One of the most pervasive myths in the American culture today is that we are entitled to a great life — that somehow, somewhere, someone (certainly not us) is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time, and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist. But the real truth — and the one lesson this whole book is based on — is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live. That person is you. If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life. This includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings — everything! This is not easy. In fact, most of us have been conditioned to blame something outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like. We blame our parents, our bosses, our friends, the media, our co-workers, our clients, our spouse, the weather, the economy, our astrological chart, our lack of money — anyone or anything we can pin the blame on. We never want to look at where the real problem is — ourselves. There is a wonderful story told about a man who is out walking one night 4 Jack Canfield and comes upon another man down on his knees looking for something under a streetlamp. The passer-by inquires as to what the other man is looking for. He answers that he is looking for his lost key. The passer-by offers to help and gets down on his knees and helps him search for the key. After an hour of fruitless searching, he says, “We’ve looked everywhere for it and we haven’t found it. Are you sure that you lost it here?” The other man replies, “No, I lost it in my house, but there is more light out here under the streetlamp.” It is time to stop looking outside yourself for the answers to why you haven’t created the life and results you want, for it is you who creates the quality of the life you lead and the results you produce. You — no one else! To achieve major success in life — to achieve those things that are most important to you — you must assume 100% responsibility for your life. Nothing less will do.
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING
As I mentioned in the introduction, back in 1969 — only 1 year out of graduate school — I had the good fortune to work for W. Clement Stone. He was a self-made multimillionaire worth $600 million at the time — and that was long before all the dot-com millionaires came along in the ’90s. Stone was also America’s premier success guru. He was the publisher of Success Magazine, author of The Success System That Never Fails, and coauthor with Napoleon Hill of Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. When I was completing my first week’s orientation, Mr. Stone asked me if I took 100% responsibility for my life. “I think so,” I responded. “This is a yes or no question, young man. You either do or you don’t.” “Well, I guess I’m not sure.” “Have you ever blamed anyone for any circumstance in your life? Have you ever complained about anything?” “Uh . . . yeah . . . I guess I have.” “Don’t guess. Think.” “ Yes, I have.” “Okay, then. That means you don’t take one hundred percent responsibility for your life. Taking one hundred percent responsibility means you acknowledge that you create everything that happens to you. It means you understand that you are the cause of all of your experience. If you want to be really successful, and I know you do, then you will have to give up blaming and complaining and take total responsibility for your life — that means all your results, both your successes and your failures. That is the prerequisite for creating a life of success. It is only by acknowledging that you have created everything up until now that you can take charge of creating the future you want. “ You see, Jack, if you realize that you have created your current conditions, then you can uncreate them and re-create them at will. Do you understand that?” “ Yes, sir, I do.” “Are you willing to take one hundred percent responsibility for your life?” “ Yes, sir, I am!” And I did. YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP ALL YOUR EXCUSES Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses. GEORGE WASHINGTON CARV ER Chemist who discovered over 325 uses for the peanut If you want to create the life of your dreams, then you are going to have to take 100% responsibility for your life as well. That means giving up all your excuses, all your victim stories, all the reasons why you can’t and why you haven’t up until now, and all your blaming of outside circumstances. You have to give them all up forever. You have to take the position that you have always had the power to make it different, to get it right, to produce the desired result. For whatever reason — ignorance, lack of awareness, fear, needing to be right, the need to feel safe — you chose not to exercise that power. Who knows why? It doesn’t matter. The past is the past. All that matters now is that from this point forward you choose — that’s right, it’s a choice — you choose to act as if (that’s all that’s required — to act as if ) you are 100% responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen to you. If something doesn’t turn out as planned, you will ask yourself, “How did I create that? What was I thinking? What were my beliefs? What did I say or not say? What did I do or not do to create that result? How did I get the other person to act that way? What do I need to do differently next time to get the result I want?” 6 Jack Canfield A few years after I met Mr. Stone, Dr. Robert Resnick, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, taught me a very simple but very important formula that made this idea of 100% responsibility even clearer to me. The formula is: E + R = O (Event + Response = Outcome) The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it is success or failure, wealth or poverty, health or illness, intimacy or estrangement, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event or events in your life. If you don’t like the outcomes you are currently getting, there are two basic choices you can make. 1. You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O). In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, your lack of education, racism, gender bias, the current administration in Washington, your wife or husband, your boss’s attitude, the lack of support, the political climate, the system or lack of systems, and so on. If you’re a golfer, you’ve probably even blamed your clubs and the course you played on. No doubt all these factors do exist, but if they were the deciding factor, nobody would ever succeed. Jackie Robinson would never have played major league baseball, Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington would have never become movie stars, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer would never have become U.S. senators, Erin Brockovich would never have uncovered PG&E’s contamination of the water in Hinkley, California, Bill Gates would never have founded Microsoft, and Steve Jobs would never have started Apple Computers. For every reason why it’s not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded. Lots of people overcome these so-called limiting factors, so it can’t be the limiting factors that limit you. It is not the external conditions and circumstances that stop you — it is you! We stop ourselves! We think limiting thoughts and engage in self-defeating behaviors. We defend our self-destructive habits (such as drinking and smoking) with indefensible logic. We ignore useful feedback, fail to continuously educate ourselves and learn new skills, waste time on the trivial aspects of our lives, engage in idle gossip, eat unhealthy food, fail to exercise, spend more money than we make, fail to invest in our future, avoid necessary conflict, fail to tell the truth, don’t ask for what we want — and then wonder why our lives don’t work. But this, by the way, is what most people do. They place the blame for everything that isn’t the way they want it on outside events and circumstances. They have an excuse for everything. 2. You can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E) — the way things are — until you get the outcomes (O) you want. You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of yourself and the world) — and you can change your behavior — the things you do. That is all you really have any control over anyway. Unfortunately, most of us are so run by our habits that we never change our behavior. We get stuck in our conditioned responses — to our spouses and our children, to our colleagues at work, to our customers and our clients, to our students, and to the world at large. We are a bundle of conditioned reflexes that operate outside of our control. You have to regain control of your thoughts, your images, your dreams and daydreams, and your behavior. Everything you think, say, and do needs to become intentional and aligned with your purpose, your values, and your goals