Your GPS for Less Stress: How Twelve Rules Can Take You Where You Want to Go

Your GPS for Less Stress: How Twelve Rules Can Take You Where You Want to Go

by Kenneth Shuster


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452588735
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 01/31/2014
Pages: 178
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)

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How Twelve Rules Can Take You Where You Want to Go


Balboa Press

Copyright © 2014 Kenneth Shuster
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-8873-5


Be Responsible

"Deaf-Mutes, Idiots and Minors are exempt from all the precepts of the Torah." – The Talmud

"If you don't run your own life, somebody else will."-John Atkinson

When you take responsibility for your life, you are better situated to live the best life you can and weather the storms life inevitably brings you. This reduces stress because when you make your own decisions and manage the details of your reality, you are not under the control and authority of others as much as you are when you yourself do not exercise that control. Think about it. Because you require things like food, shelter, clothing, companionship, and medical care to exist, if you do not make the decisions that best fulfill these needs, someone else is going to make them for you. You will always have more control over, and less stress in, your life when that someone is you. This is because you have the ability and inclination to be the friend to yourself that other people may not be. To put it differently, because it is likely you love yourself more than anyone else does, you will make better decisions for yourself than anyone else would. However, being responsible will not simply reduce your stress in some general sense. It will reduce it in every situation in which you find yourself, and it will do so in direct proportion to how responsible you are. In short, the more control you have over your life, the less stress you (will) experience. Moreover, when you take responsibility for everything in your life, including your past, present, and future, you reduce your stress even more. Unfortunately, this does not mean that when you are responsible you will not have stress. You will. You will still worry and make mistakes. Your kids will get into trouble, your significant other will not always act to your liking, your boss will still be a jerk, and you may fall behind with your bills. It is important that you realize this, because if you don't, you may very well derail your attempts to reduce stress and improve yourself. That being said, "being in the driver's seat," which is where responsibility places you, is guaranteed to reduce stress in any situation.

Yet, many of us seem to have a problem with responsibility, at least to some extent. For example, many of us are not responsible when it comes to money, and others who are in control of their money are frequently not the most responsible of parents. Others who are good parents are irresponsible when it comes to their careers. Still others who invest well in their careers are uninspired to broaden their horizons. Finally, many good, cultured, and educated parents and professionals are not active in community affairs. However, even those who appear to have it all together, whether as spouses, parents, wage-earners, or community activists, often do not take the best care of themselves emotionally or physically. This applies not only at the individual level but globally as well. It is curious that although we can send people to the moon, innovate state-of-the-art medical treatments, and achieve significant breakthroughs in many areas that benefit us, many of us are broke, underpaid, underutilized, overweight, smoking, cynical couch potatoes, who just cannot manage to be completely responsible for ourselves.

Responsibility does not depend on fault

One reason for this is that we are taught, often from a very early age, that if something is not our fault we are not responsible for it. This belief is so widespread it has created a "victim culture" in which we are not at fault for anything! If we are overweight it is because fast food is too available, we did not learn healthy eating habits, we do not have time to eat properly or exercise, etc. We smoke because the tobacco industry manipulates the nicotine in cigarettes to keep us hooked, we've been smoking far too long to quit, we're exposed to secondhand smoke anyway, we have too much stress, etc. If we have less than optimal relationships with our spouses and children, it is because we work too hard and cannot spend enough time with them, our spouses don't understand us, our kids don't respect us, there is a generation gap, and so on. Although all of us occasionally rationalize our behavior this way, it is important to realize that if you truly want to, you can always stop smoking. If your family is important enough, you will find time for them. If you need to lose weight, you can always find a way to reduce.

The truth is that our excuses degrade us and cheapen our relationships by taking the seriousness and worthiness out of them. Think about it. If your significant other, your children, and your very self are mere fodder for excuses, what does this say about who you are, what you think about yourself and the person you could be, as well as those who should be important to you? Also, excuses exist in direct proportion to responsibility. A good rule of thumb is the more excuses you hear someone make for why things are not working in her life, the less responsible that person is.

