By Jonathan Pope

“A person is free to shape his or her own character, and man is responsible for what he may have made out of himself.  What matters is not the features of our character or the drives and instincts per se, but rather the stand we make toward them.  And the capacity to take such a stand is what makes us human beings.”  -Victor Frankl

 During a recent trip I met up with a group of old college friends, and it got me thinking about why some of them are successful while others aren’t.  In my experience, I have found that the fundamental difference between those who continue to evolve and those who don’t is a small difference in mindset.

It is my experience that people who constantly complain are a victim of their negative mindset. Unknowingly, they become stuck in a vicious cycle where the negative actions and circumstances in their life are fueled by their own self-limiting thoughts.

According to Dr. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, psychologist and founder of the field of logotherapy, the main difference between animals and humans is that we are open to changing our situation and the world around us, where animals simply react to the environment around them.

From this I derived an important message:

You must accept that you are responsible for what you make of yourself because you are capable of altering the outcome of any situation, regardless of circumstance. 

While this may seem like an easy statement to make while living in the comforts of the wealthiest country in the world, Dr. Frankl agreed that even in the worst conditions possible (he personally lived through three different concentration camps) you always have a choice.  You may not succeed, but by making the choice to try to change your circumstances you have allowed the possibility of success to exist.

Clients often ask how to live a healthy lifestyle in the context of their current situation, and the answer is simple: you can’t or you already would be.  If you want real lifestyle changes to occur you need to change your situation.  For most, that means eliminating expenses and freeing up time to cook, exercise, and relax.  Their response is usually the same: I am too busy or I can’t afford to change.

The problem is that most people find it difficult to accept that the trappings of modern life (car payments, mortgage, stressful and unfulfilling jobs) are self-created stressors.

In the example above one could eliminate or reduce their stressors by selling or trading in the brand new car for a used one and downsizing houses or leasing out a bedroom.  Both of these changes would allow more financial freedom which would also make changing careers or finding a more fulfilling job possible.

Charles changed 15 years of bad habits when he realized that he was the only one that could make the changes for himself

Charles changed 15 years of bad habits when he realized that he was the only one that could make the changes for himself

The key to creating change is to accept current limiting factors (time and money), and focusing on changing the things that you have control over (car payment, mortgage, job).  By making the changes above you would have more time and money, and less stress.  Those steps would take you a long way towards your goal of living a healthy lifestyle.

Whenever I find that I am feeling sorry for myself or frustrated about a situation I step back and ask myself the following question:

Am I doing everything that I can to change the situation or am I allowing circumstances to dictate my behavior?

If you answer the question honestly you will find that there is always a way to change your situation.  Don’t expect the answers to be easy to accept, but the actions for changing your situation are usually simple.