The Powerful Mindset Shift That Can Help You Change Your Life
99% of life advice comes down to the same truth.
If I had a dollar for every piece of life advice I ever came across, I’d write this article from a seafront house on the Fiji Islands. But the myriad of tips and tricks all come down to the same thing in the end.
In today’s world, you have almost endless opportunities. The internet has leveled the playing field with free information and courses. You can start your business or diet today. You can start educating yourself and change your life at this very moment. You can make your dreams come true. This is nothing new — you know that it’s possible. But do you actually do it?
Quite often, you don’t. It’s too hard. There are too many obstacles. You’re stuck with your job, your boss is too mean, your gym too far away, your company’s policies too rigid, your competition too hard and your couch too soft, yadda yadda yadda. You think you’ve got unique problems you can’t do anything about — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet, plus a bunch of dead guys. Whatever situation you face, I guarantee you someone on this earth has gone through similar struggles before. But if you look for an excuse, you’ll find one.
This view holds you back and keeps you stuck. I’ve been in victim land as well. I looked for excuses and blamed external circumstances for why I couldn’t do something. I wasted a bunch of money, time, and energy complaining without accomplishing much in the process. But once I shifted my mindset, everything changed for the better.
I can’t give you a magic pill that will solve all your problems. All I can do is tell you how to shift your mindset — and even then, you still have to do the work. But if you recalibrate your thinking, you’ll be miles ahead of your old self and everyone else who’s still stuck in their old ways.
Believing and Trying Hard Isn’t Enough
So what exactly is the problem in your thinking that holds you back, leads you to complain instead of act, and keeps you stuck without achieving anything?
It’s not that you think you can’t do it. I’ve seen people with no confidence at all fail at the same rate as show-offs who were full of themselves.
The real problem is a different one. You think you’ll achieve your dreams if you a) believe in them and b) keep trying hard. That’s a nice start but not nearly sufficient.
Beliefs are powerful but let alone they don’t move the needle one bit. Without action, there will be no result.
At the same time, throwing yourself at an obstacle again and again is admirable, but that doesn’t mean you’ll overcome it. For every successful startup, coach, author, or salesman, there are thousands of others who tried just as hard but eventually failed.
If these attitudes don’t get you where you want, what does?
The Mindset Shift That Turns Complaining into Action
What you have to do is simple yet powerful. It’s no fancy concept, no insider secret sold in $999 courses. It’s extremely basic, which makes it even more astonishing that most people think they can get around it.
Your life will take a huge upturn if you ingrain this realization into your head:
You are responsible.
Once you’re an adult, nobody will live your life for you anymore. You can complain about politics and pandemics, climate change, your genetics, sexism and racism, unfair salaries, and whatever else makes your life hard until you’re blue in the face. You can even have other people’s support, marching with you side by side. Yet, all that complaining will get you nowhere.
Don’t waste your time on fruitless endeavors. Put your energy where it moves the needle. Nobody will change your life for you. You’re the one who has to make it happen. And the sooner you understand that, the better.
But why do so many people not understand the significance of this and instead avoid responsibility and keep complaining?
They mix up fault and responsibility
Two weeks ago, a car hit me while I was riding my bike. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured but getting hurled through the air like the sticks I throw for my dog is something I won’t forget soon. Even though the accident wasn’t my fault — the car blindsided me — how I reacted was my responsibility.
I could’ve screamed bloody murder like I used to. I could’ve made a huge scene and called the police, getting the driver into trouble and keeping us all stuck there for an hour or more. Instead, I chose to stay calm — at least after the first few four-letter f-words left my mouth.
I dusted myself off, assured the driver I was neither hurt nor mad, brought my bike to the shop, and enjoyed the rest of my day instead of having it ruined.
Life will hit you in the face lots of times. Bad events will happen that aren’t your fault. Cars will hit you, your partner will be a douchebag, and your boss will promise you heaven on earth only to drop you like a hot potato when the numbers don’t add up for him anymore. These aren’t your fault. But how you react to them is completely up to you.
You can feel bad, complain, and let them ruin your day — or you can choose to react appropriately and make the best out of it. That’s the difference between your fault and your responsibility.
They’re scared to take action — and complaining feels good and easy
Responsibility is empowering but it’s also scary once you realize that you are the one responsible and your dreams are on the line. It’s much easier to push off this responsibility by complaining about policies and politics, the rigged system, or whatever the scapegoat of your choice is. Then, you just hope for your life to magically get better.
But it won’t. Nobody will come to save you. Not the government, not the police, not your parents. They might support you at times if you’re lucky — but ultimately, you’re the one responsible.
When you complain, you give up. You say “I don’t want to take responsibility, so I point out what’s wrong and wait for someone else to take care of it.” But nobody will take care of your life except for you.
Complaining feels god but is a waste of time and effort. It feels good but doesn’t move your life forward. Take responsibility, even if it’s scary.
They don’t understand their most powerful weapon
Stoic philosophers often view the mind as a citadel — an impenetrable fortress that can’t be conquered but only corrupted from the inside. As Epictetus, a slave turned philosopher, put it:
“It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control. Nothing is by its own nature calamitous — even death is terrible only if we fear it.”
You’re the only one who commands your fortress. And if your mind is strong enough, nobody can corrupt it. Mahatma Gandhi chose peaceful protest against violent suppression. Thích Quảng Đức soaked in gasoline and burned himself to death without batting an eye to protest the persecution of Buddhist monks in Vietnam.
Your mind is much more powerful than you think. Viktor Frankl turned his imprisonment and the death of his wife, his brother, and both his parents in Nazi concentration camps into a bestselling book and psychotherapeutic method that helped him find meaning in his life. Your mind is yours, nobody else’s.
When people say something frustrated them, drove them mad, or made them give up, they haven’t understood the power of their minds. You choose how you react.
It’s Your Life, Nobody Else’s
Life can be tough. It’s a long way to achieve your dreams and the path is littered with obstacles — and the occasional flower along the way. So what? There’s nothing you can do about it except walking the path nevertheless.
You are responsible. These three words are incredibly empowering. They put you in charge. They make you the director of your life. Say them with me. I am responsible. Good. Now go out and act upon it.
It’s your life — nobody can live it for you.
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