The Law of Personal Accountability

Good morning, Dear Reader. It’s a beautiful day in the Ozarks. I think Spring is trying to make a comeback after our freaky little day of snow when soft, but large flakes came barreling out of the sky and planted about a four-inch blanket of whiteness. Of course, it was all gone by three in the afternoon but not before it, I am confident, killed my recently planted sunflowers. This is ironic.

Almost as ironic as writing a blog post about The Law of Personal Accountability after being away from writing for nearly three weeks. I probably should stop committing to a weekly blog post for those to happen. But, here we sit, with a cup of coffee and my trusty little laptop, talking about such things.

Continuing our series on The 22 {Non-Negotiable} Laws of Wellness, we find ourselves on the second of the Universal Laws: The Law of Personal Accountability.

The Law of Personal Accountability states that it is we – you and I – who are responsible for our wellness.

Sure, there is genetics, but those don’t play into things as much as a choice does, especially when we look at the aspects of our life that are harmful or no longer serving us or our Higher Good.

As far as laws go, this one is the single most important one to me. I hate playing the victim card when adversity strikes and quickly (too quickly, maybe?) look for opportunities to take responsibility and learn my lesson so I can move on. I’ll admit to taking on more than my fair share of the responsibility sometimes, but at least I don’t point fingers and say, “All the terrible things that have happened to me are a result of someone else’s actions” all the time. Yes, some have created chaos in my life, and I couldn’t control or foresee the outcome amid those times. But I can at least come out the other side stronger, seeking how I contributed to the situation or choice.

Here is the most basic of areas where we all can take personal responsibility.

1) You are responsible for what you put in your body. This includes food, beverages, recreational adventures, people (Someone has to say it, right?) and what we tend to read, watch, or listen to. I recently committed to eating more healthy, and it’s starting to pay off. I can see it in my skin, feel it in my joints, and slowly but surely, the scale is tipping in my favor. However, yesterday was Saturday, and that means St. George’s Donuts. Just one, right? No. Yesterday I ate two. Two big-ass cinnamon rolls because, well, I had no self-control. I own it. Today, back to shrimp and veggies and lots of water. My point is: Unless you are in federal prison (and maybe even still then….), no one is forcing you to consume shit that’s bad for you.

2) You are responsible for who you allow to drain your energy. I’ve come a long way, Baby, in this area, but I’m still not as vigilant as I’d like to be. Setting boundaries with my time, turning off anything that ‘pings’ at all hours while others attempt to reach me whenever they feel like it, and simply saying “no” to activities with people I don’t even like are just a few of the ways we can protect ourselves from energy vampires. Actual physical boundaries are important, too. “But what if people get mad?” you might ask. Well, then they get mad. Most of the time, when someone gets pissy when you set a boundary, it’s a good indication they were one of the people who continuously tried to cross them. Harsh, I know, but I ain’t wrong. You know this, deep down.

3) You are responsible for your financial well-being. I don’t want to get into the scary tales of low-income workers, low-paying jobs, etc. I understand this is an issue – I lived it, too, remember? What I’m saying is that I always had a choice between saving money and having cable. A ten-dollar bottle of wine purchased once a week is $520 and change. In two years, I could have taken a nice trip to Florida or Vermont. I was burned pretty badly in my last relationship on the financial count, so I’m not going to lie that I may have overcorrected in this area. I’m not stingy, but I’m also not going to pay for more than my share. Nor will I ever let anyone – ever – have access to my finances unless I’m dead. And even then, I’ve worked with my attorney to ensure (as much as possible) that certain people are taken care of and others are kept out of the loop completely.

4) You are responsible for all behavior that contributes to your illness or your well-being. I’ve already touched on food choices (honestly, I haven’t missed wine as much as I’ve missed cinnamon rolls), so let’s say that my choice to clean my house and then veg in front of Netflix on a beautiful spring day was precisely that: My choice. I’m responsible for how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. I’m responsible for what I eat and drink and how much physical activity I do. All our choices either contribute to a healthy, balanced life, or they contradict it. It’s just basic math. One choice, a cinnamon roll (okay, two. Whatever.) on a random Saturday after a month of healthy eating, most likely isn’t going to kill me. But one every day? That might not be so good.

5) You are responsible for your response to stimuli. There used to be this communication model where, essentially, there was a Stimulus and then the Reaction/Respond. But some thought leaders have, in recent years, began to question that. In other words, they invite us to ‘practice the pause’ and take the space between Stimuli and Response and decide how we are going to react. More often than not, that slight pause gives me time to take a breath before I scream, “Fuck it and fuck you!” to allow me to say, instead, “I’d like to take some time to think this over first.” I know, right? Big girl panties and all.

We all know these things. So then, how come we don’t practice it more often? The Law of Personal Accountability isn’t about blaming anyone – even yourself, which I had to learn. No, this Law is more about taking responsibility for our choices and owning the outcome. The Law simply points out that our responses and behaviors, no matter the circumstances, are entirely within our control. I know it doesn’t feel like it at times; I am not in control of the actions of others – but my responses to those actions are absolutely within my control.

My therapist once told me, “You have a high tolerance for bad behavior,” and she was right. We spent a year – yes, an entire year – working on why I was so terrified of saying ‘no’ or standing up for myself. It took me equally as long to unearth why I would continue to allow people to neglect me, treat me like I’m an afterthought, or try to control me with manipulation and scare tactics. As it turns out, it’s deeply rooted in fear, and I work daily to overcome the anxiety that fear creates.

Read that again.

I. Work. Daily.

Me. I am responsible. Not anyone else.

So, dear reader, where are you placing blame? Are you eating one too many cinnamon rolls and then wondering why you can’t seem to nudge the scale backward? Are you a slug (hey, I’m totally a slug – no judgment here) on your days off and then wonder why your joint hurts or you can’t touch your toes from a standing position (Cough). Are you constantly missing deadlines because you are allowing interruptions? Not one of us is perfect, and yet, we can all find ways to improve our own wellness by taking on accountability, right?

As always, I’ll leave you with a song. You might wonder why this song on a post about taking accountability. Me, too, I guess. For some reason this song makes me think of a man who has finally owned his contribution to a breakdown in a relationship while also taking on the responsibility to keep another relationship alive. I don’t know. Maybe I just like it. I never promised to have all the answers.