You’ve been eating and drinking the same way for years. Exercising (or not) the same way for years. Working the same way for years. Sleeping (or not) the same way for years. And for all that time — in your 20s and 30s — it’s worked for you. Worked in the sense that you could do it without serious repercussions. Until one day.
One day, you start to notice some changes. In your energy levels. In how you feel. In your stress levels. In how you look. In this moment, you have a choice.
- Continue living as you have been for the last 20-odd years, and hope that its current impact on you will change?
- Shrug your shoulders, and say to yourself: “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s my age.”
My guess is that your choices will be split 50/50 between these two. I say this because it’s what I observe around me, day in, day out. I observe it, especially amongst menopausal women. When I challenge their choice — after all, I’m a menopausal woman, too — many cite experts who say this is to be expected.
You’re telling me to accept my lot in life? One that has me feeling less energetic, being less healthy and more stressed, and looking less alive as I age?
I call time on that.
You see, there’s a third choice, one that very few people even see. It’s to take responsibility for your own life.
What taking responsibility looks like
Taking responsibility means no excuses, no denial. It means accepting exactly what’s before you, no matter how unpalatable that may be. And taking action to make some changes in your life.
I get why the denial and excuses options appeal to you so much. And why the taking-responsibility one is of so little appeal. You’re human, and humans are hot-wired not to like change. You view change as a threat because it takes you into unfamiliar territory. Which your fear brain views in pretty much the same way as it views a saber-toothed tiger in your garden.
But there’s another wonderfully human feature you can use, too. Your heart.
Your heart is your instinct. That little voice inside you that knows the truth. The little voice that knows it’s ludicrous to expect a different result from doing the same thing. The little voice that knows that hiding behind the opinions of others is burying your head in the sand.
It’s a great idea to put your heart in charge of taking responsibility for your life. Because, unlike your mind, which thinks it’s great at everything, your heart knows the truth. Your heart knows it’s great at seeing things for what they are, and making decisions. And how — and whom — to ask for help. Plus, unlike your mind, it doesn’t get derailed by fear. Your heart allows fear its full expression. This prevents it from making you stuck and harnesses fear’s powerful energy. It then hands things over to your thinking brain.
Your heart made the right choice for you. Now it’s time for action. Specifically, for planning for action. And that’s your thinking brain’s sweet spot. It gets a boost from fear’s energy to get focussed. You find yourself able to see everything that needs doing to make the change(s) you need in your life. You know how the chunk the various elements into steps, and how to prioritize them.
Going forward, you’ll need both your heart and thinking brain. They act in tandem to keep your fear brain from blocking your progress. Because it will try, again and again. Remember, your fear brain likes the status quo. It doesn’t want you to go outside your comfort zone. And that’s precisely what taking responsibility for your life does. It pushes you way outside your comfort zone. As it must, because that’s where personal growth — the outcome of change — lives.
What happens when you take full responsibility for your life
When you choose responsibility over denial and excuses, your life blossoms. I’m not saying that everything becomes easy and all challenges disappear. Far from it. I’m saying your life blossoms because you realize how powerful you are. Your ability to overcome challenges grows with every change you make. You become much more resilient to whatever life throws at you.
How do I know this? I’m living proof of it.
In my late 30s, I was going places. My career was hot, I was married, had lots of friends, owned my own home, took fancy holidays. I had everything you could want in life. Yet… I’d long felt as though something was missing. As though I was here for more than this. My work life was pretty typical of someone in senior management in the corporate world. I worked long hours (50–70 per week). I had a workload that was unmanageable. I was made to do things that went against my values. I had to tow the corporate line. I was stressed out all the time and felt like a hamster in a wheel. I kept on making the same mistakes and getting stuck in the same rut. I could help companies out of their ruts, but I couldn’t seem to break free from my own.
Until life as I knew it came crashing down on top of me. I, superwoman, developed an autoimmune disease that ground me to an abrupt halt.
When I stopped feeling sorry for myself for being so debilitated, I knew it was decision time. I could continue as I was, lurching from flare to flare, and medication to medication. Or I could find a new way of coping with the disease. I chose the latter. You see, when I closed my eyes and pictured myself in my 70s or 80s, I didn’t see a sick person. I saw a vibrant, happy and active older me. That was the only image of me I had. So I had to find a way to change my life to make that image a reality.
I knew my lifestyle — how I was living — was behind everything. And I knew I wasn’t looking for a quick fix. I was looking for a sustainable solution. One that needed all my hard-won business skills and an obsessive focus. I went through my life with a fine-toothed comb. How I did things. What happened as a result. Why I was doing them in the first place. I looked into how my lifestyle affected my body, my mind, my emotional state, my spiritual state. No aspect of my life escaped my scrutiny.
This didn’t happen overnight. I spent more than a decade testing everything. I broke habits, made new ones, broke those, made more new ones. It was a circular process, not a linear one.
By the end, I had made myself virtually bulletproof. Resilient to the max. And my life had blossomed. I was happier and more self-fulfilled than ever before.
Here’s the hard proof. Today, I’m 55. My metabolic age is 30. The autoimmune disease I developed in my late 30s is in full remission and has been for years.
All because I chose to take responsibility for my life. My thoughts, my actions, my health, my fulfillment, and my happiness.
You see, I still have a LOT to do in my life. I have big dreams and even bigger plans.
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