How to take control of and responsibility for your own life

Sometimes the consequences of our choices surprise us like snowflakes on a summer day, appearing as if there is no connection between behavior and results. From this perspective, it appears that others have a "lucky" or "charmed" life.

How can we live more responsibly?- Understand the plan of salvation. Study the scriptures to understand the purpose of life and the importance of agency. By recognizing that we are always accountable, we see how our daily choices shape our lives.

Recognize how we blame others. It is a habit to blame others or events in order to escape responsibility for our own choices.

Listen to ourselves. Prayerfully determine how to make our communications more positive. Turn complaints into uplifting conversation.

Magnify our callings. Those who lose themselves in service have no trouble with personal responsibility. Our own problems are made smaller as we strive to change the world around us. - Charles J. Chamberlain, Draper, Utah

What we did:

Changed attitude

About 20 years ago, sitting in a tiny one-room apartment with a low-pay, dead-end job, I was seriously worried about my future. Having no qualifications or real education and being only partially active in the gospel meant that the potential of marriage for me and a decent family life for my children was poor, to say the least. Then one day a newspaper article about some entrepreneur caught my eye. In a picture of him sitting in his office, I could see on the back wall a framed quote by William James. It read, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that you can change your circumstances by changing your attitudes of mind."

From that moment on, I decided to pull myself together and change my attitudes. I applied for some good jobs with security and potential. Within the year, I became a police officer, and later married my childhood friend and, by then, sweetheart in the London Temple.

I now have an enjoyable and successful career as a detective at Scotland Yard, my family includes four terrific children and I serve as a counselor in the stake presidency. I regularly think back to those miserable days in a cold bed-sit and thank the Lord for being so generous with His blessings and thank William James for his life-changing statement. - Steve Edwards, London, England

Can't place blame

I came to a point in my life when I said, "I am responsible for my happiness. I can't blame my parents, things or circumstances if my life does not go right. I make my own happiness by my thoughts and actions."

Believing I have control is how I make things happen that I want to happen. - Ramona Morreale, Cannonville, Utah

Anticipate consequences

Each decision and each action we undertake has consequences. If possible, we should take the time to anticipate what those consequences might be so we can choose and accept the consequences that we prefer. Most of the time, rather than choosing, we end up fighting brush fires - whatever is hottest at the time and what may not be the most important. We should set priorities. Then we make our decisions, and once these decisions are made, things not as important can be set aside. Three things will happen:

They'll go away.

They solve themselves.

They'll become important enough that we have to solve them.

For example, we have a loved one who chose not to follow the teachings of the gospel. Over time, we accepted the fact that we could not control her choices and the consequences of her choices. We had to decide how we would react. There are times it still hurts, but we could only be the best example we could, and we still had other loved ones to care for. This approach helped us to feel peace and harmony. We took charge rather than letting circumstances take charge of us. - Fred and Alma Bignall, Bettendorf, Iowa

Stepping stones

As a counselor of elementary students, I focus on self-esteem and self-reliance. One area I focus on is helping them to realize that they are in control of their moods and outlooks on life.

Circumstances do not determine how they feel; how they choose to view their circumstances determines how they feel. Many people in adverse situations refuse to accept discouragement and use the problems as a stepping stone. They look for the good in every situation.

From their examples, the following can be learned:

Be positive. Circumstances are going to happen, and if you choose to see the positive side, you will see things in a more positive light and be much happier.

Use a sense of humor. Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't look at occasional mistakes and shortcomings as permanent set-backs. Be able to step back and laugh at yourself and daily stressors.

Don't be afraid to try new things. Growth and development are very satisfying and can make you feel very successful.

Stepping out of comfort zones is an excellent way to grow and challenge yourself. Do it in small steps, and recognize accomplishments, no matter how small. - Rosalie Davis, Farmington, Utah

Control of mind, body

We need to come to an understanding that we're the only ones who can control our lives. If we accept that we're in control, then we have to be responsible. As a convert to the Church, I didn't always understand that principle. I thought that people and things controlled my life. One of the biggest helps was my patriarchal blessing. I found out that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. If I communicate with Him through prayer, I'll know that plan.

I'm in control of my life because I can ask Heavenly Father's direction. I'm in control because I don't put into my body those things that will make me dependent upon chemical substances. I'm in control because I don't put into my mind those things that pollute my thoughts and are addictive. Because two objects cannot occupy one spot at the same time, I control my life by replacing impure thoughts with pure thoughts.

We really are in control of our lives when we live the commandments. They don't constrict us. They open up opportunities we otherwise couldn't have. - Robert Steen, Bedford, Mass.

How to checklist:

Understand the gospel plan; exercise your moral agency.

Accept responsibility; don't blame others, events.

Learn to act, rather than react; set priorities.

Serve others; this brings perspective to your problems.


May 18 "How to decorate your home on a limited budget."

May 25 "How to keep children busy during summer vacation."

June 1 "How to curb impulsive spending."

June 8 "How to cope when your child has had a permanently disabling accident or illness."

June 15 "How to help your spouse adjust to retirement."

June 22 "How to teach children respect for the Sabbath day."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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