Every word in every language is nothing more than an agreement. If I say, “I adore my cat,” you understand what I have said only because we agree on the meaning of the sounds. What we may not agree on is the emotional charge of certain words. For instance, if you love cats then the word “cat” will invoke a pleasant emotional response in you. If you dislike cats then it will invoke an unpleasant emotional response. How you feel when you hear a word depends on if you relate that word to what you love or what you fear.
When I work with groups of people I frequently ask, “What do you feel when you hear the word, responsibility?” Without hesitation, they say things like:
It feels like a lead blanket covering me.
I feel like I’m about to be blamed for something I did.
A feeling of dread comes over me because I have to do something I would never choose to do.
In fact, only a few people in each group have a positive interpretation of the word, “responsibility.”
Responsibility From The Perspective of Being A Victim
As children we learn what a word means, and how to apply its meaning by observing the adults who raised us. If they had the opinion that being accountable was taking the blame, being punished for what you did wrong, or slogging through life doing what responsible people do, then we will too.
Perhaps you recognize this point of view. I know I do. It was once my favorite story. It’s a story that interprets responsibility from the perspective of being a victim. Being a victim was my true purpose in life.
I deeply desired peace and happiness, but I complained about everything. I blamed other people for the way I felt. I blamed my circumstances for my troubles. I was disappointed in myself and convinced I was in mortal combat with forces inside of me—a victim struggling against things I could never change. But later, when I began to recover my awareness, I realized that to have such a struggle meant there must be at least two (if not more) of me, inside me! And there was. The Creation and the Creator—the Dream and the Dreamer. In a bit of pure insanity I had been battling against what I had chosen, designed, and agreed to.
Choosing to Cross the Line from Victim to Creator
In the belief-change process there is a line in the sand—a point beyond which you cannot pass until you make one reality-shattering decision. Fail to cross that line and you will be forever stuck, vaguely aware of your limiting beliefs and unable to change them. Cross that line and you will experience a world far beyond your Island, a world brimming with unending promise and possibility.
How can you cross the line? It’s simple . . . but I warn you . . . it’s not easy. It’s not easy because there are no excuses, there are no exceptions, and there are no bargains to be made—ever! Here is the naked truth. Ready?
To cross the line you must become fully accountable for every one of your thoughts, decisions, actions, and beliefs.
To change what you have created requires awareness, honesty, and accountability. In order to modify anything that’s become a habit, you need to become accountable for your part in creating it in the first place.
How you have processed everything that has happened to you and the agreements you have made as a result was entirely based on choice. Things don’t always go the way you want them to and sometimes they don’t go well at all, but the decisions you make in those moments are what you have agreed to believe.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Everything
We think we are in control of so many things, but in fact we are not. All we have control over is where we place our attention and the decisions we make about what happens to us, or around us. We decide what things mean and those meanings become the stories we tell about everything.
If we are truly accountable for the stories we make up about how things are, and how we are, then we are not victims. As children, we are innocent and dependent. The adults are bigger, smarter, and stronger. There is no question about that, but the story of the victim is that they had no choice. Victim self-talk: It’s not my fault; it’s not fair; I can’t help it; is based on the point of view that it happened to me and I am powerless to change it, even now. If that is true, there is no hope at all . . . but it’s not true.
There is hope, and it is in the Promise of Accountability. No matter what has happened to you, in your reaction to it you decided what it meant, made agreements, and fabricated a story to support those agreements. At each juncture, you made a decision. Mindful or not, you said yes to a certain point of view.
Perhaps you have read about, or even know personally, someone who was in an accident and is now in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. Some people who have had this happen to them live a life of bitterness and anger. Others take on the challenge and find a new dedication to expressing their joy and gratitude for life. What happens to us is often out of our control, but we alone agree what to believe about it.
Up to now you have devoted an enormous amount of energy constructing your own personal version of what is true. You have created a story about how things are and each time you retell it, you invest your faith in it. But many times we don’t recognize that the story we tell acts to abuse us.
Any Trace Of Complaining Indicates The Victim Is Speaking
We don’t notice that we frequently take on the role of the Victim. However, if we listen closely, any trace of complaining indicates the Victim is speaking. For the Victim, their story supports the place where they are stuck. I can’t. It’s hopeless. I don’t have any other choice. It’s out of my control. I don’t know what to do. It’s her fault, it’s his fault, it’s their fault.
If you want to know where you have invested your faith, listen to the stories you tell yourself and anyone who will listen. What is interesting is all the little details of the story that prove you are right are not that important. What is important is the belief behind it.
One spring I was in Austria teaching a belief-change seminar and I had set up some private appointments. I had a session with a woman who only spoke German, so the interview was conducted with an interpreter present. The plan was that each person would speak a few sentences and then pause so the interpreter could translate. The woman was in her early fifties, nicely dressed, her brown hair pulled back in a bun, and she had a pleasant smile.
She came in and said, “Everything is all right with me, but my husband thought it would be a good idea if I saw you.” I asked her, “What can I do for you? What do you want?” She ignored the question and talked about her husband and his problems. I asked her again, "What do you want?" She stared at me with a puzzled look on her face, and again talked about her husband’s problems. I asked her the same question a third time. “What do you want?” She started to cry and began talking very quickly, barely pausing to take a breath. My interpreter stopped translating because she couldn’t keep up.
I didn’t understand what was being said, but I could see what was going on. Her facial expressions, her body language, and the tone and volume of her voice said it all. She was in her story. She launched into her justification of why she was stuck, he needed to change, and how it would never get better until he did. It wasn’t important that I knew what the sounds coming out of her mouth meant. It was the point of view of her story that was significant. She was a victim. Her story supported the belief that she was hopelessly trapped. Her investment of faith declared: This is the way it is and until he changes there is no way out.
The Promise of Accountability: Building New Beliefs
Your intent is the mastery of your faith. Whether you are aware of it or not, by your faith you have gotten everything you have really asked for. You have invested your faith by agreement and now that is what you truly believe.
The Promise of Accountability says you have come to where you are today because you decided what it all meant. You have come to where you are today because you agreed what to believe. You have come to where you are because you alone invested your faith. The Promise of Accountability is about recognizing all the actions you have taken to create and nurture the beliefs that are now obstacles to pursuing the happiness you desire.
The Promise of Accountability is good news and refutes the voice that states—This is the way it is and there is no way out. If beliefs are created by focusing your attention, agreeing with other people’s opinions, deciding what things mean, fabricating stories, and collecting evidence so that you are right about your stories, then there is no reason why you can’t employ all of those strategies to build new beliefs—this time with awareness and a clear intent.
These are the four steps to change a belief: Practice Awareness, Give Up the Need to be Right, Love Yourself Without Limits, and Create a New Dream, I offer one final instruction: Change your relationship with that emotionally charged word, “responsibility.” Embrace it for it is the foundation of your creative power. You have always had the power to choose something else. Something else to believe.
If you want to experience lasting change then become accountable for all the agreements you have made up to now, and reinvest your faith deliberately in beliefs that empower you. Cross the line and embrace full responsibility as the creator of the life-dream you are living. Just this one decision will make all the difference in the world.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. ©2003, 2014. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Toltec Secret to Happiness: Create Lasting Change with the Power of Belief
by Ray Dodd. (Previously published as "The Power of Belief")
About the Author
Ray Dodd is a leading authority on belief, helping both individuals and businesses forge new beliefs to affect lasting and positive change. A former professional musician and engineer with many years in corporate management, Ray leads seminars, applying ageless wisdom of the Toltec to life and business. For more information visit http://www.everydaywisdom.us/ray_dodd.htm