It’s my turn to start from number one
trying to undo the damage that’s been done
And now it’s my turn to reach and touch the sky
No one’s gonna say at least I didn’t try.—“It’s My Turn” performed by Diana Ross
After working for seven years in a variety of high-stress, professional positions, I began an active search for greater personal and professional fulfillment. I decided to strike out on my own to start a home-based publishing company, writing and producing newsletters, magazines, and brochures. I thought it would be a dream come true. I would finally be calling the shots; I would be my own boss.
But I quickly became disenchanted with the reality of entrepreneurship. Although my business was successful by many standards, I felt passionless about my work. I was burnt-out and dissatisfied. I was working longer hours than ever before. Not only did I have to answer to myself, but to my twenty or so clients—each, in essence, one of my bosses. I was taking on projects just to make money, not because I enjoyed the work. To myself, I was not a true example of success.
About a year after I started my business, I went on a vacation to Jamaica. It was seven days of pure pampering and luxury. When the week neared its end, a feeling of dread drowned my spirit. I did not want to go back home to work.
Then, I saw the light. It came out of nowhere like a gift from above. I realized that I was the one who was responsible for my sorry state and that only I could change my situation. I began to think of ways to bring more pleasure and enjoyment to my life every day—instead of waiting a year or two until my next big vacation. On the plane ride home, I made new rules for my business, which quickly and miraculously changed my life.
I turned down work when I was already swamped. I stopped working by 6 p.m. or earlier every week night and stopped working on weekends. I kept at least one day a week meeting-free. I accepted only those projects that I enjoyed—and referred the others to capable associates. Most importantly, I took advantage of my freedom—escaping from the office for an occasional Friday afternoon movie, taking breaks to walk my dog and working outside on the back porch.
By letting my own values and priorities guide me, I felt more satisfied. I was actively creating a more fulfilling life. This shift in philosophy allowed me to pursue my passion and write my first book, Magic Moments, which shared with other busy women the secrets of my transformation from stressed-out to satisfied. I was—and am—living my dream. But it didn’t happen until I put myself in the spotlight.
Psychologists agree that it’s beneficial for people to take the helm of their own ships. In fact, experts cite the feeling of control as one of the components that contributes most to our level of happiness. Yet, often we follow other people’s rules without question. We may even feel a sense of security knowing that someone else is taking the responsibility. When things don’t go as planned, we can blame it on something or somebody else—like our boss, spouse, children, society, or the government. By living this way, we don’t have to be responsible for making our own decisions. We’re safe in our protective shells.
It sure is easier to abdicate responsibility than it is to claim it. But you’re paying a precious price. You can’t control the outcome if you’re not accountable for the choice.
The good news is that we don’t have to live like that. We’re all blessed with a priceless gift: independent will, the ability to make life happen instead of letting it happen to us. Each of us is the product of the choices we make. When things don’t go our way, it’s our fault that we let it get us down—not someone else’s.
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, teaches us, “Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’” Self control is the ultimate control. Personal empowerment, that wonderful feeling of self-confidence and commitment, comes from using your independent will to boldly choose your path—and take responsibility for your decisions, come rain or shine.