Most of us hate to realize we’re the problem. If something went wrong with anything, we’re thinking “I hope I didn’t do that!” Maybe it started way back in whatever sports we played as kids. The game was half over, the score was 123–0 for the other guys, and everyone else on our team was sitting on the bench asking, “Man, what happened?? How did we get here??” Meanwhile, we were sitting there, looking down at our shoes, and frantically thinking, “Don’t say it was my fault!”
Here’s what is easy to miss whenever you find yourself in one of those times… it’s best when it is your fault! True, your grandmother may not talk to you for a few days. Mom may mysteriously run out of dessert just before she gets to you. Your dog may not want to sleep in your bed for a few nights. There may be a For Sale sign on your neighbors’ lawn in the morning. There’s no denying that being the goat is no fun. But admitting you’re the goat is the best way to stop being one.
Consider these situations:
- If you’re in school and actually do have a bad teacher, there’s not a lot you can do to make him or her better.
- If you’re in business with a partner who is consistently messing things up, you can encourage or point out the issues or criticize or threaten to end the partnership, but you’ll be challenged to actually change that person’s way of doing things.
- If you’re on a sports team with a bad player or coach, or always manage to get the worst ref when you play, you can’t make them better. You’re just not likely to be hoisting any trophies over your head this season.
- If you have a spouse or parent or child or other relative who constantly drives you crazy, you probably realized long ago that, no matter how stressful things might be, that person’s personality is ultimately beyond your control.
Like it or not, when it’s someone else’s fault, there’s only so much you can do to correct your problems.
But what if it’s your fault?
- If you identify study habits that you can actually change or work on, you will see your marks go higher.
- If you recognize ways you have not been communicating clearly with your partner, or ways you can more clearly delegate what needs to be done, you actually can reduce conflicts in the office and bump up your profits.
- If you ask your coach or teammates to name one skill you really need to work on, and then get some help changing it, you actually will see things improve, often in a surprisingly short period of time.
- If you tell yourself — no matter how much a family problem is clearly another person’s fault — that you can change something about how you handle it, and then actually make that change, you may suddenly find your home is noticeably more comfortable and loving.
My Dad used to tell me that if I had a problem with everyone around me, maybe the problem was not everyone around me. That can sound a bit harsh, but it makes sense. A lot of sense. The good news is it usually doesn’t take very long before you can actually see your changes begin to make a difference in your life.
The next time you run into a scenario where you’re dealing with someone else messing things up, stop and tell yourself, “Okay, I bet there is at least one thing here that really is my fault, and that I can change.” Find it, and change it. See what happens. I can’t guarantee that it will change something every time, but I can promise you that you’ll see positive changes a whole lot more often than you would have if you had left the blame on the other person.
It may run against the way we like to operate, but the reality is we cannot change the things that are someone else’s fault. We can change the things that are ours.
Would you rather have problems you cannot change, or problems you can?