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7 Timeless Thoughts on Taking Responsibility for Your Life July 18, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Moving Forward , add a comment

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.”
Albert Einstein

“It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.”

“A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”
Denis Waitley

What is one of the most boring and tiresome words ever?

Like discipline, responsibility is one of those words you have probably heard so many times from authority figures that you’ve developed a bit of an allergy to it. Still, it’s one of the most important things to grow and to feel good about your life. Without it as a foundation nothing else here or in any personal development book really works.

So today I’d like to explore personal responsibility with the help from some timeless thoughts on the topic.

1. There is always a price to pay.

“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…

2. Build your self-esteem.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, self-esteem and personal satisfaction.”
Brian Tracy

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
Joan Didion

Why do people often have self-esteem problems? I’d say that one of the big reasons is that they don’t take responsibility for their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered.

This damages many vital parts in your life. Stuff like relationships, ambitions and achievements.

That hurt will not stop until you wise up and take responsibility for your life. There is really no way around it.

And the difference is really remarkable. Just try it out. You feel so much better about yourself even if you only take personal responsibility for your own life for day.

This is also a way to stop relying on external validation like praise from other people to feel good about yourself. Instead you start building a stability within and a sort of inner spring that fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you. Which brings us to the next reason to take personal responsibility…

3. Give yourself the permission to live the life you want.

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.”
George O’Neil

By taking responsibility for our lives we not only gain control of what happens. It also becomes natural to feel like you deserve more in life as your self-esteem builds and as you do the right thing more consistently. You feel better about yourself.

This is critically important.

Because it’s most often you that are standing in your own way and in the way of your success. It’s you that start to self-sabotage or hold yourself back in subtle or not so subtle ways once you are on your way to the success you dream of.

To remove that inner resistance you must feel and think that you actually deserve what you want. You may be able to do a little about that by affirmations and other positive techniques. But the biggest impact by far comes from taking responsibility for yourself and your life. By doing the right thing.

4. Taking action becomes natural.

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is often said that your thoughts become your actions. But without taking responsibility for your life those thoughts often just stay on that mental stage and aren’t translated into action. Taking responsibility for your life is that extra ingredient that makes taking action more of a natural thing. You don’t get stuck in just thinking, thinking and wishing so much. You become proactive instead of passive.

5. Understand the limits of your responsibility.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

Taking responsibility for your life is great. But that is also all that you have control over. You can’t control the results of your actions. You can’t control how someone reacts to what you say or what you do.

It’s important to know where your limits are. Otherwise you’ll create a lot unnecessary suffering for yourself and waste energy and focus by taking responsibility for what you can’t and never really could control.

You can read more about this liberating mindset in One Timeless Tip That Can Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier.

6. Don’t forget to take responsibility in everyday life too.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
Helen Keller

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Abraham Lincoln

Life consists of each day. Not just the big events sometime in the future. So don’t forget to take responsibility for the little things today too. Don’t postpone it. Taking responsibility for your life can be hard and taxing on you. It’s not something you master over the weekend. So you might as well get started with the it right now.

7. Aim to be your best self.

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.”
Brian Tracy

This is of course not easy. But it’s a lot of fun and the payoff is massive.
You are not trying to escape from your life anymore. Instead you take control, face what’s going on and so the world and new options open up for you.
You start taking action not just when you feel like it. Improvement isn’t about short spurts once in a while. Consistent action is what really pays off and can help you achieve just about anything.
You build your self-esteem to higher levels. And may discover that many smaller problems you experience regularly such as negative thinking, self-defeating behaviour and troubled relationships with yourself and others start to correct themselves as your self-esteem improves. You gain an inner stability and can create your own positive feelings within without the help of validation from other people.

So how do you take responsibility?

Well, it’s simply choice that you have to make.

Reviewing the reasons above – and now also the awesome quotes – is for me a powerful way to keep myself in line. Though it doesn’t always work. Doing the right thing in every situation is hard to do and also hard to always keep in mind. So don’t aim for perfection. Just try to be as good a person as you can be right now.

