Take Charge of Your Life

Harnessing the Power of Personal Accountability

By Mark Samuel and Sophie Chiche

Originally published in Skin Deep, June/July 2005.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t gather your people and ask them to provide wood, prepare tools, assign tasks … Just call them together and raise in their minds a longing for the endless sea.”

The Little Prince

--by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Most people don’t realize they have choices. They think they are victims of their circumstances, their background. They think, because they were born in this family or with these handicaps, or in that country, they can or cannot do something. There are many examples where these truths have been challenged, and people rise up from poverty, people without legs finish marathons, and the visually impaired read and write books. Often what is missing is the picture we hold of ourselves. You have to be able to “see” or “think” or “perceive” yourself as a pianist before you can become one. Whether you think you can do something or you cannot, either way, you are right.

There are three steps that let you make the shift from victim to achiever: creating a clear intention, defining and refining your picture of success, and taking accountable actions. When put in place, you are close to accomplishing your goals.

Step 1: State Your Intentions and Set Your Goals

There is no accountability without intention. If I told you I ate a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake for lunch, nothing would be wrong with that. But if I told you that my intention was to lose weight and lower my cholesterol, then you would know I was off track. Intention is what inspires the blueprint of your new house, your new life. Intention is the launch pad to success. Before you hammer any nails, you need to know what house you are building; you need to define your intentions.

When deciding your intentions, be true to yourself. You can create intentions around any goals you want to accomplish. Your imagination is the only limit. So, what’s stopping you from achieving anything you want? Declaring your intention is the foundation for maintaining a positive focus and breaking free from the victim loop.

Step 2: Picture What Success Looks Like to You

One of my dreams growing up was to play on the high school basketball team. Before I entered high school, I went to most of the games. I would imagine myself making the game winning points. On my first day of school, I wrote a letter to myself describing the thrill of being on the court playing with my teammates. The letter supported me in achieving my dream. Whenever I got discouraged because my playing was off, I would take out the letter and read it to myself as a reminder of my goal. I got myself in shape, and read about the mental game and the optimal emotional state to be in. I didn’t let the victim conversation take over: the “but I am not so tall” and the “but I am not enough of an athlete.” I heard the voices, but redirected my focus to my picture, the basket, practicing with my teammates, the support of a coach, dribbling all the way home. I set myself up to make it happen, and I didn’t really care how long it would take for me to do it. I made it important enough to stay on it. I held on to my picture, and it carried me through. I not only played on my high school team, but I shined. I will never forget the game where I made the winning basket with only three seconds left on the clock. It matched my picture completely. It’s difficult to reach a goal if you don’t know what it looks, sounds, and feels like. The clearer the picture, the easier it is to accomplish.