The following is an excerpt from my book, The 47 Laws of Success (which you can get here):
“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.”
The Law of the Hero and the Author states that responsibility is necessary for success. In order to have success, you must first take full responsibility for where you are and for getting where you want to go.
The well-known psychologist and motivational speaker, Denis Waitley, put it well: “There are two primary choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” You must choose one or the other. And the choice is completely up to you.
Responsibility is Control
The reason this law is so important is because you cannot have control over your life without first taking responsibility for your circumstances.
In fact, when it comes to achieving success, responsibility is control.
This means that, if you don’t ever take full responsibility for the circumstances you currently find yourself in, you will never be able to change them.
If you’re not the one responsible when you find yourself working at a job you hate, engaged in a string of failed relationships, or making less money than you want (and these things will happen), you’re not the one with the power to change those situations.
Responsibility Isn’t Easy
It’s not always easy to take responsibility for the parts of our lives that aren’t quite the way we would like them to be.
That’s why a lot of people hate this law.
They don’t want their circumstances to be their fault.
If that’s you, don’t feel too bad. It’s not easy shouldering the blame for the things in your life that aren’t going well.
Nobody likes to be told that it’s their fault that things haven’t worked out the way they want.
It’s natural to want to blame our parents, our boss, our education, or our friends. I get that. I feel that too sometimes.
But, whether you like it or not, the reality is that every time you make someone else responsible, you relinquish control of your life.
As soon as you blame the weather, the traffic, or your boss, you give them control.
Now they have to change in order for your life to improve. And we all know that’s probably not going to happen.
If the reason you’re not succeeding at your job is because of your boss, then the only way you can start to find success is if your boss changes. If the thing holding you back is the fact that your father doesn’t believe in you, then the only way that you can start to achieve anything is if your father suddenly starts believing in you. Imagine banking your entire future on the hopes that someone else will change to make things easier on you! It might sound silly, but that’s what a lot of us do.
You see, the person who is in control—that is, the person who is responsible—is the one who determines the direction your life will take.
It’s up to you who you put in control of your life.
What’s Your Life Story
A helpful way to think about this is in terms of your life story.
We are all naturally wired to think of our lives as stories. Your unique story began when you were born. Everything you’ve done, said, seen, thought, and felt from that moment is part of your story.
Just like everyone else’s story, your life story has ups and downs, and highs and lows. There are parts of your story where you’ve been sad, and other parts where you’ve been happy. There are parts where you’ve succeeded, and parts where you’ve failed. Just like any story, there are twists and turns.
Naturally, of course, because it’s your story, you are the hero. The story of your life is about you.
Every other character in your story—your spouse, children, colleagues, friends, parents—plays a supporting role.
You are the only star of your story.
However, each life story is different.
The story you are living is different from the one I’m living. And both of our stories are different from the ones Elvis Presley or Joan of Arc lived.
Every story is unique.
And here’s a truth people often find difficult to hear: some people are living better stories than other people.
We all know that some books are better than others. We recognize good books because they have a more dramatic climax than most books. They have more surprising twists and turns. They have more profound moments of suspense, heartache, and anger. They also have deeper moments of clarity, humor, and love. Every book is different, but really good books always have better stories than most other books.
But the most important thing that determines whether a book is considered a classic or trash is the plot.
The plot is the central direction or purpose of the story. It’s what guides and organizes all the little parts of the story together, and it’s what gives the story meaning.
A good plot will make you excited about where the story is going. It will make you want to read the book as fast as you can.
A book with a good plot is the kind of book you stay up reading until 3 or 4 a.m. because you can’t put it down.
A book without a compelling plot, on the other hand, is just the opposite. Getting through even a single page can be an onerous task, as your brain reminds you constantly that you could be doing literally anything else.
And so, while it can feel like it’s impossible to put a book with a good plot down, it’s almost impossible not to quit reading a book with a bad plot.
Well, the story of your life is a lot like a book.
It can be a good story, or it can be a bad story.
Everyone’s life story will include a lot of the same pieces—pain, betrayal, love, joy, and confusion.
The main difference between a good life story and a life story that is mediocre is the plot.
So, stop and think for a moment: What is the central plot of your life story? Is it a rags to riches story, where you start from the bottom but, against all odds, fight your way to the top? Is it a love story, where you sacrifice everything you have for the people you care most about? Is it a story of perseverance and survival, the triumph of the human spirit, where you continually face incredible opposition but you never give up to the end? There are a million different plotlines your story could follow. The question is: which one are you currently living?
Is Your Story Compelling?
Unfortunately, for most of us, the plot to our life story isn’t very compelling.
If we’re honest, most of us probably find our own life story pretty boring.
A lot of our life stories could be summed up something like this: we get up in the morning after a night of too little sleep, and we head off to jobs that don’t fulfill us; we then come home to a list of chores, most of which we don’t do, and flop ourselves on the couch, ready to fall asleep watching a show that’s more interesting than the lives we’re actually living; six hours later, we wake up and do the whole thing over again.
I don’t think most of us would continue to read a book that simply repeated this same boring day over and over again without some larger, more compelling plot.
But, for most of us, there really is no larger plot. No wonder so many of us are less than enthused about the lives we lead.
Become the Author
Now, think with me for a minute: Who is able to turn a story from a boring dud to a page-turner? Is it the hero?
No, it isn’t.
The only one who can take a story that sucks and craft it into something exciting and meaningful is the author.
The hero might be the star of the story, but the author is the one in control.
The author is the one who decides what will happen to the hero.
The author decides how the hero will act and react.
The author is the one who decides what the hero will want, and what steps the hero will take to get it.
It’s the author who is in control, not the hero.
The Law of the Hero and the Author recognizes that someone is always in control.
There will always be an author of your life story.
Every detail of your story that you don’t design will be designed by someone else. If you’re only the hero of your story, you will eventually figure out that you’re actually spending your life as a supporting character in someone else’s story.
The only solution is to decide to become the author.
Being an author is not as glamorous as being the hero. It requires hard work that often goes unrecognized.
But it also puts you in control of your story.
Once you decide to become the author of your life story, you have the opportunity to get down to writing the best story you possibly can. You have the opportunity to turn your life into a page-turner.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live a life like that?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be excited about getting up in the morning because you’re wrapped up in wherever your story is heading?
Most people live their lives like a boring novel—they’re not excited about anything.
Maybe they’re apprehensive.
They’re dreading what comes next.
It’s like they’re being forced to read a book they desperately want to put down.
If that’s you, remember: you can be the author.
You can change your story. If your life is like a book you want to quit reading, you have the power to turn your life into a story fueled by excitement and anticipation.
There simply is no getting around this law.
The more responsibility you take for your life, the greater your opportunities for success will be.