When you know those very important reasons above it becomes a lot easier to stick with taking responsibility. And to not rationalize to yourself that you didn’t really have to take responsibility in various situations. That doesn’t mean that I beat myself up endlessly about it. I just observe that I have hurt myself and my life. And that doesn’t feel good. And so I become less prone to repeat the same mistake.

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Sentencing Justice Update July 16, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , add a comment

Update from FAMM:

Last month was full of surprises and we couldn’t be happier! The first surprise came on June 21 when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with us that people who committed crack cocaine offenses before August 3, 2010, but were sentenced after that date, should be sentenced to the lower crack penalties passed in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The decision was music to our ears because, frankly, we weren’t sure the Court would side with us.

This is a victory for everyone who has continued to fight this issue since 1987. Congratulations to every attorney and public defender who never gave up. This decision is based on a lot of hard work in various District and Appellate courts to push for this change, as well as tireless advocacy by organizations across the country. To read the Court’s opinion in the case, Dorsey v. United States, click here.

The second big surprise from the Supreme Court arrived on June 25 when they decided that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional! The Court said the sentences violated the Constitution’s 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Their reasoning was that children are different than adults in important respects and judges couldn’t consider the juvenile’s “chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” as well as the offender’s “family and home environment” and “the circumstances of the offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct.” In other words, the mandatory life sentence was found to be unconstitutional because it didn’t allow a judge to sentence each person as an individual! That’s what we’ve been saying at FAMM for two decades! You can read the Court’s opinion in Miller v. Alabama here.

The last great surprise of the month came on June 26 when a Florida State judge threw out the 20-year mandatory prison sentence given to Ronald Thompson for firing two warning shots into the ground to protect his elderly friend. The judge ordered a new trial for Thompson and his immediate release from prison. This is an incredible case that highlights everything that is wrong with mandatory minimum sentences in general, and Florida’s mandatory 10-20-life sentences for gun violations, in particular. We’ve spent the last few months shining a spotlight on this law and how it is snaring people who have harmed no one yet are serving 20-year prison sentences.

You’ve got to read Ronald Thompson’s story to understand why we’re so passionate about changing this law. For Thompson, who has served three years and is 65-years-old, nearly blind, and in failing health, the chance for a new trial could be lifesaving — literally. And if the district attorney has a shred of compassion, she will not retry him. Stay tuned to see how that turns out! Until then, read the recent news reports about Thompson’s case, which frequently quote FAMM’s Florida project director, Greg Newburn, who is leaving no stone unturned in Florida as he fights to change this law!

Whether July will have as many happy surprises is yet to be seen, but who knows? The occasion of Independence Day (July 4th) is a great time for President Obama to grant “independence” to some deserving prisoners by commuting their sentences…



Sentencing Commission Priorities July 6, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , 1 comment so far

Update from Julie Stewart, FAMM President:

Earlier this week, I asked you to write and tell the U.S. Sentencing Commission to make fixing the drug guidelines a priority. It sounds like many people are writing, and I’m eager to see how many letters we generate. We know, however, that a lot of our members are interested in other guideline reforms besides drugs. So, if you want to tell the Commission what you think about their non-drug proposed priorities, we urge you to do so.

First, to recap: The Commission recently announced its proposed priorities for the coming year and asked for feedback from the public. Proposed priorities are issues the Commission is thinking about working on in the upcoming years. The Commission doesn’t decide which priorities it is actually going to work on until it hears from the public. That’s where you come in. FAMM plans to submit formal comments to tell the Commission which proposed priorities it should choose to work on. If you care about any of these proposed priorities, or think that the Commission should add one, this is your chance to make sure your voice is heard.

Just because the Commission chooses to work on a particular priority, however, does not mean that the guidelines will change or that people in prison will get shorter sentences. When the Commission chooses to work on a priority, it usually takes a while — sometimes years — before the Commission makes changes, if any, to the guidelines. Even then, very few guideline changes reduce sentences, and very, very few of those are made retroactive. And remember, the Commission cannot change mandatory minimum sentences — only Congress can do that, by passing new laws.

