Life is a work-in-progress. What is one thing you hope to improve and why?
'A' Level student-inmate from institution A4
It is not easy to find one’s true calling in life. Although some are blessed with knowing what they want from an early age, others take years to find their path. In this way, life is a constant work-in-progress as we continuously develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and cultivate greater awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. Yet, on a daily basis, we are faced with numerous life choices of different magnitudes. And try as we may, we often do not make the “right” choices, despite knowing what’s good for us. Recognising this, the one thing I hope to improve on is to be more responsible — in the choices I make, the values to my life, and fundamentally, my own happiness.
Living in this pragmatic society, I used to be so caught up in the constant pursuit of material and monetary gains that I have set unrealistic standards which I have failed to live up to. In the process, I have neglected what truly matters to me. All too often, many decisions I made contributed to my own sufferings — such as taking small matters too seriously and blowing them out of proportion. Harboring hateful and angry thoughts in my head, or the fear of failure and setbacks. The obsession and overinvestment in these negative emotions affected my response towards many situations in my life, resulting in me making decisions that I have come to regret. There were instances where I let my anger get the better of me and ended up saying some of the most hurtful things to those who matter the most to me and ruining my relationship with the ones I love. Over the years, I realized that while emotions are part of the equation of my life, it does not fill the entire equation for the simple reason that emotions never last. Regardless of the situation, I am responsible for my own feelings and emotions, and fully responsible in the way I choose to react.
This is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges; the realization that responsibilities come in many forms and ways. I may not be able to control what happens to me, but I am in control of the way I interpret and respond to all that is occurring to and within me. I am solely responsible for everything in my life, regardless of external circumstances.
There are bound to be obstacles in our lives, and the key to overcoming them is to be responsible in shifting my perspective towards situations when they arise, and to be mindful enough to notice my own state of mind. So often, my subconscious mind makes choices based on my past experiences, instinctively avoiding things that may have once hurt or harm me. This includes the fear of failure and rejection that are parts and parcels of life. But I have acknowledged that nobody makes it through life without collecting a few scars on the way out; and it is the exact thing that helps us grow, take charge, and be a more responsible human. Without a doubt, I am responsible for my past (be it positive or negative experiences), but I am fully in control in constructing my future happiness. Hence, the importance of tuning my mindset and altering my perspective to a more positive one will enable me to view life in a different light, making issues seem more minuscule, and empowering me to make clearer, more rational decisions. In doing so, I can even develop a better sense of love and gratitude — which are the top two life values I have established for myself.
Change and growth is a never ending upward spiral and at any point, we should all enjoy the climb. For me, to be more responsible would mean adopting a better attitude towards lives’ sufferings, allowing me to have a greater tolerance to help counteract any mental unrest or unhappiness. It is true that everything comes with inherent sacrifice — what makes us feel good will also inevitably make us feel bad. In deciding to choose option A, we are rejecting option B. Sometimes, no matter the choice we make, we incur some losses or hurt someone along the way. On the basis of that, being fully accountable for deciding my life values and setting my priorities straight will eventually help me choose what is worth struggling and fighting for.
While I am just a small individual in the bigger part of the world, it is important to recognise that every decision I make has varying impacts on people, as we are all connected to each other one way or another. I am not only responsible to myself, but also to those around me; to my family and my loved ones, to the strangers whom I have crossed paths with, and even to those I have yet to meet. In improving myself to be a more responsible individual, it would not just benefit me, but also to the vast universe.
Like Viktor Frankl (Austrian Psychiatrist/ Holocaust survivor) once said: “when we’re no longer able to change the situation, we’re challenged to change ourselves.” I hope that taking this first step to uphold responsibilities for myself will place things in better perspective for me, help me to set clear boundaries and make better decisions in the long run, and in time to come rebuild my relationship with myself — ultimately achieving a happier, healthier and a more positive life.