While I was traveling in Asia, I had a motorbike crash.
As I was driving on a highway in Bali, some guy randomly stepped into traffic. He walked in front of my bike, I panicked, and swerved to avoid hitting him. The bike flipped, I flew off, smashed into the pavement, and rolled around like a hot potato.
It was fun. And by fun I mean it felt like using a cheese grinder on my foot, before asking a local bike gang to work me over with metal pipes. You know, that kind of fun.
As luck would have it, this happened two days before I was scheduled to fly to a new country. So I spend one day wondering why my foot looks like Freddy Krueger’s face and the next day, packing, travel, and hopping around the airport with my luggage, trying to hold back my tears as the manliest man that ever manned this Earth.
In a situation like that, it’s easy to view the world in a negative light.
- “How am I going to fly while I’m still recovering?”
- ” I can’t walk properly, now I can’t explore the new city.”
- “Great, I’ll be alone with nobody to take care of me.”
A million “oh no’s” and a million “why me’s”. And I know you do this as well. Every time something unfortunate happens, you start looking for someone or something to blame.
If you had a string of bad relationships, you might conclude that all men or women are not to be trusted. If your friends have shown themselves to be unreliable, you may conclude that everybody is out to get you. If your family is unsupportive and abusive, you may conclude that you can’t rely on anybody in this world. When you adopt this mindset, it becomes easy to yell out “the world is not fair” or “the world doesn’t make any sense” or “the world just sucks”.
At the same time, you fail to recognize that the only constant in all of your experiences… is you.
Your life is the result of the choices you make
Mark Manson put forward the idea of The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy. He said that you are responsible for experiences that are not your fault.
At first, this sounds crazy. If something is not your fault, how can you be responsible for it? Well, it’s because “fault” and “responsibility” are not the same thing. Mark uses a story of how his first girlfriend cheated on him to explain this. While she was to blame for cheating on him, he realized he was to blame for a lot of things that made her want to cheat on him. In his own words, people usually don’t magically cheat if they’re happy. What’s even more important is this: He was responsible for dealing with his own emotions.
When something bad happens to you, many yell out — “Oh God, why me?” — meaning that they have somehow been faulted more than other people in life. And sometimes, it’s true. But whether your shitty situation is the result of a vengeful God or some simply asshole that crossed your path, the responsibility for dealing with the outcome of that situation is entirely yours. In other words, you need to accept responsibility for your own decisions.
1. Make Choices and Live With The Results
William James, the father of American psychology, had a pretty shitty and turbulent life. That is, until he decided that, for a full year, he is going to believe he is 100% responsible for everything that happens to him. During that period, he would do everything in his power to change his circumstances, no matter how likely that seemed. If after one year, he still had the same shitty life, he would admit he truly is powerless. As you can guess, doing this is exactly what made him well-known today.
We often think that we are making a choice only when we consciously choose to do something. Everything else that happens to us is caused by some external force, be it bad luck or an unfortunate event. But that’s not true. You are always making choices. Whether you fart, jump, or keep sitting down, you are making a choice.
You are making a choice every time you:
- Choose NOT to do anything.
- Choose to avoid or ignore something.
- Choose to interpret events a certain way.
- Choose how to respond to an event.
- Choose how to express yourself.
And so on, and so on. Everything you do, don’t do, say, don’t say, say a certain way, say using gestures, ignore, avoid, or interpret — everything is your choice. You are not helpless. It is impossible for you not to constantly make a choice. When you look at things from that perspective, things suddenly become much clearer.
You are not a victim of the world, you are an active player. For better or for worse, many of the things that happen to you — good or bad — are the result of your own choices. Whether to go out with someone on your own, whether to trust someone, whether to have sex on the first of 51st date, which people you surround yourself with, whether to read this book or watch YouTube… everything is a choice that you make. And every one of those choices has its consequences.
Sometimes, you fuck up. You make a terrible choice. Then you make a few hundred more of those. Once again, it’s impossible for you to not make shitty choices from time to time. Humans are fuckups by nature. When you do make a bad choice, however, you can choose how to move forward. Are you going to let the past cripple you? Or are you going to learn from your mistakes and improve? Are you going to be a broken person because of your bad choices or are they going to be the life lessons that shape you into a better person?
Nobody is perfect. Everything fucks up. How you choose to make choices in the future is what makes all the difference.
2. Shit happens, deal with it
When my best friend was 23, his girlfriend committed suicide.
It had nothing to with him. In fact, shortly before the deed, she said confessed that he “saved her” and that meeting him probably prolonged her life. However, she had deep, depressing issues she refused to face and deal with. She buried them inside until they completely consumed her. She developed a dark outlook on the world and really believed that the only way out of her misery is to take her own life. What she did not take into account is the wreckage she is going to leave in her wake.
Even though my friend was not at fault in any way, he was a broken man after that. This was the first girl he ever loved. This was someone he cared for deeply. And even though her suicide was entirely her choice and something he couldn’t influence, it still affected his life in a great way. It wasn’t his fault, but it was his responsibility to deal with the outcome.
