Here's What to Do When Things Don't Go RightNone By Homaira Kabir
You didn't get movie tickets to the latest blockbuster and now you're furious yourself. “The stupid cinema is too small”, “Trust her to buy tickets on time”, “I’ll never depend on him again” and on and on, until you have blamed the entire world for your woes. And yet, the tickets being sold out could hardly be a universal effort to destroy your life. It is your response to the event that has led to your misery.
This could be because of the way our brains are wired. You see, we generally don't respond in life. We react instead. It's a good energy-saving strategy of the brain and works well to ensure our survival. However, these subconscious reactions don't always help us thrive. Worse yet, we're often unaware of them, and fail to see our role in the outcome.
Imagine offering a sincere suggestion to a friend, but they're offended and react with anger. You think they have no reason to be upset and decide to never approach them again. Both of you blame the other and a friendship is needlessly destroyed. Your subconscious minds were in charge and reacted with their ancient survival instinct.
Conscious responding is about opening up in empathy, about taking perspective, and about taking full responsibility for our part in the outcome. It's only then that we learn to think through our behaviors, arrive at wiser decisions and respond in ways that bring out the best in us.
On this road to accepting blame, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Be On Your Own Side
Accepting blame is not about beating down on ourselves. It's about taking responsibility for our behaviors while maintaining inner trust in our capacity to create change. This courage to do the right things begins from a place of self-compassion, of knowing that we accept ourselves no matter what. It begins by forgiving ourselves, by recognizing the humanness in us so that we can rise to our humanity.
See the Learning Curve
Dr. Carol Dweck talks about the importance of developing a "growth mindset", one that sees learning as a plant that grows and blossoms with the right nourishment. A growth mindset allows us to see our mistakes as life lessons that help us refine our behaviors and become better versions of ourselves every time. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, makes us defensive of our actions and quick to lay the blame on others.
Develop Compassionate Empathy
Empathy allows us to change our "me"-centered perspective and see the situation from the mind of another person. However, sometimes knowing what the other person feels or even feeling with them, is not enough to change our response. Science shows that it is compassionate empathy, the wish for the other to not suffer, that moves us to action and opens us to reconsider our role in the situation.
Forgive and (Perhaps!) Forget
When we refuse to forgive another person, we stay firm in our belief that they are to blame. This singular view of the situation not only leads to disproportionate retaliation, it also blinds us to our role in the conflict. True, our role may have been minimal, and we may fear being hurt again. But to move on and grow as a person through it, we need to forgive, even if we choose not to forget.
Own Your Attitude
Sometimes we let a simple thing like a boss’s passing comment bother us and instantly decide that they're out to get us, leading to needless unhappiness at work. We can let other people’s reactions control our own if we forget that we have the ultimate choice in how we wish to respond. Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
So when things don't go right, stop looking outside for blame. It makes you a victim of the daily challenges that are a part of every life.
Instead, take the blame and respond consciously. For therein lies power to change the outcome and grow through life. And that is a good thing.
Do you react or respond to life events? What can you do today to take back control over your life?
Homaira Kabir is a Women’s Leadership Coach, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and a Positive Psychology Practitioner, whose work expands the breadth of the human experience. She empowers women to become leaders of their own selves in order to become leaders in relationships, at work and in life. You can read more about her work at homairakabir.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@homairakabir).
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