By Jack Canfield and Dave Andrews

This article originally appeared in Tips on Life & Love from Simon & Schuster.

The truth is that you, and only you, are responsible for the quality of your life. This is the core idea on which our book is built. From the The 30-Day Sobriety Solution.

Many years ago, Dr. Robert Resnick, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, taught us a very simple but very important formula that has had a profound effect on our lives and work. It is a core principle we have taught to hundreds of thousands of people around the world that clarifies what 100% responsibility really means:

E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome)

Every outcome you experience in life—sobriety or alcoholism, excessive drinking or “normal” drinking, financial success or poverty, health or sickness, happiness or dissatisfaction—is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event or events in your life. The formula states that if you don’t like the outcomes you are experiencing in your life today, you have two options:

1. You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O). In other words, you can blame anything and everything else: the presence of a liquor store and bar on every corner, your lack of education, racism, not having enough money, your friends, your family’s drinking history, your past failed attempts at quitting drinking, the death of a loved one, losing your job, and so on. Without a doubt, these factors exist. But if any one of them was so absolute in deciding how your life would unfold, nobody would ever succeed. Actor Robert Downey Jr. would never have finally gotten sober to star in the Iron Man movies, Jackie Robinson would never have become the first African American to play major league baseball, and Samuel L. Jackson would not have become one of the top-ten-grossing actors of all time after the age of forty (after he went to rehab and got sober).

For every difficult circumstance in which someone ended up failing, thousands of other people faced the same circumstance and succeeded. The external conditions and circumstances are not stopping you—you are stopping yourself!

2. Or you can change your responses (R) to the events (E)—the way things are—until you get the outcomes (O) you want. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you respond to the past. To do this, you must regain control of your thoughts, your beliefs, your desires, and, ultimately, your actions. You need to stop responding to events by drinking, whether it is drinking to celebrate, drinking to forget, or drinking to socialize, and respond with thoughts and actions that are aligned with your values, goals, and purpose. Don’t worry. We know this is easier said than done. We will give you the tools and techniques you need to regain control of your thoughts and choose more effective actions.

 

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