As I’m sure you know, we aren’t the only people who make choices. Everybody makes their own choices and, sometimes, those choices affect your life in a bad way. Sometimes, your misfortunate is the result of your own choices that lead to this moment. Other times, shitty things simply happen to you because of choices other people make. What you can control is only what is in your power. And the only choices in your power are the ones you make.
My friend could have decided not to date this girl. He could have realized she has deep issues she refuses to accept and seen it as a red flag. He could have demanded she seeks help or he is going to break up, because she is going to keep on spiraling and eventually pull him down with her too. He could have made countless different choices that would have resulted in a different outcome for him. But he didn’t. He was blinded by love, ignored the red flags, and allowed her to pull herself down with him.
Someone who isn’t willing to recognize their problems or accept help cannot be helped. Instead, they pull other people into their own misery.
He made a bad choice. In hindsight, he could have asserted himself differently, but he didn’t. The girlfriend made her own choice and now my friend was left to, once again, choose how to proceed. He could allow himself to break and choose to interpret these events as something that broke him. Alternatively, he could interpret this as a bad event; something bad that happened to him in life, but something that will not change who he is or what he is going to achieve.
It will influence him, yes. But it does not need to define him.
Today, my friend is one of the strongest people I know. His mind is sharp and focused. His self-confidence is high. He can talk about these events with ease because he does not feel guilty anymore. He realizes that she was a troubled person who refused help and had a toxic influence on him. While a tragedy, her suicide was entirely her choice. Instead of allowing that event to break him, he notes that because he experienced it, he is stronger.
Nothing that happens from now on can be as devastating as that, so he is able to keep his confidence high and see problems and misfortunes as nothing more than “bad things that happen, that I deal with”.
You are responsible for the choices you make and the consequences they bring
You are not always responsible for the shit other people serve you. You sit down at the table of life, look at your plate, and gasp: “Oh, that’s a big pile of shit.” You didn’t ask for it, and you definitely don’t want to deal with it. But sometimes, you simply do not get the choice. Shit gets served to you and it is your responsibility to deal with it, whether that means walking away, cleaning the plate, or eating the shit in front of you.
You, and only you, are responsible for shaping your own life. Your friends, family, girlfriends, boyfriends — everybody around you is giving you advice. They either suggest or pressure you into making a choice they think is best.
But the thing is, you are the one who has to live with those choices and everybody they bring. You are the one who was to live with the career path your parents pressure you to take, even if it makes you unhappy. You are the one who has to learn to be social, even if you have a big group of friends. You are the one who has to cut out toxic people from your life, even if others don’t think they’re toxic.
Other people are not responsible for your life. You are constantly making choices and reaping the result of those choices. If you don’t like the outcomes, make better choices, even if they are harder. Accept responsibility for your life.
On my Asia trip, a lot of “bad things” happened to me. In the span of only three months, I’ve:
- Had a pretty bad breakup (while living together in a foreign country)
- Randomly cried on an airplane (following the breakup)
- Had two motorbike crashes (in Thailand and Bali)
- Learned someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer
- Lost 8 kg (18 lbs) due to stress
For every single one of those issues, I could say: “It’s not my fault.”
I could say that my girlfriend “became evil”, which is why I was stressed and lost weight. I could say that her behavior pushed me to break up and cry on an airplane as a result. I could say that people cut me off in traffic, causing me to crash. I could say that someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer “out of nowhere”.
But it’s not true. None of it.
The breakup happened because I didn’t have clear boundaries. I lost weight because I didn’t pay attention to my mental, physical, and emotional health (which is also why I broke down on an airplane). Even though I crashed because of someone else’s actions, I should have known that people in these countries drive differently and always cut everybody off. And the cancer diagnosis came after the person ignored the symptoms for over a year.
These things weren’t random.
While truly random things do happen, they are extremely rare. Most of the things you consider “unlucky events” are influenced by your own decisions. You chose to date that person. You chose to spend your money. You chose to quit school. You chose to work at that company. You chose to get blind drunk.
This doesn’t mean that other people don’t do bad things. And other people can most definitely be at fault for the bad things that happen to you. But even if somebody else is truly at fault, it is still your responsibility to deal with the outcome.
- If somebody wrongs you in some way, it is your responsibility to deal with the new reality. It’s up to you to choose how to proceed.
- If somebody is treating you unfairly, it’s your responsibility to stand up to him or her, learn to live with it, or remove that person from your life.
- If somebody traumatized you, it’s your responsibility to deal with that trauma, recover from it, and seek help. Your mental health is in your own hands.
Avoiding personal responsibility usually comes from focusing on blame and fault, instead of accepting the new reality and adapting yourself to it.
Start Here: Best Articles to Make Better Decisions
Mind of Steel is a philosophy that promotes building mental strength in various aspects of your life. If you’re not sure where to start, here are the most popular articles:
- How to Take Responsibility for Your Life. Bad things happen to everybody. Instead of placing blame on someone else, learn to take responsibility for your own choices.
- How To Actually Know Who to Trust. Trust is a tricky subject. It can be hard to know who to trust and who is not trustworthy. This article will teach you how to always trust the right person.
- Why Love Makes You Act Like an Idiot. Love and dating are like doing experiments: Sometimes, you accidentally find something amazing. Other times, everything blows up in your face.