The One Word That Changed My Life

I was at a self-help seminar my Uncle Bob was teaching, and I shared how down I’d been after going through a battle with cancer and that the Prozac I was taking for depression just made things worse. I still had no drive. No vision. No real excitement about life.

Uncle Bob didn’t coddle me. Instead he challenged me. “How much responsibility are you willing to take for where your life is at?” he asked.

“Well, it’s not like I can take responsibility for getting cancer. That wasn’t my idea of a good time.”

“Got it. But I didn’t ask you to take the blame. However, what will you take responsibility for?”

Drawing a circle on a piece of paper, he put a line through the middle.

“Responsibility is the ability to respond,” he said. “Let’s say you take 50% of the responsibility for where your life is now.” He pointed to one half of the circle. “You still have no control over—no ability to respond to—the other 50%, right? Like someone could slap you in the face, and you’re not to blame for being slapped. That just happened to you. But . . . if you block the next slap, then you’re taking responsibility. You’re using your ability to respond—which would change the outcome.”

At those words I experienced a light-switch moment that would literally change the trajectory of my life. I realized how much control of my life I’d given up. How sorry I was feeling for myself. How I’d come to see myself as a victim—and victims are never winners; they are always victims. Even when I wasn’t being a victim, I was still flitting aimlessly through life, letting it happen to me instead of making it happen.

I didn’t want to be a victim, nor did I want to be aimless. I wanted to be a winner. More than that, I wanted to be a warrior. That became my metaphor.

Are You Ready to Take Responsibility?

In this excerpt from my new book The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, I let readers in on one of the biggest a-ha moments of my life. Learning to take responsibility—not the blame—for my own life empowered me to stop feeling like a victim and start being a warrior. Yes, I had cancer in my 20s and then depression. That wasn’t my fault. But I realized that I wanted to take 100% responsibility for the way I responded to it. I could mope about it and feel hopeless and helpless, or I could learn from it to make my life better.

How about you? Do you want to be a Brain Warrior who takes responsibility and makes your life happen, or a victim who has no control? How much power and control over the outcome of your life do you want? Take some time to think about your life and how much control you’re giving away to others. Have you been giving away 50% control, 75%, or even 100%? When you really examine your life, you might be surprised by how much you’ve relinquished to others.

To be a true Brain Warrior, you need to commit to taking 100% responsibility for your life. This includes being accountable for the way you think, feel, and act.

Here are 5 tips to help you get started:

  1. Pinpoint your out-of-control areas. In order to take responsibility for your life, you need to identify specific areas where you’ve given away control. Think of the major aspects of your life you’ve relinquished as well as the smaller everyday things. Jot them down.
  2. Stop blaming. Blame is an ANT (automatic negative thought) that makes you powerless to change your lot in life. If you routinely think things like, “It’s your fault that I…” it’s time to eliminate those thoughts. Instead of blaming, ask yourself what your role is in a situation and what you can do to make it better.
  3. Find your own happiness. Stop expecting someone else—or something else—to make you happy. True happiness doesn’t come from a spouse, a child, a big paycheck, or a new car. It comes from within. Put yourself in charge of your own happiness.
  4. Make an action list. Write down specific actions you can implement to take responsibility for your life. Try to come up with at least 10 things you can do.
  5. Start today. Why wait? You can start taking responsibility NOW. Look at your action list and start putting them into your daily routine. When you do, you’ll be able to create a life that’s more meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling. And ultimately, you’ll feel happier, more valuable, and more powerful. You’ll feel like a Warrior.

The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child is written by Tana Amen, a New York Times bestselling author, neurosurgical ICU trauma nurse, and vice president of Amen Clinics. In this compelling and candid memoir, Tana shares how she was able to find healing after experiencing a terrifying childhood of abandonment and abuse and how she has become a champion for others who have experienced trauma. It offers an inspirational look at what’s possible for anyone in need of healing and hope. Order your copy here.


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