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  • 10 Words to Change Your Life

    When I was a younger man, I got myself into some trouble now and again.  Don’t let your imaginations run wild; I got into some small town, “You’re twenty-one years old and do some dumb things” kind of trouble, not the “We’re filing charges” kind of trouble.  Still, I may have been on a path toward a darker future if I didn’t wise up.  You can only dodge so many bullets…

    I can remember talking to my father the day after I’d gotten into some trouble.  I was lamenting my bad luck as we sat on our porch and I told him what had happened.  “These things always happen to me,” I said, self-pityingly.  “Just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    My father glanced at me.  “You don’t actually believe that, do you?” he asked.

    I looked at him sharply.  “Well, yeah.  What do you mean?” I asked.

    “Mike,” he said, “You’ve been making some really poor choices.  Trouble isn’t just finding you; you’re putting yourself in its path.  You’ve got to smarten up and realize that you aren’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time–you’re putting yourself in the wrong place, and it’s never the right time to be in the wrong place.”

    I’m doing this to myself.  It’s never the right time to be in the wrong place.  That was a revelation to me at the time, and I wish that I could say it was the last time I made a bad choice, but I was twenty-one, and still had a lot of maturation to do.  It was, though, one of the last times I had a youthful lapse in judgment; my father’s words stayed with me.

    You’re doing this to yourself.  That’s the lesson I try to teach young people now that I’m an old man of forty-one.  Stop asking yourself, “Why is the teacher picking on me?” or “How come my parents are so mean?”  It’s not “Why do I have to do it their way?” or “How come these things always happen to me?”

    The right question isn’t “why?”  It is, “what?”  As in: “What can I do to make things better for myself?”  In fact, I often tell young people that these are the 10 Magic Words That Can Change Your Life:

    What am I doing to make life better for myself?

    I understand asking “why?”  I really do.  It’s human to wonder about fate, or karma, or bad luck.  We often are tempted to blame others or our past or the way we were raised.  In my experience, often the best we can ever do is speculate as to the “why” we do what we do.  Instead, isn’t it a better focus of our time and energy to stop focusing on the past and start focusing on what we can do here, today, right now to make things better for ourselves?

    When we blame others or our circumstances for our present predicaments, we can feel helpless and hopeless.  When we focus on what we can control–our thoughts, words, and actions–we can feel empowered to take charge of our lives and move in a different direction.  I am not responsible for the things that you think about me–I am responsible for the things that I do and say.  I can’t undo the trouble that I’ve caused, but I can make better decisions in the present.

    Don’t spend another minute asking why bad things are happening to you.  

    What do you want?  What are you doing to make that happen?

    What am I doing to make life better for myself? 

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