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You Are the Common Denominator

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I recently took a Lyft ride to the airport. My driver was friendly and talkative. I’d hardly gotten my seat belt on before he started telling me about his life. Over the course of a 15-minute drive, albeit in a cheery way, he complained about his job, his previous job, his lack of financial security, his difficulty finding a non-crazy woman, unfriendly people, and to top it off, his mother. All with a smile on his face and while explaining several times that he was a “nice guy.”

I believe him. He did seem like a nice guy. A nice guy who was confused as to the root of his problems.

Most of us have an area in our life where we feel stuck. It’s like we keep falling into the same issues time after time, even when scenarios change. Maybe you seem to always pick the wrong friends or lovers or the wrong jobs. Although it seems like these scenarios keep popping up unrelated to one another, there is one constant throughout them all. You.

In your life’s experiences, you’re the common denominator. People and the places change, but you are always there. Which means you’re stuck because you’ve wedged yourself into the position where you consistently find yourself. You were there in the first bad relationship and the last bad relationship. Your issues aren’t the sum of a bunch of other people’s actions. They are the sum of your actions.

This could be a little unsettling. You might even take the idea as an insult. Maybe you think I’m being blunt, or even rude. Or, you could realize that I am describing the best possible scenario for you to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted.

I love to drive. But I can be a anxious passenger. I’m the passenger who nervously clutches the door handle and digs their right foot into the floorboard as we quickly approach the stopped car ahead. Right or wrong, I have this tendency because when someone else is driving, I’m at their mercy. I don’t know if they’re not slowing down because they don’t know the stopped car is there or if they are in the process of moving their foot to the break. However, when I drive, I am in control. I know that I’m aware of the stopped car and I’m aware of how long it will take me to apply the break and come to a complete stop at a safe distance. I make quick and confident decisions when I drive because I am in control.

Navigating through your life is a lot like driving a car. When you drive, you are in control and responsible for getting from point A to point B. Likewise, when you admit responsibility and take control of your life, you start at point A, identify point B, and work towards it until you arrive. When you relinquish responsibility of your life, you’re essentially letting someone else drive you. And they make take you to point C instead of point B. Why would you let them do that?

When you shift the focus of your current situation from the actions of others to your own actions, you are putting yourself into the driver’s seat. From there you are able to do the maneuvering necessary to get you to where you want to be. For instance, if it seems that you are constantly in jobs where you aren’t treated with respect, it is entirely possible that you aren’t asking for respect. Think of habitual issues and then think inward. What are you doing that is creating this situation?

It’s true that there are times in life when something will truly be out of your control. An oblivious person will come barreling through an intersection straight into the side of your car. But the most common scenario is more similar to driving in a blindspot and getting sideswiped. Yes, you could blame the guy who changed lanes without noticing you, but if you know that positioning yourself next to someone’s rear passenger wheel will likely land you in a blindspot, why would you drive there? In other words, even the situations that seem to be out of your hands probably aren’t.

Some people legitimately believe that they are powerless. Tragically, they don’t even realize that this is what they believe. Things that happen to you over and over again aren’t happening to you. They are happening because of you.

Life is a lot harder when you’re not in control. The answer is in you. You don’t have to look anywhere else. Take responsibility. Take the steering wheel and drive.

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