Take back control in your life

From “I have to” to “I want to”

George is a department manager for a pharma company. Being in this position for more than three years, his daily business feels like a big burden to him. Squeezed between the top management and his staff, everybody seems to pull him in a different direction. He catches himself periodically thinking, “I must do this-and-that…”.


Rita is the shy kind of office colleague. There were several opportunities to “step out into the light” by holding a presentation in front of her community, but she never took the chance. Having missed this, she now feels miserable, without any courage or energy. She is ashamed of herself and doesn’t know how to turn this around.


Peggy has missed the standup meeting of her team fourteen times in the recent six weeks. As a rule, the team always has to wait for her, so often valuable time is wasted at the beginning of the get-together. Peggy says, she is not to blame. It is not her fault at all. She is highly creative in finding excuses blaming “the circumstances” (twice her car broke down, three times her child was ill, then there was this nagging cold she had caught…).


David is the typical “How could you…?” -type of colleague. He is an expert in making others feel guilty for a mistake they have made. David never sees any responsibility on his behalf, pointing fingers always at others.


Gabi has debts of more than 100.000 Euros. She continuously buys clothes, cosmetics and household appliances without considering her modest income as an insurance clerk. Several people have confronted her with this questionable behaviour. However, Gabi disregards them and keeps buying stuff that she can’t afford.


Can you identify with any of the five people and their behaviours?
I come across these periodically and often wonder what could be done to make a positive change.

There exists an excellent book called “The Responsibility Process”, written by Christopher Avery, and I want to link this blog to Avery’s literature.

In his book, Avery specifies five different negative behaviour patterns that we follow whenever we come across problems. Those of you, who have read his work have already sorted out what the patterns are for the above mentioned cases: OBLIGATION (George), SHAME (Rita), JUSTIFY (Peggy), BLAMING (David), and DENIAL (Gabi).

The initial part of Avery’s methodological concept is “intention”. He describes it as the first key that you need to have to take responsibility in your life and career and to live a life full of success and happiness.

A simple exercise on WILL
In order to lead a life that is more and more characterized by your own will (than by obligations or circumstances), it is useful if you follow the four steps of this exercise:

  1. Discover what you want
    Ask yourself: “What do I want to experience in my life in abundance on a daily basis?” Take an hour off, find a quiet place and write down whatever comes to your head, spontaneously. The more output the better. 20 lines are good, 30 to 40 are even better.
  2. Consolidate your answers
    Take a break, do something totally different (e.g. a walk outside) or sleep this over. A little later, have a closer look at your list and try to perceive patterns of similarity. Which of the stated experiences are alike and could be consolidated? Find and formulate new activities, if appropriate, thereby creating a shorter list.
  3. Prioritize
    Once your list is complete and “feels holistic”, you may want to order the activities from top to bottom according to your personal priority. Start by asking yourself: If I could only experience one of these things in abundance on a daily basis, which would it be? Which is most important to you? Find one and put it atop of your list.
    Then have a look at the rest of the list and repeat the prioritizing exercise for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. most important topic for you until your entire short list is prioritized.
    You may want to do this until you feel a little exhausted and with a sense of “It looks complete to me now!”
  4. Implementation in real life
    Make sure that you confront yourself with this list several times a day, e.g. by printing the list out and hanging it at a black board or your computer monitor. You could also install it as a background wallpaper on your desktop. Whatever you do with it, make sure that you come across it several times a day so that it remembers you about what you predominantly value in your daily life and career.

After I had done this lesson, following Avery’s excellent advice, I found ten aspects with the most important ones at the very top:

  1. Practice affirmations and positive visions of my future life
  2. Be useful for others in direct contact (e.g. coaching, consulting)
  3. Reflect in written format, design and sketch new ideas
  4. Keep my body powerful and flexible, move it
  5. Have fun and spread humor, laugh on my own and heartily with others
  6. Read and learn, wrap up insights in written format
  7. Hear music that I love – enjoy, dream and get inspired
  8. Good talks and bonding with my soulmate and partner
  9. Increase my fortune and reputation (sales, marketing)
  10. Professional interactions (like team workshops and individual coaching): plan/prepare and wrap up/analyze

This list serves as an important link to what I really want in life. Whenever, I feel that my priorities get a little fuzzy, I have a look at the list and obtain more clarity on what matters to me and what I expect to experience on any given day.

I encourage you to also take an hour of “quality time” off to create a similar list. It could be the beginning of a wonderful life in which you can truly state: “I know what I want in life. And I experience it every single day!”

How do you live MORE life? => Read on here…

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