“People have a death grip on what they think reality should look like and all stress comes from life not fitting your pictures.”-Peter Sage
Think about the last time something didn’t go your way.
Got it? Good.
Now, whose fault was it that you didn’t get your way?
- Was it a co-worker or your boss?
- Was it your spouse?
- Was it your brother?
- Was it your sister?
- Was it some old person driving slow?
- Was it some jerk?
- Was it some punk?
If you are like most people, you’ll have someone or something to “blame” for the reason you didn’t get your way.
Now, as a hypothetically exercise, I want you to “blame” yourself for it not going your way. Think of the ways you could have acted differently.
- Maybe you weren't prepared?
- Maybe you could have kept your opinion to yourself?
- Maybe you should have taken another course of action?
Figure out a way that it could have gone differently based on you and you alone. (This is an exercise—you don’t have to agree with what you come up with.)
Next—try your best with this one—try to rationalize the actions of the person you “blame” as if you were in their shoes. Find a way to make what they did—or didn’t do—“OK” or “not as bad” in your mind.
Now, let’s visit a Stoic principle. The Stoics believe:
The only thing that you can control in the universe is yourself—your thoughts, actions, responses, feelings, etc.
According to the infallible logic of the Stoics, the only person you can “blame” is yourself because it is only yourself that you can control. And since blame is only an opinion we form about a situation (perception), and serves no purpose other than to ignore the Stoic principle of personal responsibility, you would be wise to adjust your perception to one that will allow you to benefit.
Life presents you ample opportunity to learn. You just have to open your eyes and recognize these situations. The situations in which you hold the most resentment, pain and regret are often the bearer of life’s greatest lessons. You must be willing to wade through your emotions to see things for what they are. Most people are not able to do this, and as a result they miss out on the wisdom that is hidden beneath the surface (they also miss out on a chance to end the suffering that is attached to these regretful situations).
Decide that you want to harbor hate and attribute blame.
Decide to learn and become better—“what could I have done differently,” “why do I think the way you think,” “am I too sensitive,” “am I irrational,” etc.
With enough practice, your default response can become: “What could I have done differently?” This is the difference between choosing how you respond to life instead of letting life do the choosing for you.
Any pain you experience in life, and whether you learn from these situations or not, is your choice. Instead of blaming the world, learn from it.
Were you wronged? Great, you now have a valuable tool for improvement.
- Maybe you become more careful with who you trust.
- Maybe you stay in lighted areas instead of taking the back roads.
- Maybe you choose your words more carefully.
- Maybe you study for the exam instead of making excuses why it’s “not part of the curriculum.”
- Maybe you accept your friends and family and all their “shortcomings” instead of lecturing them on how you think they should be.
No matter how terrible a thing is, you can always garner usefulness from it.
Learn from every situation.
Fault is useless. Blame is useless.The only thing that matters is how you respond.
Action: Drop the blame game. The only person that you hurt is yourself. Learn from your worst situations and become wiser for the future. Let go of the torment of your mind that wants to hold on to blame and justification. This will release the lessons hidden as well as save you a ton of mental pain. Remember, reality is merely perception. You decide how it looks. Your circumstance can be an opportunity or a prison… the choice is yours.
Choose wisely for your life is at stake.