The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them” (Maraboli). In two short sentences, Dr. Steve Maraboli, a bestselling author and Behavioral Science Academic, challenges people to seize control of their lives by taking responsibility for where they are now and making the necessary changes to get where they rather be.
Most people can admit that they find themselves in undesirable circumstances, but rarely do they admit personal responsibility for their current situation. For example, people commonly blame experiences during adolescence for their downfalls in adulthood. This is easy to understand since adolescence marks the period in time where a young person develops from a child into an adult. Brushes with the law, dead-end jobs, and failed marriages represent just a few circumstances which can easily be blamed on society or the way a person was raised by their parents.
Regardless of one’s experiences during adolescence, people rarely are forced to do things they do not want to do. Instead, they make good or bad choices based on how they feel or what they see others doing. It is fair to say that people do not choose their families, but choosing one’s friends is a prime example of people controlling their own destiny. To some extent, the choice of friendships can be equated to how an individual chooses to spend their time. Choosing to watch the clock because one is bored or hoping that time could move slower because things are going well is the polar opposite to choosing to live for the moment. Similarly, teens act like zombies who mindlessly go from one failed relationship to another without taking the time to analyze the source of the problem. To make things worse, people fail to realize that personal choices impact more than just themselves. How one chooses to spend their time may only impact the individual, but choosing what one eats impacts the environment and the living organisms that share the planet. Finally, social tragedies such as the Columbine High School Shooting represent opportunities where society can choose to play victim and make excuses or recognize that parents need to get to know their children. Making a conscious change in the future starts with realizing where one is currently and knowing how they got there. Only then can one take responsibility and enable themselves to make better choices and create a healthy environment to live in.
Choosing friends wisely is the first step to taking ownership of one’s life. Understanding this point is quite simple. One most frequently spends free time with friends. So if one’s friends make poor decisions and frequently get into trouble, they will bring everyone who hangs with them down as well. To some extent people who do not take responsibility for their actions in such circumstances can easily equate the trouble they find themselves in as giving into to peer pressure. Peer pressure is real but the real question one needs to ask is why did they find themselves in that circumstance in the first place. It all started with making poor choice of friends. Choosing the right friend for you can be a very tough thing to do. One instance of someone who chose the wrong friend was when Dylan Klebold chose Eric Harris to be his friend. This duo would go on to commit the largest high school massacre of their time. As stated in the book Columbine by Dave Cullen, “Dylan Klebold was meek, self-conscious, and authentically shy. He could barely speak in front of a stranger, especially a girl. He’d follow quietly after Eric on mall conquests, attempting to appear invisible” (Cullen, 50). From this we can infer that Dylan was easily influenced by others so when his friend Eric told him to do bad things, there was little hesitation by Dylan. Here, by simply choosing the wrong friend, Dylan ended up doing things he would have never done on his own. When one steps back to evaluate the situation, it becomes clear why good parents want to meet your friends. It is the best way for them to validate what sort of person their child is becoming. The old fashion saying, “Show me who your friends are, and I will show you who you are” is right on the money. The first step in taking responsibility for one’s life starts with choosing good friends.
While step one to taking responsibility for one’s life is choosing appropriate friends, step two is choosing the best way to spend one’s time. Interviewing college students at Santa Clara University, one would learn that most of the students use their cell phones to tell time and track their calendars. While this usage of cell phones is not alarming, it is alarming to hear students admit how many times they are shocked and in disbelieve of the time and date their cell phone is displaying. For example, deadlines for papers that a student enters into their cell phone calendar seem to mysteriously appear out of thin air. Ask any college student who experiences this and they will say that a teacher is being unreasonable with their deadline. More than likely, the real problem with the deadline has to do with the college student’s procrastination to start the assignment. Benjamin Franklin summarizes the source of the frustration when he said, “Lost time is never found again” (Franklin). Once time is wasted, there is no way to get it back and thus students find it much easier to complain and blame a teacher than take responsibility for poorly planning the use of their time. Ironically, the same can be said about time in the classroom or at parties on weekends. Time in the classroom seems to drag on because the student does not properly prepare for class and thus cannot engage in the subject being discussed. On the other hand, college students at parties spend too much time preparing to go to a party or getting the nerve to talk to someone. This results in time flying by without them having as much fun as they dreamed of having. Famous cartoonist Bill Keane captures the essence of the problem, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present” (Keane). College students have not lived enough to recognize the value of the time they have until it is lost. The common theme in each of these examples is general frustration with the use of time and a failure to recognize the source of the frustration. As a result, the pattern repeats regularly without the student taking any corrective action.
