Are you living your life or someone else’s?

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Do you have ownership of your life?

Having ownership of your life means your decisions, actions, values, beliefs, and commitments belong to you because you have consciously chosen them. Ownership means you do what you do or believe what you believe because you want to, not because you feel coerced or pressured to do so.

In Judaism, this is the essence of what it means to have free-will.  It means never blaming anyone for your life.  When you take ownership of your life, you feel alive and empowered.  When you relinquish ownership of your life, you feel lifeless and robotic.

Here are eight questions to ask on a daily basis to help you move towards taking ownership of your life.  These questions apply equally to one’s actions, decisions, values, beliefs, and commitments.

1. Why am I doing this? The question “why” gets to the root of your motivation. Asking why you do what you do is often frightening and therefore people tend to avoid asking themselves this question.  But if you ever hope to have ownership of your life, you must ask this question on a regular basis.

2. For whom am I doing this? We often do things because we want to please someone or gain someone’s approval.  Living a life of trying to please others and win their approval is a sure guarantee that you will never have ownership of your life.

3. Am I doing this because I want to or because I feel pressured or coerced to do this? Perhaps the greatest obstacle to achieving ownership is social pressure.  There are voices of authority all around us telling us what we should do and what the truth is.  We often feel intimidated by them and are afraid to disagree and listen to our own voice.  When your life is driven by fear and intimidation you will certainly have a hard time knowing what’s right for you. Our forefather Abraham became great because he was able to withstand the social pressure of his society and his family by rejecting the popular belief in idols for a belief in God.

4. If I want to do this, why is this right for me? Our choices and the way we live must make sense to us. This requires being ruthlessly honest with yourself.  As Shakespeare said “Above all, to thine own self be true.”  Unfortunately, we often lie to ourselves about why we do what we do.  We tell ourselves we are at peace with our decisions when in truth we are not.  We must learn to listen to our own unique moral compass in order to make consistently good choices for ourselves.

5. If I don’t want to do this, what would I rather be doing instead? This is also very frightening question, especially when we have been living a certain way for many years and realize that it’s no longer right for me.  Change is liberating but at the same time it is often filled with anxiety.

6..What’s stopping me from doing what I really want? The ultimate obstacle to change is fear.  There are three main fears:  Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection and shame, and fear of making a mistake and hurting ourselves.  We cannot grow if we cannot confront our fears.

7. Am I doing this out of habit or laziness? One of the greatest challenges of self-improvement is getting stuck in comfortable habits that are bad for us.  The desire for comfort is one of the most destructive drives of a human being.  Judaism says fighting the desire to be comfortable is a life time battle.  Choosing comfort is choosing death.  Growth is uncomfortable. Taking ownership of your life is an uncomfortable process.  It requires discipline, hard work, and emotional strength and toughness.

  8. What would I regret most if I died yesterday? This is the great wake-up question because it forces us to face ourselves honestly. It also has an amazing power to help us see exactly where we are not taking ownership and hopefully motivate us to start making changes before it’s too late!