Updated: Mar 24
If you’re an Erykah Badu fan, then you may know one of her popular songs–Bag Lady. The lyrics describe a woman carrying bags with a lot of stuff. The chorus sends a message to the Bag Lady to let go of her stuff because it’s too heavy and holds her back. Well, the same can be said of Gen Xers who aren’t managing the stuff they’re carrying with them.
In this post, I discuss the importance of Gen Xers owning their stuff. I’m not talking about prized possessions like your special edition Tetris or Contra video games. I’m talking about holding yourself accountable for the outcomes you attain in life. Specifically, I’m talking about your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Why is this topic important? The short answer is that many Gen Xers don’t truly grasp the power of their thoughts and how they affect their emotions and behaviors. Much of what I’m sharing in this post is based on the Think, Feel, Act Model. A model that operates on the idea that you can manage your thoughts to get the results you want in life.
Your thoughts, feelings, and actions work together to help you achieve goals and enjoy a more fulfilling life. My goal is to raise your awareness of how these things contribute to your current and future circumstances. I want to help you manage your mind to enjoy the freedoms you want in life NOW, rather than waiting for retirement.
When I discovered the Think, Feel, Act Model, it changed my life dramatically. It caused me to take responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that negatively affected my mental state. I learned how to make deliberate choices about what I wanted to think, how I wanted to feel, and how to behave. And because it’s so liberating, I want the same for you!
In this post, I’ll explain:
*Why Gen Xers must be accountable to themselves first
*The challenges Gen Xers face when they avoid personal accountability
*Ways Gen Xers can strike balance between personal accountability and accountability to others
What is Gen Xers’ stuff?
Before we dive in, let’s define your stuff? To do so, we must examine 3 areas of your life: your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Let’s start with thoughts. Think about a person walking down the street, and someone passes them and stops them to pay them a compliment. Let’s name our person Leon. Leon is having one of those days where he feels uncomfortable in his body, so he brushes the compliment off. He says, “Thanks,” and walks away. As Leon walks away, he thinks this dude must be crazy because he looks horrible today.
Leon accepted his thoughts as fact without examining them further. While he didn’t feel 100% that day, that doesn’t mean someone else thought similarly. We all have days like this, so the example represents a shared human experience. Nevertheless, this example illustrates why I believe Gen Xers must be personally accountable for their thoughts. And it doesn’t stop there because your thoughts directly influence your feelings and emotions.
I believe feelings are the soundtrack for our daily lives. If you’re feeling happy, you’re more inclined to have a more positive outlook during the day. But when you’re in a crappy mood, everything seems to fall into your negative emotional narrative. This negative state causes you to miss an important fact–you can ALWAYS trace your emotional state to your thoughts. That’s because the Think, Feel, Act Model is not linear. Both feelings and behaviors can affect your thoughts.
The last thing Gen Xers need to be personally accountable for is their actions. What I’m talking about here is inaction! We tend to focus solely on what we’re actively doing to get the results we want in life. But sometimes, we don’t flip that perspective to see what we’re not doing that can bring us the results we want in life.
Once you take control of your thoughts and identify those that are not serving you well, you’ll see opportunities for change. Since the goal of being personally accountable for your thoughts, feelings, and actions is to improve your life’s outcomes, change is a natural part of this process. Attaining better results is what gets you closer to enjoying life’s freedoms sooner rather than later. And there are a few skills you can strengthen to reach the outcomes you desire.
How do Gen Xers own their stuff?
When I work with my coaching clients, one of the first things I work with is helping them strengthen 3 skill areas: observation, practice, and analysis. These areas make up the framework you need to hold yourself accountable and achieve the outcomes you want. And I’ve found that this framework works despite my clients' challenges. Without a doubt, observation is the key to making the magic happen.
Observation sounds easy enough, right? But it’s not as easy as you think. Observation requires a great deal of neutrality. In other words, the goal of observing is to collect data and information. Think about that old saying from Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” In this case, factual data is more potent than editorializing.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s go back to the Leon example. Leon passes a person on the street that compliments him on his appearance. He thinks to himself, “This guy must be crazy. I look like a complete train wreck today. What is he thinking?” Then he notices a funny feeling in his stomach. So, he smiles reluctantly, says “Thanks,” and rushes off to end his discomfort.
What facts do you observe here? Let’s start with thoughts. One point is that a stranger complimented Leon on his appearance. That caused Leon to have some uneasy feelings. So, Leon ended the interaction to avoid any further discomfort. Leon’s outcome was a missed opportunity to know what more conversation could have yielded.
After developing your observational skills, you’re prepared to practice. Specifically, you’re ready to practice new thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Continuing with our Leon example, here’s what practicing new thoughts looks like. Instead of thinking, “This guy must be crazy. I look like a complete train wreck today.” Leon could replace those thoughts with ones like, “I must not look as bad as I think,” or “Someone is digging my look today. Let’s see where this goes.”
Practicing new thoughts helps you create new feelings and actions. For example, if you accept the thought, “Someone is digging my look today. Let’s see where this goes.” That thought could lead you to stick around and chat longer. Best case scenario–you make a new acquaintance and have a great conversation. Worst case scenario, the complimenter is creepy, and you go on with your day.
The key here is to use the data you’re collecting from your observations to practice alternative thoughts, feelings, and actions. This helps you produce the results you’re unable to achieve using your default mindset. Observation prepares you for the last skill area to exercise, personal accountability.
The final skill is analysis. Now that you’ve made your observations of your thoughts, feelings, and actions and practiced making changes, you’re ready to identify what works and what doesn’t. This is the most exciting part of the process because when you analyze your progress, you’re taking ownership of your stuff and being accountable for improving.
Now, this skill is easy to practice. But if you want more support, I created an exercise called Friend or Foe to help you know which of your thoughts, feelings, and actions are helping you and hurting you. Here’s how it works.
1. Ask yourself each question in each of the skills areas (e.g., thoughts, feelings, actions).
2. Compare and contrast your answers to the Friend or Foe questions and identify what changes you should make to achieve your desired outcomes.
3. Identify which area(s) require changes and focus on those changes in your accountability practice.
The chart below will help you organize this work.
Which specific thoughts get me the outcomes I want?
Which specific thoughts are not getting me the outcomes I want?
What feelings help me take positive actions towards my goal?
What feelings cause me to take negative actions towards my goal?
Which of my actions had a successful end result?
Which of my actions had an unsuccessful end result?
The Friend or Foe exercise helps you pinpoint where you need to focus your change efforts. It also takes the guesswork out of deciding which of the 3 areas need attention. Some Gen Xers may find that their thoughts are their biggest foe, or maybe they need to work more on managing their feelings. No matter your focus area, you must re-examine the thoughts that lead to change.
So, try it out! Don’t make this process complicated. You can run the Friend or Foe exercise in the back of your mind as you go about your daily routine. The goal here is to clarify where you need to work so you can start enjoying the freedoms you want in life NOW, instead of waiting until the right time–whenever that may be.
Owning your thoughts, feelings, and actions is the first step to creating the changes you want in life. Change occurs when you learn how your counterproductive thoughts, feelings, and actions limit you. Your observations provide you with critical data that directs you to the actions that allow you to manage your mind better. Finally, stepping back and studying where you’re making progress and needing additional support helps you maintain a continuous self-improvement cycle.
The big takeaway is that if you want to enjoy life’s freedoms NOW, hold yourself accountable for fixing your stuff! If you want more help figuring out which of your thoughts, feelings, and actions help you achieve the results you want in life, download your FREE copy of The Show Up Report. I created the worksheet to help Gen Xers understand how your unique patterns block you from living your dream life.
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