Having said all that … below are some of the areas and activities the Sentencing Commission proposes to pursue this year. If you feel strongly about one or more, you should write and ask the Commission to make them a priority and work on them. Your letters can increase the odds that the Commission will work on the priorities you care about.

The Commission listed nine tentative priorities. Here are the ones we think you might be especially interested in, and some ideas for what to tell the Commission:

Commission Priority 1: Work with Congress and others to follow the recommendations the Commission made about statutory mandatory minimums. Last year, the Commission wrote a report on mandatory minimum laws and proposed a number of positive changes, such as broadening the safety valve, making gun mandatory minimums less severe, and reducing the severity of non-contact child pornography offenses. On the other hand, it also suggested that Congress consider legislation to make it more difficult for judges to disagree with the guidelines, which are now completely advisory.
Possible comment: I strongly oppose mandatory minimum sentencing laws and therefore support proposals to repeal and reform those laws. In its 2011 report on mandatory minimums, the Commission recommended amendments to the federal safety valve so that judges would have discretion to give more offenders appropriate sentences. If mandatory minimums cannot be repealed outright, the safety valve should be expanded.
Commission Priority 2: In the wake of United States v. Booker, continue to study sentences and issue a report possibly recommending that Congress pass laws governing the guidelines.
Possible comment: I do not think Congress or the Commission can foresee the unique circumstances of every case. Therefore, I think courts should have the discretion to depart from the sentencing guidelines, if it is appropriate after reviewing the facts and circumstances of an individual’s case. I urge the Commission to oppose legislation that would eliminate or limit this discretion by making the guidelines mandatory or by making it easier for appeals courts to second-guess sentencing judges’ decisions.
Commission Priority 3: The Commission plans to conclude its review of child pornography offenses and issue a report and possibly recommendations to Congress. Sentences for these offenses have skyrocketed over the past 15 years, driven mostly by Congress and not by empirical evidence. In recent years, many judges have shortened sentences in these cases, when possible.
Possible comment: I support the Commission’s comprehensive study of the guidelines in this area. Sentences for child pornography-related offenses have skyrocketed over the past 15 years. These increases were driven mostly by Congress and not by empirical evidence. Over the past several years, judges have begun departing from the guidelines at an increasing rate, because they know that not all offenders are equally culpable and therefore do not deserve the harsh, one-size-fits-all sentences that usually apply.
Commission Priority 4: The Commission plans to continue its review of the sentences for economic crimes, especially sentences that come from application of the fraud guideline. The Commission may consider amending the guidelines in this area. Currently, calculations using the fraud guideline give too much weight to a single factor – the amount of loss – that doesn’t reflect an offender’s actual culpability. That guideline also has overlapping, redundant enhancements that can drive sentences very high.
Possible comment: I support the Commission’s review of the fraud guideline. Currently, calculations using the fraud guideline give too much weight to a single factor – the amount of loss – that doesn’t reflect an offender’s actual culpability. I am also concerned that the current fraud guideline contains overlapping sentencing enhancements that drive up sentences for even ordinary fraud offenses.
There are more proposals, including studies of the definition of “crime of violence” and new recidivism work. You can find the complete list here.

If you want to comment on any proposed priority, or if you want to suggest additional priorities, write a letter to the Commission. Here are some tips:
When you submit your comments on the proposed priorities, be sure to refer to the priority number so that the commissioners record your views properly.
Tell the Commission why you care; share your personal experiences to the extent you feel comfortable. Your (or your family’s) stories are more powerful than anything else the Commission will hear.
Be direct but respectful. Commission staff read all the letters they receive.
The salutation can read: “Dear Judge Saris,” because Judge Patti Saris chairs the Sentencing Commission.
Address your letter as follows:

United States Sentencing Commission
Attn: Public Affairs – Priorities Comment
One Columbus Ave, NE
Suite 2-500, South Lobby
Washington, DC 20002-8002

You can also email your letter to pubaffairs@ussc.gov.

Please remember that your comments must be received by the Commission on or before July 23.

Thank you so much for your help. It is so important for us get our message to the people with the power to make a difference.