Moreover, responsibility is not synonymous with fault, i.e., you are responsible for everything in your life, even what you do not cause. If you smoke, it is your responsibility to stop, for if you don't, it will be your body, and not that of your parents, children, boss, spouse, friends, enemies, or co-workers that becomes diseased. If you are overweight or out of shape, it is your responsibility to reduce and get fit, for if you don't, you and no one else will suffer from shortness of breath and reduced stamina. If you do not take the time to invest in your relationships, you will be the one who fails to reap the benefits such connections can afford, attachments that can yield some of the greatest joys in life. To better appreciate that you are always responsible for your life, consider the following unfortunate story:

When I was growing up in Hollywood, Florida, drug dealers would kidnap teenagers and hold them hostage for a month. During that time, the dealers would forcibly inject the teens with drugs to literally create new customers. In fact, these teenagers were released only after they had become drug addicts. It is hard to imagine another scenario in which persons can be as entirely without blame for a negative consequence as these teens were. Accordingly, you may believe that because these teens are not at fault for what happened to them because they did not cause it, they are not responsible for their addictions. More importantly, to hold the teens responsible would let the drug dealers off the hook. However, such a conclusion only makes sense if you equate responsibility with fault and see the relationship between fault and responsibility as an all-or-nothing proposition. In fact, as this story demonstrates, there can be shared responsibility: the teens are responsible for their rehabilitation and the drug dealers are responsible for making the teens into addicts. Now, shared responsibility does not mean both parties are equally responsible, only that they both are accountable to some extent for their actions. However, ultimate and primary responsibility for a life always falls on those who will be most affected by the consequences of taking or avoiding responsibility, i.e., each and every one of us individually.

There are two types of responsibility

To better understand this, imagine "responsibility" can be used in two different ways. The first way, which would apply to the drug dealers or anyone who intentionally harms others, is "accountability." This falls on society more than on the criminals. In other words, although we all have a duty to behave responsibly, an understanding of "responsibility" as accountability informs society's duty to hold criminals accountable. The second definition of "responsibility" is responsibility for self-development or a "higher quality of life," and this is what I mean when I say individuals are responsible (for themselves). Furthermore, it is this Responsibility for Self which always rests primarily on those who stand to gain the most from taking care of themselves, i.e., each of us individually.

How we become responsible I

We acquire responsibility in stages. We begin to be responsible when we no longer depend on others for our physical needs, i.e., when we can dress and feed ourselves. Most of us reach this stage between the ages of two and three. We then acquire greater responsibility as we begin to think for ourselves (around the age of twelve). Finally, we should be totally responsible for ourselves from the time we can manage most aspects of our lives (between 18 and 21). The fact that many cultures allow 18-21-year-olds to drive, vote, drink, marry, and serve their country reflects this trajectory. Conscientious parents begin to give their children chores and assignments, not from the time the children want to do them, but from the time they can do them. As children grow up they are then given additional responsibilities commensurate with their experience. Once they become adults, they may interact in society without restraints and are given the freedoms and responsibilities such participation affords. In fact, many schools of psychology, including humanistic psychology, believe the greatest determinant to how trustworthy, emotionally secure, socially adept, globally responsible, and psychologically healthy children become depends on how much responsibility they are given while they are growing up. However, in some instances the maturation process is interrupted or even arrested, and children are not taught to be responsible, either by parents or others who have authority over them. This may be due to at least three reasons.

First, as difficult as it may be to accept, some parents do not care enough to inconvenience themselves to teach their children responsibility. Second, many parents seek to shelter their children from the realities of the world. Finally, some children have intellectual, emotional, and psychological deficits that prevent them from being responsible, in spite of the best efforts of parents and guardians to make them so. The good news is that, much of the time, these difficulties with responsibility can be overcome. It usually depends on how bound by their actions irresponsible persons become. For example, the student who incurs thousands of dollars of debt for non-essentials and has no way to pay it off, quickly learns to not charge things she cannot afford. The homeowner whose child is admitted to the hospital with breathing problems because he neglected to mold-proof his home will be much more careful about cleaning his house in the future. It is sad how many of us must be visited by tragedy before we learn to finally be responsible. It is even more tragic that many of us never learn to be completely responsible, regardless of the negative results our irresponsibility brings us. This reality, of course, causes many of us to need to be provided for, either by our families or society, and as a consequence, to never become full-fledged members of society.

Of course, the reality that a certain segment of society will never be responsible for itself is not new. In fact, it is acknowledged by the world's religions. For example, in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, those who cannot take care of themselves are excused from the performance of many rituals. This freedom from the responsibility of religious observance complements the freedom from personal and societal responsibility that all-who-must-be-provided-for have. The salient feature of this dynamic, in both its societal, religious, and secular manifestations, and the greatest tragedy of it, is the inability of irresponsible individuals to create meaningful, value-laden lives for themselves.

