When did you last use the phrase “if only”? If only my situation were different… If only this person or that person would do something different… then everything could change. It’s completely understandable that our reaction in many situations we believe to be adverse is to look for the cause outside of ourselves. And indeed, there are many external circumstances that we do not control and may not even be able to influence.
How about the phrase “He/she/it made me…”? She made me angry. The kids got me upset. The weather prevented me from running today. I have often felt that the actions I took or the emotions I felt were primarily driven by something outside myself. There are certainly people and circumstances who trigger specific responses in me, and that can feel like something or someone else “causing” my response. It is human and perfectly normal to assign responsibility for our actions or emotions to others when we do not like what is happening.
However, when we get into this kind of “victim” thinking, we relinquish our ability to make significant change. Most of us do not like to think of ourselves as victims. In fact, we would deny vehemently that we engage in victim thinking. But for most of us, there are actually many moments in the day when we choose to let others be responsible for the things in our lives that we find unpleasant unfavorable or unexpected. Some of the phrases you may find yourself or others using include, “he made me mad”, “we can’t change the economy”, “no one told me…”, “that’s just how it is”, “that’s just how we do things”. Any time that we absolve ourselves of all responsibility for our current circumstances we are engaging in victim thinking.
The momentary relief we experience from assigning blame to some other outside party for our current circumstances has a price. The price we pay is remaining in those circumstances, because in playing the victim, we also expect some outside party to solve our problem. In truth, we each own at least some small part, if not all, of the current situation in which we find ourselves. Even when we are truly victims of uncontrollable circumstances, we can often find warning signals we ignored, good advice we didn’t take, or decisions we made that contribute to us being in our current situation. At the very least, we are responsible for our reaction to those circumstances, including our emotional response.
Until we are able to acknowledge our own responsibility in creating our current results, our attempts to change those results will be largely ineffective. It is only once we are able to step up and own our piece of what we have created, that we can begin to also create solutions and move in the direction of our true goals.
If your business or life is not creating the results you want, what can you personally do to change that? Where have you structured your business or life in such a way that it creates your current results? Rather than blaming the economy, politics, difficult customers, or any other external party, what would change for you if you focused instead on the one thing you, and only you, can change: yourself?