“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Your life is your choice, it is up to you to live it how you want. We are the navigator and the driver of the time we get on this earth, whatever choices we make we take our lives in our own direction. It is for this reason that taking responsibility for ourselves is so important.
We reach junctions every day in our lives that can change our course in small and large ways. We may not decide our circumstances that lead us to this moment but we can control our reaction to the now. The freedom that we have in how we deal with our emotions is a responsibility. Each day we face choices of all kinds; from what we eat, to whether we smoke, to how hard we work and to how we treat others. These choices add up to determine our overall quality of life. If we decide for instance to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, to drink 4 litres of sugary drinks a day and to eat fast food all the time then the outcome of this situation will be entirely of our own creation. Equally, if we decide to overreact to trivial circumstances, to not think before we speak and to not treat people with dignity and respect then the results of this will be down to our own decision making. Invariably either of the above scenarios will have negative outcomes for our health and mental well-being but fortunately we have freedom in our decisions, freedom to choose our actions and most importantly our thoughts.
This responsibility that our freedom of choice over our actions affords us can be overwhelming and it is easy for us to take the easy way out by blaming outside circumstances for our inner worlds. If we can be calm within then we can exude this calmness and kindness on the world even when it may seem difficult to do so. What we think within ourself will be reflected out and back to us as our perception of the world. The world we live in is undoubtedly interconnected as demonstrated by physics; with this in mind it is down to us to make sure our inner worlds are in order otherwise our view of the outer world will only be as good as what we see inside.
“As above so below, as within so without” – Hermes Trismegitus
An example that we can all relate to in one way or another is being insulted by someone. People will often say hurtful things to us throughout our lives but it is up to us how we react to these situations and how much pain we allow ourselves to experience. Being offended by insults is due to our ego being hurt, it is nothing to do with our true nature being offended. In his great book Meditations – Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius says that “Anger and frustration hurt us more than the things we’re annoyed about hurt us”. It is important for us to be in charge of emotions such as anger and frustration; if we do not take responsibility for them we let them eat away at us and destroy our tranquility. We also let these emotions heighten the way our ego responds to such input and we will be drawn further away from our essence. By not holding ourselves accountable we allow ourselves to be drawn in to the trap of becoming further attached to our thoughts and our ego which will make us more irritable, more easily offended, more reactionary and less calm and happy in our lives.
Buddhism states that the only person responsible for our mind is ourselves. When it is our mind that creates our perception of reality it is vital for us to take this responsibility to make our internal space more hospitable. We can be guided and helped by others but it is ultimately our choice as to what we do with advice. Good advice that we receive is someone leading us to the proverbial water but it is down to us whether to drink or not.
“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Having so much control over our world can be daunting but it is also one of the most liberating things that we can come to realise. When we start to see how we can control our reaction to anything going on around us we start to feel liberated. We can start to act out of calmness rather than from a reactionary, ego driven point of view that seeks to blame outside happenings for the way we feel inside.
We have a choice whether we act from a position of love, generosity or kindness or from a place of greed, selfishness or hate. The way we cultivate our mind and the decisions we make at different junctures in our lives will determine which side of the fence our actions will fall on. Through some introspection and by examining our thoughts we have the ability to shape the quality of our lives.