One out of two people make a New Year's resolution, a promise they make to themselves to start doing something good (or stop doing something bad) on January 1st.
They decide that this will be the year that they lose those extra 20 pounds, put some money in their savings account, or finally open up their heart to find "the one."
And when they do this, they will finally be happy.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right?
Not to me ... I absolutely despise New Year's resolutions.
What's the problem with so many people searching for a higher quality of life?
Only 8 percent will ever succeed with their resolutions.
That's right ... fewer than one out of every 10 people will be able to successfully implement their changes, thereby turning their dreams into a reality.
And while these statistics apply to New Year's specifically, you can look around you and see the same thing all year long.
People (maybe you?) are constantly setting out to change their bodies, their habits, their jobs, their finances, their relationships ... change any number of things ... but they fail.
Where are we going wrong?
The "great turning point."
In his excellent book Focal Point, author Brian Tracy says,
"Among the most important personal choices you can make is to accept complete responsibility for everything you are and everything you will ever be. This is the great turning point in life."
In other words, you aren't taking responsibility for your actions. As a result, you're not able to make the changes you want to make.
He goes on to say that this one thing--this acceptance of personal responsibility--
" ... is what separates the superior person from the average person."
Make this decision, live by it, and go from average to superior? I'm in!
So what exactly does "taking responsibility" mean, and perhaps most important, why is it something most of us fail to do?
The power of taking responsibility.
Novelist Jennifer Blanchard explains that taking responsibility means
- Conceding that your life choices are up to you ... and you alone,
- Not blaming external forces--your boss, your family, your lack of money--for where you are in life, and
- Accepting (i.e., pointing your finger at yourself) and dealing with the consequences of your actions/choices.
In other words, you're in the driver's seat, and if you end up someplace other than wherever it is you want to be, you're the one who drove there!
The truth, perfectionism, and confirmation bias.
Why is it so hard to take responsibility and make positive changes in our lives?
One of the reasons people struggle with accepting responsibility is because it's hard to "accept the truth" about who you are.
This can be difficult ... especially if you're a person who strives for perfection in everything you do.
When you don't attain "perfection," it's easy to just blame someone or something else. After all, there's much less guilt or shame when you believe that whatever happened (or didn't happen) isn't your fault.
Another reason responsibility is hard to take sometimes is because of something called confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias occurs when you're faced with something that you don't want to be true, so part of your brain actually shuts down and comes up with all of the reasons this can't be true. It then starts back up, feeling "happier" because it was able to explain away (i.e., not take responsibility for) whatever it is that created the negative feeling in the first place.
Does this mean that you'll never be able to take responsibility and change your life for good, because your brain is working against you?
Of course not.
There are actually a few things you can do that will make taking responsibility easier ... making you the one out of 10 who can actually make--and stick to--positive changes.
"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of." --Jim Rohn
Alter your perspective.
Dr. Hans Selye, a man who's known as the father of stress research, once told a true story about two boys who grew up in the same home with an alcoholic and abusive father. Years later, he did a follow-up with these boys, who were now full-grown men, and he found that they were very different.
One of them had absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. He'd become an upstanding, respected citizen in his community.
The other one turned out almost exactly like his father ... abusive, alcoholic, bouncing from job to job, with no real priorities.
At the end of the interviews, he asked the two men, "How did you wind up the way that you did?" Both answered in the same exact way.
They said, "With a father like mine, how would you've expected me to grow up?"
That's pretty powerful because what that's saying is that they were looking at life from completely different perspectives ... one from full responsibility and one from no responsibility whatsoever.
Can you see which one of these siblings made the better "choice"?
Realize the value of your "bad" behaviors.
Studies have also found that negative behaviors can actually be positives in your life. In other words, there's some advantage that the behavior you want to change creates, or else it wouldn't be hard to change at all.
So ask yourself, What purpose is my bad behavior serving? What does it do for me that makes it so hard to let it go?
Once you realize what it is you get from doing it, how it benefits you, you can find other, more productive ways to get the same effect.
Does it make you feel more relaxed? How about taking a walk instead? Does it give you a sense of comfort? What about picking up the phone and calling an old friend?
If you want to improve your life, truly change it once and for all, it starts with taking responsibility ... for your choices, your actions, and your decisions.
Imagine who you can become (and what you can achieve) once you do.