Consider an addict having a relapse. Her promise was not to drink. Was she unable or unwilling to keep her promise?
Consider someone with crippling depression. Are they unable to feel better, or just unwilling?
Consider someone sitting at home eating Bugles and staring at his navel. Do I lack the will to go to the gym, or am I actually unable to?
These are the same question, and there’s no “true” answer. But there is an empowering answer. By holding this answer, I have a great deal more say in how things go in and around my life, and people I couldn’t relate to before, make a lot more sense.
The answer is a paradox. For myself, the answer is (almost) 100% will, where for others, the answer is almost 100% can.
I could go to the gym–I really could–and I’m choosing not to. I still get depressed and anxious, though less frequently; I’m not doing what it would take to permanently resolve those issues. I could do more. I live in an apartment because I chose to spend money on a bunch of expensive toys and vacations, rather than saving up for a down payment for a house. It’s 100% me.
But for the addict having a relapse, who isn’t me, there’s nothing she could have done differently. The hand she was dealt led, inevitably, here.
The secret to life, I maintain, is taking responsibility for it. People talk about “giving up your power” when you’re angry or resentful, or whatever, but the biggest concession of power is just failing to say “I am responsible for this.” You want something? Go get it. Something bugging you? Stop it. Take action. That’s the secret, right there.
So I grant others space to be doing what they’re doing, because there’s nothing else they could do; and I grant myself permission to do what I do, of my own choice, without justification. (After all, the only reason I ever had to justify anything was because I said so. Someone else told me, and I believed them–and they could have done no differently–but I can choose freely now.)