It’s Your Life. Here’s How to Own It

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Photo: Martin Edic

There are no excuses, ever.

And that’s the first bit of advice here, and the most important. And it may require a bit of detective work.

There are basically two kinds of people on the planet. Those who make excuses and those who don’t. Those who don’t, own their lives, and as a result they are more present and more forward-looking in their perspective. But how do you know which kind you are?

Start by spending an entire day listening and not talking. This is a lot harder than it sounds, but you will learn something, guaranteed. But here’s the detective work I’m proposing. Listen, with one goal: to determine which kind of person the speaker is.

I’d suggest you listen to yourself, but…

We can’t.

We simply cannot be objective about our own voice. But when you listen, preferably to strangers, you will eventually hear that person who has an excuse for everything. And, if you find yourself making excuses, you might catch yourself in the act.

The reality is that few things that happen to you are someone else’s fault, in the long run. If they are, you need to reconsider your choices in life. I know, that’s a big one.

Ultimately, your life is entirely up to you

I like to drink. It’s something I struggle with. It would be easy to blame others. Maybe it was in my genetic makeup. Maybe something bad happened. Maybe I was shy once and it was a solution. Those are all possibilities. But maybe I just like it too much and I’m undisciplined about it.

This is just an example.

It is ok to analyze yourself, to try and understand choices you made long ago that don’t make sense now. That is called maturing. Btw, making excuses is nothing more than a way of putting off maturing, of avoiding owning your life.

Einstein’s insanity definition, and why we make bad choices

NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, is an early form of fast therapy. Doing things like curing phobias in minutes, rather than having years of psychotherapy. Understandably, this was not a popular notion among the established therapy community, though you would think it would be. Why? Because they charge by the hour.

What NLP proposes is that something like a phobia is about a choice, a choice you made once, but now use as your default. It’s like this: You are about to make your first plane flight. You’re nervous. That thing could crash and you could die. Logically, you know the chances are extremely slim that this will happen. But it’s there, in the back of your mind.

You’re driving to the airport and that fear starts to run rampant. Your imagination is a super power and it can go off the rails. In this example, it does, until the point where you are almost paralyzed with the imagined horrors of flying. You’re scared. That is the root of a phobia. One choice*, made once, but used as a default every time, keeps a person trapped on the ground, unable to freely travel.

*It may even have been a wise choice in that one circumstance, but may not be next time.

Cascading choices

In the example above, a single choice, made years earlier, now severely limits a person’s life options. Yes, it is an extreme example, but the choice to limit your behavior options because of fear or getting out of your comfort zone, is human nature.

The fast therapy for phobias involved demonstrating to your subconscious that it has other options when faced with a scary decision. The first step is understanding that you are not ruled by a choice made at another time in your life. Let’s circle back to the excuses.

When you start listening and identifying which excuse/no excuse clan a person is a member of, you are changing your perspective. You are literally stepping away from your normal position to get a better view. This is incredibly powerful. But how do you achieve this ability? Listening is the first step. The second step is something that is written about extensively here and elsewhere. Meditation.

There is a reason humans have meditated for thousands of years

I’m actually hesitant to write about meditation or mindfulness because there is so much information out there about techniques, lore, the benefits, and yada yada yada. But in the context of listening and stepping away from your normal perspective, it is a powerful tool.

We live in a world saturated in information. But equally saturated in experience, though experience is more challenging to acquire. I’m writing on an iPad sitting on my couch. In seconds I can find an answer to any question. That is information and it is devalued by its easy access. It requires no effort and since finding that fact you are searching for is effortless, you are less likely to retain it.

Which gets me back to owning your life.

Meditation is a way of forcing yourself to more fully experience the world and your place in it. It is strength training. The strength you are training is the ability to leave your endless thoughts and excuses and step back a bit, gain a different perspective. Most people rarely experience this. You can.

There are many ways to change your perspective, to see other choices you have not considered. Travel is one, especially solo travel. Just don’t spend the whole trip texting your friends. Instead, set the phone down and watch and listen to the world around you. You’re in a remarkable place. Own it.

A tip: Get a book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. There is a reason it has steadily sold well over a million copies since it was first published in the 1970s. It is not really about Zen or Buddhism, or enlightenment. It is a simple guide to one way to practice mindfulness. But it is really about owning this life you are in. Spend fifteen minutes daily with yourself, listening and watching from a few feet away from your normal point of view. That’s a form of travel too.

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