How we become responsible II

So how do those of us who can take care of ourselves become motivated to be (more) responsible? One way is to strive to be considered responsible by those who are themselves responsible. For example, to acquire a reputation among responsible people as someone whose word is so respected that in the event you are unable to do what you promised, such failure will automatically be ascribed to circumstances beyond your control. Such a reputation of responsibility will, in turn, help you be even more responsible, for it will motivate you to live up to the positive expectations of others. In fact, behavioral management theory studies confirm that we are more motivated by the expectations of others than we are by even the promise of greater material rewards. Another thing you can do to become more responsible is appreciate when you are not being responsible.

As a general rule, you can look to two things that show you are not being responsible: when you blame others and when you excuse yourself. These avoidance techniques can be used singularly, although they are often used together. The most common one by far is blaming. The irresponsible person blames anybody and everybody he can, i.e., his parents, boss, spouse, lover, and even children and strangers, for all that is not working in his life. Blaming and excusing do not help because they work against your being responsible. They do this in two ways. First, they shift your focus from things you can control to things you cannot do much about. The fact is that when you blame others, you not only focus on things you cannot control, at some level you know that this is what you are doing while you do it! How else can you explain the fact that when most of us blame others we frequently complain to those who cannot do anything to help us! For example, we tell our spouses about our bosses and our bosses about our spouses, strangers about our children, our family about our friends, and our friends about our family. Curiously, we don't usually complain about our troubles to people who can do anything about them. This demonstrates that, at least on some level, we do not blame and complain to improve anything, but to feel less responsible for our circumstances. In fact, the word "blame" is closely related to the Old Greek "blasphemein," which is the basis for the word "blasphemy." This is appropriate, for "blasphemy" is a form of slander and one who blames someone else for that which he himself is responsible has, in a real sense, slandered that person. Another problem with blaming others is that when you shift your focus from what you can to what you cannot control, you not only become less responsible but also come to believe you are powerless to help yourself.

Learned helplessness

The belief that you are powerless to help yourself is worse than the actual irresponsibility it causes, because it can prevent you from doing things for yourself. Over time it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, for it literally makes powerless those who believe they are powerless. Psychologists call this phenomenon "learned helplessness" and, unfortunately, it is very widespread. It results, at least in part, from the identity we are given by our parents, teachers, and others during our formative years. For example, "daddy's little princess," who is spoiled and made to believe the world revolves around her, may have a very difficult time when she grows up accepting the reality that people are not going to treat her with the kid gloves her father did. Likewise, a child who is taught to "always be nice" and put others first, may find it hard as an adult to assert her needs. She may even be so afraid of hurting the feelings of others that she has a hard time knowing what her needs are in the first place! Such individuals, and many others who suffer from comparable circumstances, often come to believe there is no use trying to go after what they want, for with their emotional problems, it is too difficult to do so. This results in their inability to move forward in life and is a major reason so many of us come to be emotionally helpless. Even more tragic is the fact that because nature designed us to progress in life, when we do not improve, we do not merely stagnate but regress. So learned helplessness does not just cause us to not get ahead, it pushes us back in life. The good news is that we can overcome learned helplessness because we can always reinvent ourselves to acquire better life conditions, regardless of our individual circumstances.


Excerpted from YOUR GPS FOR LESS STRESS by KENNETH SHUSTER. Copyright © 2014 Kenneth Shuster. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface, vii,
Introduction, xi,
Rule #1 Be Responsible, 3,
Rule #2 Use Pleasure and Pain to Maximum Advantage, 14,
Rule #3 Do Not Allow Fear to Paralyze You, 22,
Rule #4 Take Action, 33,
Rule #5 Maximize Your Physical, Emotional & Mental Well-being, 51,
Rule #6 Do Not Beat Yourself Up Over Past Mistakes, 64,
Rule #7 Make Positive Change Easy, 75,
Rule #8 Enjoy Compatible & Loving Relationships, 83,
Rule #9 Do Not Take On The Responsibilities of Others, 97,
Rule #10 Treat Every Human Being With Respect, 104,
Rule #11 Use Time and Money Efficiently, 115,
Rule #12 Develop a Religious or Spiritual Practice and an Attitude of Gratitude, 129,
Afterward, 149,
About The Author, 151,
Bibliography, 153,

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