It’s Time to Take Responsibility for Your Happiness: 12 Ways to Be Happier Now

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Oprah likes to ask people, “What’s one thing you know for sure?”  If she ever asked me that question, my reply would be, “You are responsible for your life. You are responsible for your actions, your reactions, and all your decisions. You are also responsible for your happiness.”

I’ve learned so much since launching Believe and Create … about our hopes, fears, dreams, insecurities, beliefs, and more.  We have more in common than you might think.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that some themes keep popping up.  In fact, one that stands out is the all-to-common habit of not taking full responsibility for our lives and handing the keys for our happiness over to others rather than taking responsibility for our happiness, too.

williamson quote you are responsible for what you think


When did we decide to NOT take responsibility for our lives and our happiness?

For most of us, not taking full responsibility for our lives is not a deliberate choice but one we’ve come to adopt without giving it much thought.  And many of us don’t even realize that we’ve surrendered responsibility, rationalizing that we had no choice in the matter.

Now, most people will step up and take responsibility for their own actions. What many of us tend to dodge is taking responsibility for our response to others’ actions. Comments that I regularly see include …

  • He’s preventing me from living my life the way I want.
  • I can’t get anywhere when she is doing this to me.
  • I’d be fine if it weren’t for them treating me this way.
  • If I’m nice, they just take advantage of me — so I can’t be nice. But that’s not my fault, it’s theirs.

Here’s the thing: when you blame others instead of taking responsibility, you’re relinquishing your power to change the situation.

I’m reminded of an anecdote that Wayne Dyer used to share in his lectures that illustrates this point. Dyer recounted the story of a patient who came to him for counseling many years ago. The patient blamed his mother for his problems. Dyer told the man, “Okay, next time you stay home but send your mother to me, I’ll fix her … then you’ll be okay.” Obviously, treating the mother instead of the patient is an absurd solution.

The point Dyer was making is that you must take responsibility for your life no matter what others do to you or try to do to you. As Dyer said, “All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.”

quote wayne dyer all blame is a waste of time



Are you making a huge mistake by not taking responsibility for your life and for your own happiness?


The truth is that others sometimes make our lives harder. We think if it weren’t for them, everything would be smooth sailing. Yet to say “because he or she or they did something to me, I can’t do this or that” is nothing short of surrendering your right to live your life the way you want to live it.

No one else can ever stop you from becoming who you’re meant to be – only you can do that.

Jim Rohn had it right when he said: “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.”

You can change how you respond to others;  You can decide that nothing anyone else says or does is going to keep you from living the life you were meant to live. It’s a decision that’ll serve you well your whole life long. 

take responsibility for your life and happiness

12 Power Strategies to Help You Take Responsibility for Your Life and Your Happiness

Here are 12 more ideas that will help you on your path to taking responsibility for your life and your happiness …

1. Stop taking things personally. Not everything is about you. If you keep taking every action or word that comes from another person to heart, you’ll be wallowing in self-doubt and insecurity. What anyone else says, does, or thinks does not relieve you from your responsibility for your own thoughts, words, and actions.

2. Happiness is an inside job.  If you’re not happy on the inside, you won’t be happy on the outside.

3. Personal responsibility means that you’re willing to accept the consequences of your behavior. You’re willing to step up and do what’s in your best interest, without stomping on the interests of others.

4. Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake. We all make mistakes. Own it and you’ll earn the respect of others and feel a deeper sense of respect for yourself.

5. Get strategic about your life rather than living in the spur of the moment. Not everything you do has to be precisely planned in advance, but a little forethought can save a lot of regret.

6. Think big-picture. What do you really want from your life? The answer won’t be in your words, it’ll be evident in your actions. Align your actions with your deepest desires.

7. Take responsibility for handling your emotions appropriately. The goal is not to squelch your emotions, they exist for a very good reason. The goal is to manage them and not allow them to become masters that dictate how you behave. 

8. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control your response.  You’re going to go through some pretty unfair things in your life.  How do I know? Because everyone does. The grace with which you handle those situations will largely determine how satisfied you are with your life.

9. There are lessons to be gained from difficult times. Just as you are likely to experience unfairness in your life, difficult times will knock at your door, too. Instead of focusing on the pain, look for the lessons embedded in the challenges.

