Do you know someone who as an adult, spends much of their time and precious energy pointing fingers and lamenting to anyone who will listen that their present and future circumstances are entirely out of their control? That someone or some other people are to blame for the position they find themselves in?
Yes it’s true that some of us come from impoverished neighbourhoods; not all of us have well-meaning, nurturing parents that treated us with respect and dignity as children. Some of us had every advantage too; good families with solid incomes, connections to people in important places that could and would mentor us and lay the plan before us to the land of milk and honey.
More of us grew up in the middle class. Our parents worked for a living, bought a home, took us on family vacations that they saved for throughout the year, put us in public schools and guided us along with what was right and what was proper. As we transitioned from children into teenagers and then again into young adults, these same parents helped as they could and as we allowed them to do so.
How we were brought up has a lot to do with how we see the world, and yes how the world sees us. People make assumptions about us based on our clothing choices, the neighbourhoods we walk or live in, the cars we drive or indeed the choice we make not to drive a car. Our skin colour, our ethnicity, our language skills, our friendliness or distrust, whether we’re loud, quiet, confident or cautious. We have biases and form opinions of others just as others do about us.
When we apply for a job we might think carefully about whether to include our home address or not in part because we wonder if that address would advance or curtail our chances of an interview. When we believe we’ll meet an employer, we think about our appearance, what we’ll share when they ask us to tell them a bit about us, and we think about the reputation of the company just as they think about the positive or negative factors in hiring us.
But back to the opening premise; I guess you can think of someone you know who blames their present unemployment or underemployment on the prejudices and opinions of others; the community into which they were born, their poor upbringing, their lack of connections, the colour of their skin, the religious beliefs they hold or the country of their birth.
There are a lot of frustrated, angry and bitter people out there; we can find them relatively easily if we go looking for them. Find one such person and they can probably introduce you to several more that they personally know; because like does attract like. And it’s easy isn’t it? I mean it’s easy to accept things the way they are, stop working to move forward, stop struggling for something better and just sit back and point at others as the source of our misery.
Taking responsibility not for the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but for doing something about things to improve our future; now that’s going to take work. Is it easy? Of course not! I’m not the first one by far to say that anything worth having is worth working hard for, but that’s the sum of it. Look, the thing is if you want a future different from your present reality; one that is better and has more opportunities to bring you happiness (however you define it), you’ve got to put in the work to make it happen.
You’re going to experience obstacles and you’re going to be tempted to give it up and believe that the good things in life were never intended for someone like you. Well, don’t believe it. Why not you? The only real limitations in this world are the ones we affix to our dreams and goals and these are the beliefs we hold; beliefs we can choose to keep or replace.
It doesn’t matter if we’re poor, insecure, mousey, shy, aboriginal, black, white or walking around with a grade 10 education. It doesn’t matter if we live in a trailer park or the wrong side of the tracks It doesn’t matter if we don’t have cable, can’t afford the internet, have never had a cell phone and haven’t got a driver’s licence. It also doesn’t matter if we’ve got a criminal record, we’re a single parent, our health is less than ideal or we don’t know the right people.
Here’s what DOES matter; the moment we decide that what could be is far better than what has been, and the decision we make to actually take personal responsibility for making changes that improve our situation. We have to make these decisions ourselves – and maybe we have numerous false starts; where we started to make some small changes but fell back into bad habits and making poor choices. Don’t feel bad and beat yourself up; you’re trying to change some longstanding behaviours here so start again. Start anew everyday if you have to until you see some small changes connecting and become new patterns of behaviour and more positive thoughts greet you in the morning each day.
Want a better life? Great. Make yourself accountable for making the dream of yours a reality. You CAN do this.