When I was putting Kai to bed the other night, he asked, “Mama, do we get to choose everything?”

“No,” I told Kai. “There will be many circumstances that you have no control over and that you would not choose if you did.”

What we do get to choose is our response to our circumstances.

As Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

I like to take apart the word responsible, defining it as response – able or able to respond.

Response-ability means:

  • Treating what you love as if it were yours to handle, and taking a stand for what matters to you, come what may. Rather than only griping about the news, calling your legislators, showing up for town meetings, and working for justice.
  • Asking, “What can I do now to improve this situation?” Rather than complaining about the litter at your local park, organizing your community to do a cleanup day.
  • Committing to rise to the best in yourself. Rather than lashing out at your family members when they do something that upsets you, taking a pause and learning to communicate in a way you feel good about, regardless of their response to you.

Responsibility is the ability to choose our response in the face of oppression, injustice, and heartache.

Claiming responsibility is the first step to discovering the power to direct our own lives.

This doesn’t have to feel harsh. If you notice yourself falling into Victim mode, pause, witness this part of yourself with compassion, and notice its stories. If something heartbreaking has happened, take the time you need to grieve.

Then, get curious about what new story might serve you more. One way to do this is with the phrase “Yes, and…”

“Yes, that job fell through. And what is my next step toward the work-life I long for?”

“Yes, my partner left me. And how might I find love again?”

“Yes, this is happening. And I have a choice. What next step will I choose?”

So, what about you?

What are you struggling with?

Is there any situation in which you’ve been expecting someone else to fix things?

What might be different if you chose to treat this situation as if it were your responsibility?

Write down what arises in response to these questions.

Stay curious. Keep saying “yes, and.” Choose response-ability, over and over again.

If you do this, things will not always go your way. But you will be able to trust that you’ve done your best. You will create a life that is true to you.

Much love,

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