We use most of our energy to validate the story we have been telling ourselves. Our effort is focused on justifying all things in our lives. We justify the good and the bad, the hate and the love, the loss and the gain, regression and progression. Whatever we must do to validate our story in our minds is what we are willing to do. Those that are unable to act in justification of their story are forever victims. They are victims of their past, present, and future. They have no agency, and that is just how they want it because the lack of control reinforces their story, justifies their lack of action, and validates their misery.

The cycle of misery in victimhood defines the lives of millions of people. The slightest resistance causes them to shrink back into the corner of their cage, which over time shrinks with them. The bars become walls in which they are confined until they die. They were alive for a lifetime but contributed nothing all because they never understood how to stop the cycle of misery.

So, how do we end the cycle of misery?

Unconditional Responsibility

Somewhere along the way, many outsourced the responsibility for their lives. Their contribution isn’t up to them. They expect to be given the opportunity. It saddens me to think that an overwhelming majority have decided to outsource responsibility for their lives. Husbands and wives that depend on each other for their happiness. Parents that hang their fulfillment on the accomplishments or compliance of their children. Adults that only find meaning in the size of their bank accounts, status among their peers, victory by their favorite sports team, likes on social media posts, and other meaningless measures. We must all stop measuring and start taking complete responsibility for our lives.

Contribution

We must grow our capacity and ability to contribute. There is no limit except the limit of your imagination. The story you have used to define yourself is your limiting factor. I have good news: it is your story! You made it up, and you can change it. Progress on a journey is one foot in front of the other. Progress in life is growing your capacity each day. Be grateful for the opportunity and accept the challenge. Your success and satisfaction in life are only limited by your ability to handle stress. Stress leads to growth. If the small stuff stresses you out, you are destined to live a small life. To be clear, this is not to say your life does not matter. The point is that a life of joy and meaning demands that you learn to grow your capacity to deal with stress through discipline and focus. We can do this by practicing discipline to stick with our commitments and contributions.

Meaningful Relationships

Misery loves company. First words are often negative for miserable people. “This rain sucks, huh?” “This heat is awful.” “The service at this place is terrible.” The other person is compelled to pile on or provide supporting evidence that furthers the negativity. The alternative is to find a community that will lift you up. The right community will listen to your concerns but refuse to go down the rabbit hole of negativity. They are focused on solutions to issues rather than commiseration and victim validation. The Now What Academy is a community focused on positive growth. Toastmasters is another community of people looking to grow their abilities. There are countless options for people that want to escape the cycle of misery and find meaningful connections.

Give Freely

We implore our children to share with others, but we are naturally selfish. We tend to share only when we are sure to benefit. Giving is a selfish act because it feels so darn good. It is impossible to be miserable and gracious simultaneously. We don’t have to just share our things to enjoy the benefits of giving. In fact, the greatest gift is to share our hearts and give our time. When we bring joy to another person, our miseries melt away. Just as the Scrooge or the Grinch. Their stories are fiction, but their impact is real.

Misery abounds in our world. The media uses it as a tool to get your attention and pay their bills. The government uses it to secure your vote. Corporations use it to encourage you to buy happiness. Don’t be fooled. Accept responsibility for your happiness, use stress to grow your capacity, build uplifting relationships, and give your time and heart freely. These four simple actions will move you from misery to meaning.

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