10. Life will, from time to time, scare you. Don’t dodge the fear. You’re a human being and fear is a very appropriate emotional response to many of the things you will face in your life. Instead of blaming someone else for making you scared, consider the situation an invitation to stare fear down and win. Every time you do, you’ll grow stronger and stronger.

11. Powerlessness feels awful. If you had a choice to feel powerful or powerless, which would you choose? Powerful, right? When you fail to take responsibility for your life, you are choosing to feel powerless. It won’t ever feel good.

12. Ditch the Excuses!  Dr. Wayne Dyer (I absolutely loved his work!) wrote a book called Excuses Begone. He also did a fabulous PBS special on it (you can watch clips from it on YouTube).  In his research, Dyer noted 17 different excuses that we tend to turn to to explain why we’re not living the happy lives we want to live.

Taking responsibility for your life and your happiness means learning to let go of all the excuses you’ve been making about why you can’t have what you want. I’m not saying that some of those excuses aren’t grounded in fact, what I’m saying is that you have to find a way beyond any excuse you come up with. Only you can take responsibility for getting beyond the obstacles you face, no one else will do it for you.

Final Thought …

Remember, there is great pain to be experienced from not taking responsibility for your life, and great joy to be found from stepping up to the challenge of taking unwavering responsibility for your life. Choose wisely.

Quotes on Taking Responsibility for Your Life and Your Happiness

It is only when you take responsibility for your life that you discover how powerful you really are.

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

When you think everything is someone else's fault, you suffer a lot. When you realize everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.

Taking responsibility for oneself is by definition an act of kindness.

The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.

You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.

Personal responsibility is not only recognizing the errors of our ways. Personal responsibility lies in our willingness and ability to correct those errors individually and collectively

11 thoughts on “It’s Time to Take Responsibility for Your Happiness: 12 Ways to Be Happier Now”

  1. As much as I would like to take personal responsibility for my life, I just can’t do it. For as far back as I can remember, my life was never truly mine — thanks to being misdiagnosed as having both borderline personality disorder as well as narcissistic personality disorder, my mother made it her personal mission to make me “normal”.

    In the process of doing so, I somehow managed to also add Bipolar Type II, ADD as well as get cancer twice — once requiring surgery to remove a 7cm tumor and the second forcing me to race into 3 cycles of BEP chemotherapy totally resetting my brain back to when I was 5 years old.

    Sadly every time I have tried to take control of my life and started to gain confidence, my parents were there eager to take it from me. I was the victim of class bullies and was a slightly above average student in school until college (probably could have done better if I were medicated when I was going to school), but when most parents started to provide their children the ability to choose what they wanted to do in life, they forced me to go to to a local school (one that I quickly established a negative reputation by nearly everyone) and made me major in something that I did not like otherwise I would have had to get a job. I don’t know how I did, but I managed to barely graduate. Since then, I had a career that was nothing short of hell on earth. When I finally managed to find the field that I liked, it started a chain reaction of events that still negatively impact me nearly 20 years later.

    I am now in my 40s and as much as I want to take control of my life and make things better, I just can’t do it. I am depressed most of the time and when I am not, I am either unable to focus or are am extremely angry with everyone and everything around me. At this point, I have my doubts if I will live to see my 50th birthday — and if I don’t, maybe that’s all the better since some people truly don’t deserve happiness – and I am one of them.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Tom — with great respect and much love — I feel the pain in your note. First, let me say, if you are in crisis and feel you’ve reached the end of the rope, contact the Suicide Prevention hotline NOW! The # is 1-800-273-8255

      Any advice or comforting words I can offer are NOT a substitute for medical help or therapy by trained professionals.

      Next, let me add a few words that might offer some perspective. The situations you’ve been through are real. Life has been extremely tough for you. I won’t argue that point — it’s clear you’ve faced many, many uphill battles, including serious medical battles that impacted your brain’s function.

      What stands out in your note is that it is your THINKING that is keeping you down. Because your brain has been injured, your ability to process may or may not be 100% … again … I cannot offer medical advice, so make sure you’re getting the support you need from professionals there.

