The single most important action that any one person can take in order to improve their life is to look themselves in the mirror and say with one-hundred percent honesty, "My life is the way that it is because of me". One simple sentence...Eleven words to change your life forever. If you can absorb that sentence and use it to take responsibility for your life, you can begin on the road to improving your personal, professional, and overall situation. Once you do this, you will begin to see things in a new light, where excuses become irrelevant and the only thing that truly matters is execution and results.
The biggest reason that so many people are living an average life is because of their willingness to use excuses to replace action. Far too many people would rather create a list of reasons as to why they did not achieve what they wanted instead of accepting the fact that their failures are because off their own actions. If you set out on a New Year's resolution to lose 30 pounds in the first 90 days of the year, but you only lose 10 or 15 pounds, the first thing that you should do is audit your actions. Most people will say things like, "It's difficult for me to lose weight because my parents were big and I've always been overweight" or "My best friend promised to be my workout partner but she/he skipped the gym more then he/she went. It's her fault". My question to you is this: Did you exercise as regularly as you said that you would? Was your diet meticulous and planned? If you really wanted to lose the weight, why didn't you make your friend go? Or instead, did you make sporadic trips through the nearest McDonald's/Starbucks? Did you put the kids to bed and then tell yourself, "I'm too tired to work out. I'll do it in the morning before the kids wake up for school", only to not do it in the morning?
Maybe your goal was different. Maybe you told yourself that this was the year that you were going to take your business to the next level and open a second location. But now 10 months have passed and you're stilling at square one. What most people will say when asked about their second store are things like, "The time is just not right" or "I've had a lot on my plate at home the past few months".
Let's use an even simpler example. I come from a small town where a majority of the people were born and raised in the town. Having spent most of my life there, I've met hundreds of people who cannot stand to live in that small town, yet you rarely see anyone leave. When you ask them why, you hear answers (excuses) like, "I don't have the money" or "Well, my kids have always gone to school here and I don't want to make them move" or "I don't think I could find another job somewhere else. What would I do?" Every one of those answers are nothing but fears manifesting themselves into excuses. The individuals providing them know that deep down, they have no true reason for staying. They are simply unwilling to look themselves in the face and admit that their lives are not where they want them to be because of the decisions that they've made at one point in their lives or another.
Everything about your life is due to you and nothing else. From the job that you have to where it is that you live is a result of the decisions that you've made in your life, and the sooner that you recognize and admit that, the sooner that you can improve upon your situation. If you're constantly broke because you're 28-years-old and are making slight above minimum wage, you should ask yourself why you have no skills that set you apart from every other minimum wage working employee. Why have you not made the decision to improve yourself so that you can earn a little more money and provide a better lifestyle for yourself and/or your family? It's not because of your who your parents were or because your freshman biology teacher gave you a failing grade (which you probably deserved, by the way).
If you had a child young, that's not an excuse to live the rest of your life barely getting by without setting a positive example for your child/children. It's easy to fall into the habit of saying, "I can't go to college" or "I need my parents/friends to watch my child when I work, so I can't move away". These are excuses. Spend the time to find a way to make things happen for your life. You've created the situation, and if you want things to improve, you have to make them improve. There are resources available for parents to help them transition to a new job or a new home. Set aside one day to go and learn about these resources, and use them to help get your new life started. Once you've established yourself, pay it forward by reaching out to someone else that you know that could use those same resources and help them escape the excuses that once plagued you.
This is a topic that I'm incredibly passionate about because I've experienced it firsthand and I know how powerful of an effect personal responsibility can have on your life once you understand its purpose. When I was seventeen-years-old, I skipped 43 days of my junior year of high school, a number of people that I was spending time with were either doing drugs or selling drugs, and I had been charged with illegal consumption of alcohol as a minor. Needless to say, being placed in handcuffs and put into the back of a police car was one of the lowest moments of my life. I felt like everything was crumbling around me, and it would have been easy for me to blame other people for my situation. I could have blamed my friends for skipping school with me. I could have blamed them for getting the police called on us that night. And I could have tried to place the blame on the police officers that arrested us.
But shortly after that night, I realized that my entire situation was my fault. Nobody made me skip school and nearly get expelled for truancy. Instead, I could have gone to class. Nobody forced me to drink with my friends that night. Instead, I could have gone home or chosen not to drink. These situations, these low moments in my life, were nobody's fault by my own, and once I made a commitment to improve my life, it was incredibly liberating. I suddenly had a purpose and a drive. During my senior year, I enrolled in 6 dual-credit college courses, passed them all with the help of my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time), and enrolled in a local community college after graduating high school with 18 college credits under my belt. I went on to join the Illinois Army National Guard, where I earned two Army Achievement Medals and was nominated for Soldier of the Year in 2012. I also landed a job as a bank teller, transitioned to become an assistant for a financial advisor with Raymond James Financial Services, eventually earned my college degree in English, and am now a business owner, proud father, and a full-time Unit Supply Sergeant with the National Guard.
All of these things were done with the help of dozens of family members, friends, and colleagues, but the entire process started shortly after the night I was arrested for underage drinking when I was seventeen-years-old. It started with a decision to place the blame on myself, to stop making excuses, and to recognize that my situation was a reflection of my own decisions. I had to look at myself and admit to myself that, "My life is the way that it is because of me". But I'll tell you this; I've never once regretted making that decision. I'm not proud of the person that I was when I was younger, but I will say that those experiences helped develop me into someone who now cannot wait to wake up each day and achieve something great.
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