“All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?” ~Buddha
When I first started on the path of personal development, I naturally came to the question: What is the first step for me? There are certain improvements I could have made which would have had the biggest impact on my situation. And there were probably things that were great to improve but wouldn’t have helped me that much at the moment. So where should I have started? The answer became clear to me soon enough.
How I Developed Clinical Depression
When I still was a teenager, I learned the hard way that I am responsible for myself. At the age of 19, I had something like a minor stroke after a tennis game. I couldn’t speak or see properly anymore and also had strange tickling sensations in my arms and legs.
Especially when you’re young, you don’t really expect this kind of body breakdown. I went to my doctor the day after and couldn’t be more disappointed with his approach: He measured my blood pressure and that was basically it. I was shocked and disappointed, and I felt left alone.
He later sent me to another specialist who made all kinds of medical examinations without any result. I was losing faith in my doctors and felt completely ill-treated. I felt convinced there was something else going on, but these doctors wouldn’t be able to find it.
Out of this hopeless situation, I started to develop a clinical depression. I later realized that many people experience something similar.
Who Is Responsible for Your Situation?
My own parents were completely overwhelmed. I learned that I couldn’t rely on them in difficult matters, or my doctors. While my parents cared for me, they simply didn’t know what to do to help me. I was completely lost.
So here I was, in a deep depression, with no help from the outside. I had to take responsibility for my own situation; nobody else could do it for me. The situation only improved when I insisted that my doctor send me for a brain scan and refer me to a psychiatrist who could give me the right treatment for a clinical depression.
The depression I developed was a learned helplessness that changed my brain chemistry. Basically, it shut down due to overwhelm and loss of control. After the brain scan, I knew I wasn’t physically ill and I managed to find a treatment that could help me eventually.
It took more than three years until I could say I was really done with it. During that time I developed an interest in a new field that later became my first Internet startup. I know that this passion helped me to find new hope to do something again.
Many years have passed since then, and I’m happy to say that I never had any kind of depressive disorder since then, ever.
Three things really helped me to overcome my clinical depression:
- I found new hope through developing a passion—a new business with good friends.
- I took medication, which slowly changed my brain chemistry again to normal.
- Time. It took a long time until the depression went away completely and I felt no trace of numbness anymore.
Defeating this illness was my personal starting point into personal development, and I was only going upward from that point on. I learned a lot about depression and who my true friends are. But above all I learned one thing: I am responsible.
You Are Responsible: Take Back Control of Your Life
The first giant step in personal development is to realize that you are responsible. Nobody will come to the rescue. You are responsible for everything that happens in your life right now.
You simply have to accept the fact that everything around you is the direct effect of who you are, of who you were to that very moment.
Of course, this is a bit of an over-statement, since there are things that are out of your control. Of course there are!
You aren’t responsible when nature strikes or when people get out of order around you. But I’m talking about a mindset to develop here. A mindset that is 100 percent empowering—that gives you back control over your life.
Because the first question is always: How are you going to react to anything that happens in your life? What does it mean to you; what is your internal representation of it? Are you taking responsibility for your own thoughts and what goes on in your mind?
The second question is: What are you actively doing? Because responsibility means “response-ability.” It means you are in control—as long as you exercise that gift and take responsibility to act. That is the beauty of it.
A Move to Power
You have to realize here that whomever you point the finger at—whom- or whatever event you make responsible for how things are—you also give complete power over yourself.
The moment you take back full responsibility in your life is the moment when you regain your power again.
It is a major shift and you can feel it instantly. It probably feels like free falling—frightening at first. But then you realize that you don’t have to be a slave to all of the things that could be responsible for what you don’t like in your life.
If you are responsible, you are naturally driven to take action. It doesn’t make sense to look for excuses any more because you know that you are the one who will work it all out. It is a refreshing attitude, and it will help you to gain more personal energy.
“But wait, isn’t it risky to take responsibility?” I hear you asking.
Yes, of course, life is always risky in a way. But it is far more risky not to do it. If you want to live a life of quiet desperation, dissatisfaction, and dullness, then go ahead and leave responsibility to others. At least you still can point the finger at them when things go wrong. But not being responsible keeps the main door for your personal growth closed.
Stop Running Away
Taking full responsibility for your life means you are no longer running away—from yourself, your dreams, your hopes, frustrations, and fears. You are stepping to the edge when you need to step up and when things demand more from you. Because as you already know: you alone are responsible for the outcomes that are defining your life. And this is a good thing.
If you’re also dealing with depression, know that I’m not saying you’re responsible for it. What I’m saying is that dealing with my depression taught me to take responsibility for myself—something that turned out to be valuable, and my start into personal growth.
Reflect back on your life so far and look at the defining moments. How did you react? Did you act at all? Did you take full responsibility for yourself and make the decisions that were best for you? Will you do that going forward?
Photo by Yuga Sekiguchi