      What I can tell you is that ALL people deserve happiness, including you. And, you’re the only one that can give it to you. Blaming anyone or anything in the past will never, ever give you the peace and joy in life that you so desperately seek. At the end of the day, each of us has to take responsibility for our lives. We can’t change the past, but we can shape our future.

      It’s convenient to have others to blame because then you don’t have to take responsibility – but it never helps you get out of your situation. Even if others did keep you down (parents often inadvertently do this to their children, incorrectly thinking they are helping), that’s the past. This is now and it is YOUR obligation to take the wheel of your life now.

      You’re in your forties, so no matter what happened in your past with your parents, it’s all on you now. That anger and depression that is swelling up within you is a call for help. Heed the call. I strongly suggest seeing a therapist or spiritual counselor to unpack these feelings and frustrations you’re going through, and to create new life strategies that will support you so that you don’t feel so burdened and hopeless. The goal is not to fight the feelings, but to create new habits that will lift you up so that life finally looks and feels good to you. You DESERVE to have peace and contentment in your life. You DESERVE to feel joy. It is your birthright. The journey may be long, and you may stumble on the way a million times, but you only fail if you stop getting up. Sometimes we feel we want to give up, but deep, deep down we don’t — we just don’t know what to do to get back up. I encourage you to muster the strength to keep getting up.

      There’s one book that has helped me immensely in my time of great despair: How to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. In fact, in my times of despair (which have taken me all the way down to not wanting to live … so I CAN relate to your pain), I immersed myself in reading material that helped me change my dangerously negative thinking patterns. Wayne Dyer’s book There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem is another book that helped me, and it might help you, too.

      I also sometimes immerse myself in YouTube videos from positive pscyhology and spiritual experts (because sometimes I don’t have the energy to read when I’m low). Here are some names to search for in youTube: Wayne Dyer, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Caroline Myss, Louise Hay, Tony Robbins, Ed Bacon, Marianne Williamson, Martha Beck, Robert Holden, Eckhart Tolle … and that’s just a few I like.

      Breaking lifelong thinking patterns and limiting beliefs takes time and effort. Seek out the help you need … YOU are worth it. LIFE is worth it.

      Sending my love and prayers for your healing, J. Marie

  2. Marie, you’re spot on.

    The blame is usually disguised as really good reasons. Things like, I have no time to exercise because the kids are up as soon as I take my first breath. Or, my boss won’t “let” me take the time off to go on the retreat.

    What can help us to start owning our choices and taking responsibility is just saying, “I choose not to take the time off right now. (PERIOD)” No justification. No blame.

    It sends a subconscious message that you are in charge. Since, you can make the choice not to take the time off right now, maybe one day you can make a different choice.

  3. Really a very nice website i ever seen based on real life problems.Perfect theme so soothing.
    Keep it up the work u r doing mam.
    May god bless u and stay happy always.

  4. Dear Mam,
    please refer to your web and theory applied in your effort is seems to be an extracted out from the holly Bible ,and i feel u can do more if refer more from the bible. Very good keep it up.

    • Chacko – Thanks for your interest. Actually — no — “theories” here are not derived directly from the Bible. I do happen to be Christian, but we draw from all faiths … and many different philosophies here. This is a site that welcomes all and focuses on love of all.

  5. I let my 19 year old granddaughter come to live with me last summer. I’m 68. She has been the light of my life and needed help getting focused before she starts college. She was raised by her father and has no contact with her mother. I have always tried to fill that space the best I can but lived 200 miles away. Things started off really well but now, 4 months later, it has gotten on a rocky road. She is a very independent person but pushes too hard. She doesn’t take care of herself such as eating junk and not getting her rest and running constantly. I have tried to rein her in a bit and it has lead to frustration and some conflict on both parts. She believes herself to be an adult but acts like a spoiled kid. In reality, I guess she’s some of both. So, I’m trying to pull back and let her go but I see her making mistakes and to turn around at let it happen hurts and scares me. I have a heavy feeling in my heart and feel on the verge of tears quite often. She has always said I am her best friend but lately, she doesn’t want to even sit and talk with me. It breaks my heart. It helps just to vent on this subject. I believe I am a very spiritual person, but prayers and attempts at meditation don’t seem to be helping much. Thanks for listening.

