One of the most difficult things to see when you are in the midst of the hardest part of life is what part you are playing in its hardships. Things happen to us everyday we do not invite or deserve. Being thrown up on by our toddler just as we are heading off to work, made late because we are held up in traffic, experiencing disrespect from our manager. None of this may be our fault but that is cold comfort compared to the impact it has on our day. We can get very caught up in how unnecessary these things are. We may even go so far as to blame others for these unfortunate circumstances. My spouse fed the baby too quickly causing nausea. I am the only one who fills up our car with gas, which puts me in the thick of rush hour. My manager is really mean.
Who among us hasn’t had those thoughts or uttered those words (or something like them)?
One of the toughest things to do when faced with a circumstance that is not of our making is to stay with it and participate in the muck of it. If we are not awake to what is happening around us, our first instinct is to react, to be defensive, to say “not me”. And it truly may not be you. You don’t control the way a growing toddler digests food, traffic flow or the way other people think. You are likely going along trying to be the best (fill in your role here…parent, community member, employee…) you can possibly be. So it is not unexpected, or even uncommon, that we distance ourselves from what is happening when things go wrong.
Except that when we put ourselves outside of the problem, we cannot be part of the solution.
When we cry “not it” and back away with our hands up, we are unable to participate in moving things forward constructively. When things move forward without our involvement the same circumstance is more likely to repeat itself (or become worse), compounding our frustrations and our reactions. The baby may throw up on us again, we hit gridlock constantly and our manager won’t get any better at respect. What life calls for is a level of consciousness that lets in the AND, but you need to be in the problem to see it. The baby threw up on me a few times this week and my spouse and I will take some time to look and see if baby is getting sick or if there is something we’re doing that is contributing. Traffic is getting worse and I may need to look at a new route to work, shifting my commute times or shifting my working hours. My manager is often disrespectful and unless I have a conversation with him/her it will never come to light that this is not working well for either of us.
No judgement, no blame, just a calm look at what else is present that you do have control over and what influence you can exercise. This is not easy. It requires us to rise above the circumstance and to make a home for ourselves within the problem. To do that we first need to manage how we feel because this fuels our reaction, and those feelings are based on our beliefs. If we believe “this is not my fault” we are more likely to also feel that someone else should take responsibility to fix it. Except that does not address how the problem impacts us, nor how it will continue to impact us if nothing changes.
Taking a closer look at yourself, picturing yourself inside the problem allows you to work within in. It gives you options and influence over how the problem is resolved or addressed. It also allows you to see how we play a part in our own misfortune, and in so doing, getting to the place where we can help to resolve it. I have been rushing to get into work this week and not letting the baby’s tummy settle enough after eating before putting her in her snowsuit. I am letting traffic make me late and not taking responsibility for how I could change my commute. I am letting another person treat me with disrespect, enabling them to keep doing it.
You are not to blame for everything that happens to you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem you need to be actively involved in to solve. Becoming aware of your role in helping to source a solution is the key to empowering you to influence, and bring forward, a win-win outcome for yourself and others. We are the authors of our own misfortune, but we are also the authors of our destiny. Which do you choose to write?
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.