In the blame game, everyone loses

At the end of the day, only you can make yourself happy

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

NancyPlummerLogoI had a client come to me, bitter, angry, and practically frothing at the mouth as she raged on about how her ex-husband had destroyed her life and the lives of her children. When I asked her how long ago they were divorced, she answered boldly, “5 years.”

All of us at some time in our lives have blamed others for our misfortunes. We blame bad drivers, poor weather conditions, even old sports equipment. However, blaming your ex or anyone for the rest of your life (or up until now) hinders you from taking action, making changes, and living a long and happy life.

It’s often easy to spot others who play the blame game. However, if you can admit that you rarely believe you are wrong, if you dwell a lot on the past, if you view the demise of your marriage or relationship as being out of your control, or if you tend to feel sorry for yourself, then it’s time to look deeper.

So, how does one start taking responsibility, stop blaming others, and start living their life?

First, recognize that accepting personal responsibility or accepting any of the blame can be very difficult. It’s not something you can conquer in one day, so be patient.

Second, think of an event in the past where you felt you had no blame whatsoever. Now, try looking at what occurred through the person’s eyes you felt wronged you. Is there anything you could have said or done differently that might have helped the situation? Can you see where you might be able to accept more personal responsibility? Just a little? It’s a start.

Third, start forgiving yourself and others. No one is perfect. As Lewis Smedes once wrote, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

Fourth, write down a list of things in your life that make you unhappy. Look at your list and pick one aspect that you will start making a change today. If you feel unhappy that you are overweight (perhaps you’ve been blaming your ex for not making you feel wanted or pretty), make a conscious decision to do something about it for you and no one else. Choose someone close to you (sister, friend, daughter) who can help you stay accountable, or hire a professional to help you in your endeavor. Once you’ve succeeded on your first challenge, identify another area of your life that you are not happy with. Perhaps you haven’t found another love? As my father always so wisely told us children, “There’s no easier way to get over a broken heart than replacing him with a better man.” Go for it!

Fifth, adopt a positive outlook on life. Always believe that things will go right for you and you will start seeing things work out more often. Life isn’t so much about what happens to us, life is about how we perceive things. Have you ever noticed how some people always can find the silver lining even when life is really tough? So, instead of getting so upset that your ex is able to afford to take your kids on a vacation to Peru, feel blessed that your children are able to spend quality time with their father (because children do need both their parents), and that they are getting an incredible cultural and worldly fun education.

Sixth, try to better yourself each day. Part of taking personal responsibility is checking in with yourself regularly to make sure you are being your best self. Are you living up to your word? Are you always (not sometimes) on time? Are you always trying to look for ways to complement and help others? Are you striving to learn more each day through reading, courses, or working harder?

Seventh, stop trying to escape from your life. Start living presently in the moment. Realize that every moment of every day we are making choices that will better or worsen our lives. You’ll need to practice mindfulness, perhaps through yoga, prayer or meditation. You’ll learn and accept that you can’t control how others will react to your actions. You’ll find that the more you take personal responsibility, the more you’ll understand and also accept what you can’t and never will be able to control.

Lastly, it’s your life, take charge, just do it!

Nancy Plummer is Founder of Principle Development Strategies, inspiring individuals and groups to transform their personal and professional lives.

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