There is a pervasive myth that has slowly spread in American culture within the past few decades, which is the sense that we are entitled to a successful life. Things like a successful marriage, a great job providing all the benefits we need, 1.3 kids and a white picket fence to boot – all this wrapped up within a life full of excitement and passion has become expected as the American way. But when problems come our way and we achieve less than this, we immediately begin to blame our parents, teachers, bosses, or the government for this apparent injustice. We never want to fully face the real source of our problems – which is ourselves. It’s not until we drop this sense of entitlement and take upon ourselves 100% responsibility for the outcome of our lives, will we ever achieve the success that we desire.

Jack Canfield, author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, taught a seemingly simple but very important formula that illustrates this idea of 100% responsibility. The formula goes like this:

E + R = O (Event plus Response equals Outcome)

Breaking down this formula, it basically means that your success or failure, your health or lack thereof, the measure of your relationships, and basically every outcome of your life, is a direct result of how you have responded to the events that have happened to you.

Looking at this equation, you can see that you have two choices:

1. You can blame the events for your lack of results

When failure comes your way, you can blame the weather, blame your boss, blame your parents, blame society, blame the economy, blame your lack of resources, or blame the government for your failures, but it’s not your environment or any external factor for that matter that limits you – it is your response to that event!

Blaming the events takes the focus away from you (the Response) and sets it upon what’s not in your control (the Event). When someone avoids taking 100% responsibility for their outcomes, they remove themselves from the equation and rewrite it as: Event = Outcome. They are thereby left with a convenient scapegoat for their problems. But with this faulty equation, they are only limiting themselves. These limiting thoughts and beliefs become roadblocks to their pathways to success.

It’s been said before that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you continue to engage in unhealthy eating habits, smoke and drink, waste time in front of the television, fail to build your relationships, spend more than you earn, and then wonder why your life has turned out the way it has, you are following this recipe to insanity.

Unfortunately, this is the recipe that most people end up embracing. They achieve less than optimal outcomes in their lives and then they begin to point the finger beyond themselves exclaiming that they should be entitled to all those benefits without putting a nickel of effort in themselves. This is the easy way out. If you want to be average, choose #1, otherwise here’s another option:

2. You can simply change your responses to the events until you get the outcome you desire

Looking again at that equation, we see that we have no control over the events of our lives. The one variable that we do have complete control over, is our response to those events or stimuli.

The animal kingdom is dictated by stimulus and response. When a certain event happens in their life, they respond in an instinctual way. There is no forethought as to how they will respond, they just respond. As I’ve written about before, we are unique from other creatures, in the sense that we have the ability to choose our response to a stimulus. This is exclusively a human endowment. In other words, we have free agency.

The bottom-line is that you are the one who has created your outcomes. If you’re not satisfied with how your life has turned out, then take a look at your past and realize that all your thoughts, words, and actions have resulted in your current situation. You may not be responsible for the events that happen in your life, or the environment in which you’ve been placed, but realize this one powerful fact – you are responsible for how you react.

If you want to be more successful, then respond in ways that produce more success. If you want a better relationship, then respond in ways that create better relationships. If it’s health and fitness that you want, then know that it is your response to what foods are available to you and what day-to-day choices you make regarding exercise that determine your ultimate health.

It may sound simple. Well, that’s because it is. But remember, simple isn’t always necessarily easy. Once you make this paradigm shift, you must then learn the strategies that help you achieve what it is that you want. For that, there are legions of personal development books, resources and websites (like this one) that teach the strategies that you need to be successful. Happy learning!

As always, you can contact me for any questions or comments that you have. Perhaps I may have an answer for you! :)

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