I had a client once who had been sexually abused for years by her stepfather, and even when she finally told her mother years later, her mom refused to believe her. And yet, my client was one of the happiest people I’d ever met. She felt grateful for having survived and felt that she had the ability to choose to be happy and create a life that she loved, in spite of her past.
In contrast, I spoke recently with a friend who had been out of work for over a year. He had once made great money in business, but left it over 10 years ago to pursue the arts, which hadn’t made him much money, and now his savings were almost gone. “I might as well work in business again, but no one wants to hire me. It must be ageism since I’m 50.” I tried to gently remind him that he hadn’t been in the business world for almost a decade and that employers weren’t necessarily eager to hire him unless he showed new skills that were relevant today. My friend responded with, “The economy collapsed, which is why I can’t find a job. It’s not my fault.”
We tend to live in a victim-filled world, with lots of blame, finger pointing, and law suits. How often do we hear people say, “It’s my fault. I take full responsibility for it?” Take Enron and the various oil spills over the last few decades for example. We complain about our lives, instead of focusing on what we can do to create a life that we love. It is true that life can be difficult and none of us is immune to hardship. Viktor Frankl, in his famous book, Man’s Search For Meaning, wrote about the horrific experience of being in a concentration camp, where everything had been taken away from the prisoners. And yet Frankl wrote, they still had the freedom to control their attitude. And that realization set him free.
In order to claim your world stage, it’s important to take responsibility for your actions and choices. There’s a lot we can’t control in life, but we can control our thoughts and words and attitude. And doing so might just set us free as well.
This week, think about a struggle in your life that you could spin as a positive one in some way. For every lemon in your life, think about how you can turn it into lemonade. And if you can’t turn it into lemonade, maybe you can at least embrace the lemons you have.