You Can Only Change Once You Accept That You're In Control | The BridgeMaker

You Can Only Change Once You Accept That You’re In Control

By on Oct 15, 2009


You have to acknowledge the truth – it is you who took the actions, thought the thoughts, created the feelings and made the choices that got you to where you are now. – Jack Canfield

Do you ever look at your life and wonder what’s gone wrong? You’re busy with trivia; you’re overweight; your home is untidy; your relationship with your family is suffering. You wish someone would wave a magic wand. You wish you could just start over. You wish that all the little things that have gone wrong for you – over the last year, or the last decade, or your lifetime – could somehow be undone.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt as though the life I’m living is pulling against the one I want to live. I find myself busier than I’d like to be, working into the evenings and at the weekends. I find myself suffering stress-symptoms.

I used to be able to blame external circumstances: a day job I disliked, financial worries, little time to write fiction. But now, I’m a freelancer, doing creative work that I enjoy. I have a lot of flexibility over my time. I’m taking the creative writing MA that I dreamed of doing for years. But I’m slowly realising that problems like busyness and stress aren’t just caused by stuff “out there.” They’re created by me.

Taking 100% Responsibility

Over the past six months, I’ve read a number of books about personal development and have followed dozens of blogs on similar topics. One theme that’s stood out for me (perhaps because it’s something I needed to take on board!) is that you must take 100% responsibility for your life.

Now, I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had a good life: my parents are highly educated, loving and supportive; I have a good undergraduate degree; I have a job I enjoy. Even so, I’ve found that it can be hard to accept that I’m 100% responsible for:

  • How busy I am. I’m the one who volunteered, or who said “yes”. I’m the one who didn’t ask for help.
  • My finances. I’m the one who took a rosy view. I’m the one who agreed to that holiday, or meal out.
  • My happiness. I’m the one who reacts to other people’s anger or bad moods. I’m the one who “doesn’t have time” to relax, unwind and recharge.

What is there in your life that you need to accept responsibility for? Perhaps it’s your kids’ behaviour, or the state of your kitchen, or your health problems.

I can’t give you a quick-fix list for this. I’ve found it tough to accept that it’s my actions and my emotional responses that create everything in my life – I know it on an intellectual level, but it’s still something I’m working on. Take your time over this: journaling, meditation or prayer can help you work through difficult and challenging emotions.


Once you’ve taken responsibility for everything in your life, understand that you’re a work-in-progress. Sure, you might need to lose some weight. You might have debts or other financial worries. You might not be in the career you want. But that’s okay: you don’t have to be perfect!

For many of us, guilt is a destructive emotion, leading to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth, and a lack of motivation to change. Don’t feel guilty about all the areas of your life where you’re not quite there yet. Instead, see these areas as opportunities for you to reshape the life that you want.

Taking 100% responsibility means knowing that you can change. You’ve created your current life – and you can recreate it by altering what’s present in it.

I’m a writer, and I’m used to the writing process of drafting and revising. It’s rare that a piece comes out perfect first time. Sometimes, it just needs minor editing. Other times, I need to cut out a whole section, add in something new, or make sweeping changes.

You are the author of your life. You can rewrite your current conditions. You can even rewrite your past – by looking at events from a different viewpoint, or by seeing how even negative experiences had positive effects further down the line.

Some affirmations you might like to use are:

  • I can do anything that I really put my mind to.
  • I am fully committed to this goal and I will achieve it.
  • I can change anything I want to about my life.
  • I am strong, capable and in control.

The changes you make don’t have to be to your external circumstances. One of the reasons that I’ve been feeling over busy recently is because I’ve taken on a number of voluntary activities at church. These are important to me, and I don’t want to give them up. Instead, I’m focusing on fully realising the worth and significance of these activities, and enjoying the chance to serve and contribute – rather than seeing them as yet more items on a to-do list.

What areas of your life do you need to take full responsibility for? How can you work on your self-belief so that you recognise the truth that you can change and that you do have options?

Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. She blogs about writing and life at Aliventures. You can find out more about Ali here.

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  • Thank you, all!

    Tristan – I was reading Success Principles around the time I wrote this, and I think Canfield’s emphasis on 100% responsibility really struck me. (Steve Pavlina writes about something very similar in Personal Development for Smart People).

  • Very beautiful posts and some excellent thoughts. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  • As you noted — it is not always easy for us to claim 100% responsibility — That is because we, as a society, have a habit of playing the “blame game”

    Gee – If I take responsibility – who can I blame when things go wrong?!

    I got comfortable with 100% responsibility when I let go of the words right, wrong, blame, fault and guilt. Now things happen and they are either appropriate or inappropriate for me — and since I am responsible – I don’t need those words blame, fault & guilt in my vocabulary.

    It was then that I realized how absolutely stunning and freeing taking 100% responsibility really is!

    Thanks for a great article….

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