An exercise in taking charge

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I had a workshop last week with a group of writing students on ‘how to take charge of your (life &) career’. The most important point I stress in the workshop is to take full responsibility for your own life, and not to give away your power to anyone else. It has been one of the biggest lessons in my life, and something I always keep working on.

One of the exercises we do in the workshop is that I ask the students about what  can stop them from achieving their goals. Usually a whole lot comes up; both outer (friends, family, financials, society or world related things) and inner obstacles (fears, preconceived notions of themselves, learnt behavior etc). Then I ask the students what of these things they can do something about, and what things they can’t have an impact on. It’s a great exercise, because it always makes them realize that they can decide what to focus on. That there is an actual CHOICE for them to make. One of the students wondered about that choice, and I gave them a challenge to do for a week. It’s an exercise I think I got from Stephen Covey, and his book Seven habits of highly effective people. In the book Covey points out that we, when using our language on a daily basis, give away our power when use words like ‘must’ ‘have to’, ‘or ‘need to’. Let me give you an example. ‘I have to work this weekend so I can’t spend time with my kids’. Instead Covey wants us to rewrite that sentence to: ‘I choose to work this weekend instead of spending time with my kids.’ I know, “choose” sounds so much harsher – but it’s the truth. And doing this challenge for a week when we rewrite everything so we ‘choose’ to do everything we do – we not only see how we blame other people or outer circumstances for our choices, but we also shine a light on how, when and why we give away our power over our own life.

So last Sunday I choose not to write a blogpost because I wanted to work (so I could meet my deadlines) and I choose to hang out with my family as much as possible. That were my priorities, and I think the more we can set our priorities straight, the more happy and fulfilled we can become – because then we make a conscious choice about what we spend our time on. And if we are not happy with that choice we have the power to learn from that and choose something else in the future.

So what are you choosing to do today?

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