    • Jan — My heart goes out to you. We all want to protect and guide the young people in our lives, and yet, we can only do so much. Nineteem is such a difficult age … an age of exploring … an age of rebelling … an age where the law considers the child to be an adult, but yet we true adults know that it’s still just a tender age. It’s a time when the teen has the body and the privileges of adulthood without the experience and wisdom to know how to truly take on the full responsibilities of adulthood.

      All you can do is love her — and that might require a healthy dose of “tough love” from time to time (which means you may have to risk her not liking you a bit as you become more strict about setting boundaries regarding which behaviors you will and will not accept under your roof). And, if you do need to set tighter boundaries, be sure to tell her it’s out of love that you’re doing this. You can’t expect her to like the new rules … but it’s important that you not take her resistance personally, even though it may seem personal to you. It’s just a stage of life that many, many young people go through … all with varying degrees of difficulty.

      Your granddaughter has told you that you are her best friend, and I’m sure you hold a very special place in her heart. Still, during this time of her life, you must not be hurt that she doesn’t want to talk to you as much or treat you as a best friend … it is appropriate that she reach for friends her age. She’s like a baby bird leaving the nest … it’s her time to fly and she cannot do that and cling to the behaviors and relationships she had when she was in the nest. Life is change and you simply can’t fight it … so I hope you can come to peace with this. Know that this is just a moment in time, though, and often children go through this phase and then come back and form a different and often deeper and more loving relationship with their loved ones down the road.

      Yes — it will hurt to see her watch mistakes — but that is the only way she can learn, and you don’t want to deprive her of the chance to learn the lessons she was put on this earth to learn. You must surrender this the Divine and resist the urge to interfere … allow God to work in God’s timing, and in His way, not yours. (Perhaps that’s why prayer and meditation don’t feel like they’re helping you right now … you may be asking for help and then trying to have too much input about the when/what/where/and how of the terms of helping your granddaughter. You already know in your heart that prayer doesn’t work that way … you must surrender it all and then stand in faith.)

      Allow yourself to cry when you need the stress release … but don’t permit yourself to wallow. Also, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and finding ways to have rich relationships with others … it would not be wise to allow your granddaughter to be the only focus of your life (which many of us have a tendency to do with our loved ones when we feel they are in trouble).

      It really is a matter of trust. Trust that all is working out the way it needs to. I pray you’ll be able to find that trust and faith … and that patience and love be granted to your throughout this journey you’re on in your life. I also pray that your granddaughter will receive the wisdom, blessings, and love she needs during this stage of her life, too.

      Peace to you my friend. ~ J. Marie

  6. I have trouble with me not doing the things I need to do …. I blame it on not enough time , I dont feel good, or other people. I have a horrible cycle going on. I believe that fear of change even though it will be good change is the problem. I just do not know how to overcome it

    • Jan — this is great! I don’t mean that your problem is great … it’s the fact that you already see the problem that’s good news. Many people cannot identify what’s going on and when you don’t see the problem, you can’t deal with it. Fear of change can leave one in a static state for days … months … even years. Many times people only decide to change when the pain of remaining in the same state outweighs the perceived pain of change. You don’t have to wait that long. The big thing that you need to remember is that fear of this nature always seems bigger than what the reality is. Our imagination often makes small hills look like giant mountains … but if we’ll just be brave enough to take a few steps in a positive direction, we’ll see what we worried about wasn’t nearly as big as we thought it was and that we’re stronger than we knew we were (and frankly — even if it is big — if it is taking us in the direction our inner guide is telling us to go, that is the path we need to take). Only you can decide whether you truly want to overcome this inertia or not. If you do, take one step … one tiny step in a direction that you’ve been wanting to go. Then take another step each day. You are greater than all your excuses; you have strength within you to tap into, you just need to believe that. Give up the blame game — remember it never got anyone anywhere worth going! Don’t try to create massive changes all at once — it’ll feel too big and too overwhelming. Break it down into chunks that are manageable for you. And, don’t put it off until tomorrow or “someday” (which is really just another word for never) — what is one thing you can do today? Get moving forward and let momentum carry you the rest of the way. Wishing you all the best on your journey. ~ J. Marie Novak


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