary gratification of smoking, excess eating, and other negative habits is of little value compared to the joy and happiness which follow growth choices. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to face old habits of thinking and behaving and then discard them. With practice, though, it becomes easier and easier.
6. DECIDE TO BE ALL YOU CAN BE.
Then imagine yourself being everything you desire to be when you are relaxing of meditating. Enjoy the vision—the more clearly you imagine it, the more easily do your visions become reality. Periodically ask yourself questions about your life, such as "Does the way I am living, do the people I spend time with, and the activities I take part in contribute to my goal of becoming who in essence I have always been but never realised it? Or do some of these things need to be left behind?" "Am I choosing consciously to do this particular thing, or is it the result of unconscious fears or old belief systems?"
7. DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH.
Keep a sense of fun and humor about everything you do. The only reason to become healthier, more radiant, and vital is so you can enjoy life more. Pursued as a narcissistic end, self-determination leads nowhere. Pursued with a child-like sense of wonder and curiosity, the process can carry you to creativity, satisfaction and authentic freedom. It’s a road worth travelling...it’s your road.