This week I recalled a long ago horse show in surprising detail. Several of us volunteered to help and were given tee shirts as a reward. One woman never got hers and for weeks she complained non-stop, but never spoke to the stable owner who gave out the shirts. Micki taught us a Lesson: When there’s a problem, instead of complaining to everyone you know, go to the person who can do something about it.

Have you ever had to work with someone you disliked? I have, and it’s an embarrassing story. My coworker Sharon and I were total opposites; the only thing we had in common was mutual loathing. Working in a library, we sometimes ended up in the same aisle between shelves and I blush to admit some shoving and jabbing went on. Had Roller Derby been popular at the time, we both could have been candidates for the sport. On opposite sides, of course.

Many years and jobs passed before I pondered: “What were Sharon and I being paid to do?” Were we paid to “like” each other or to “work” with each other?” To be honest, in those days, I wasn’t a team player, but after some trial and error I learned my Lesson: Cooperate instead of judge or criticize. Ha, I can excel in both with little effort! But it’s amazing how things go so much better when I work with and not against others, in all kinds of situations (even as a customer). And the best part—I feel better about myself for “making nice.” Voila!

A few years after launching my business I gave a speech for Secretaries Day and spotted a familiar face in the audience. During break I happily approached Sharon, handing her a free copy of my first book. Her face screwed up and she spat out, “What qualifies YOU to do this?” Poor Sharon was still stuck in the library days. She taught me the Lesson: If you’re unable to free yourself from negatives there won’t be room for what’s positive in your life.

We all have a history. Our pasts hold both Lessons to be learned so we can move on with life, or Lesions that will fester and weep. We can be like Micki or Sharon, sore and stuck in our own “stuff” or we can lighten up and free ourselves so we are more able to “stick our landings.” Which person would you rather be?

In my early years I was angry, envious, and insecure. It took years to radically alter the course of my life and it began with a Big three-fold Lesson. I call it the ARC. My first step (admittedly, the hardest one) was ownership. I had to reluctantly and grudgingly embrace Accountability and it stung. Blaming had been so much more fun!

Being Accountable meant taking Responsibility for everything I thought, said, and did. Whew! This too, was a stretch. Changing my thought patterns was difficult and threatening, but somehow felt right. Fortunately, Choice seemed to slide into place after working my tail off on the first two. Truth be told, we always have a choice, even if we don’t like the one we have to make. It helps to be conscious of the Choices we make, big or small, because we are Accountable and Responsible for them. As a friend of mind once said, “Right now we’re choosing to be a little unhappy about that situation but we’ll get over it.”

Author Erica Jong says: Take your life in your own hands and what happens?
A terrible thing: no one to blame.

The ARC is about being Accountable and Responsible for our Choices: what and how we think (attitude), and what we say and do (actions). Work on this and you’ll end up more objective and relaxed, and less reactive. You’ll have more fun instead of feeling bitter or begrudged. Your relationships will improve, maybe even your health. You’ll spend more time concentrating on what’s right in your world instead of complaining about what’s wrong.

What Big Lessons have changed your life and is there anything in this article you might want to ponder?