Having recognized the importance of spending time wisely, step three revolves around teens understanding that their abuse of technology causes them to act like mindless zombies. The inventions of texting on cell phones and surfing the web create a social environment where there is a popular alternative to talking to someone face to face. They can choose to send a text or email to share their feelings or provide input on a given matter. NBC News Anchor Megan Coleman shares her opinion on technology and its impact on teens, “Technology and teens are hard to separate, but all that connectivity actually causes developmental problems later on” (Coleman). The problems Coleman eludes to include zombie-like symptoms, which comprise of a lack of verbal communication and minimal emotional development. The result of limited practice in developing interpersonal skills is failed relationships. In the old days, people built trust in one another by looking each other in the eye and shaking hands. Today direct contact is replaced by electronic signatures sent over the Internet. Unfortunately, the most alarming piece of teens acting like mindless zombies is their failure to recognize the source of the problem. As a result, zombie teens become zombie adults who still have not acknowledged why their relationships appear shallow. This is confirmed by a recent online article from the Huffington Post, “Lifestyle website YourTango.com polled 100 mental health professionals and found that communication problems was cited as the most common factor that leads to divorce” (Huffington Post). Failing to recognize and embrace communication problems causes even bigger relationship issues in the future. Technology may initially bring two people together but communication is needed to keep them together.
Unfortunately, the failure to be responsible for one’s actions can be catastrophic as it was in the case of the Columbine Massacre where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen and wounded twenty before turning their guns on themselves. This is a prime example of failing to take responsibility when one studies the speculations of why the boys went on their shooting rampage that horrible day in April of 1999. People want to blame a lack of proper gun control, poor school safety, violent video games and violent music why this happened. The reality of the situation is that no one knew what was going on in these poor boy’s minds. No one knew how desperate they had become and what they were capable of doing. Society cannot protect its citizens from all the potential evils in the world, but parents can take the time to know their children and understand their challenges. The responsibility starts at home where parents and children need to share meals and talk about their days at work or school. In general, if people could take the time to listen and talk with each other, many of the frustrations that lead to catastrophes can be tremendously limited. In the case of the Columbine shooting, the parents were at the top of the list of people to blame for this horrible event. The Klebolds even admitted that it was mostly their fault for their sons behavior when they announced, “He (Dylan) was hopeless. We didn’t realize it until after the end. We failed to see it coming” (Cullen, 850). Here, the Klebolds hold themselves completely responsible for what their son did. They truly believed that if they had given more care and attention to their son that they could have been able to get Dylan the help he needed and prevented this tragedy. Society needs to self-reflect on tragedies and not look for excuses how society or someone else could have prevented such events from occurring. It all starts with looking inward and asking how one can personally impact the likelihood of this ever reoccurring.
Last but not least, people need to realize that poor choices regarding what one chooses to eat causes a negative impact on the environment and can lead to the mistreatment of animals. This is most easily observed when people choose to order veal knowing how the calves are mistreated. Failing to recognize how animals are treated is inexcusable; especially since the entire veal industry could be eliminated if there was no longer a market for it. Another example of the mistreatment of animals is the killing of sharks in order to obtain their fins for Shark Fin Soup. It is estimated that, “Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water)” (StopSharkFinning). It is the responsibility of us as conscious human beings to deny restaurants business that continue to support this ancient Chinese delicacy. Once again, we cannot control what others do, but change begins one step at a time. Taking the first step to not support activities, which are morally wrong is a step in the right direction. The world will never be completely void of evil and greed will always be able to convince people to perform the unspeakable, but each person has a choice to support such behavior or make a personal stance against.
Regardless if one has made poor choices selecting friends, utilizing time, or ordering menu items that support the mistreatment of animals, the first step to making better choices begins with recognizing that one can do better. A perfect example of people making a conscious effort to move forward in the right direction are alcoholics who attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Each meeting begins with participants introducing themselves as an alcoholic and stating how long they have been sober. They do this because they recognize the importance of embracing their past weaknesses as the first step to recovery. Now, imagine applying that sort of thinking to the investigation of the Columbine Massacre. The loss of lives can never be reversed but the responsibility to educate parents how to listen to their children and recognize signs that trouble is brewing is critically important. The difference between blaming society for what occurred and seeing what can be done on an individual by individual basis is all in the attitude. Does someone choose the role of victim or do they take an active role to control their own destiny? The key is to recognize that change happens one person at a time, one step at a time. So make a conscious choice to take the first step.
Cullen, David. Columbine. Barnstaple: Spindlewood, 2010. Print.
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Price, Eric. “Too Much Technology Could Cause Developmental Problems among Teens.” CNY Central. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 11 June 2015.
Russel, Athony. “Stop Shark Finning.” Stop Shark Finning. N.p., 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 09 Dec.
Wong, Brittany. “Poor Communication Is The #1 Reason Couples Split Up: Survey.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.