The last time we came to work late, was it the traffic or the weather that we blamed? Or was it the alarm clock’s fault for it didn’t go off? Ahh, the battery of the cellphone went dead.
When we had a break-up with a lover (or a major falling out with a friend), who did we blame? Ourselves or the other party?
Whenever something goes wrong, seldom or rarely (or is it never?) do we hold ourselves responsible for it. We always point our finger at something or hold others accountable. When things don’t turn the way we expect them to, we are always ready to check our blame list to find somebody or something to put the liability on.
This reminds me of one of the narratives of Jim Rohn.* He said that one day he was asked by his mentor Earl Shoaff, “Jim just out of curiosity tell me how come you haven’t done well up until now?” What Mr. Rohn did, according to him, for him not to look too bad, was read on his list of why he wasn’t looking good and not doing well. He blamed, among other things, the government, weather, traffic, company policies, negative relatives, cynical neighbors, economy, and community.
What about our personal blame lists? Is it as long Mr. Rohn’s. Perhaps it’s longer.
Who do people who could not find jobs blame? Of course the favorite whipping boy – the government. They contend that it is the duty of the government to create job opportunities for them. That is true. But work is something that is not going to be awarded to anybody on a silver platter. We have to search for it and we ought to be prepared. It is our responsibility to get ourselves ready for employment. Get the required education or training. We need to have the necessary knowledge and skills.
What if you could not get the education and training you need? Well, whose fault? Okay, I will give you time to check your blame list.
Now let’s continue.
Common sense will tell us that the government cannot possibly provide each citizen with a job. It is also impossible for the private sector to employ everybody. That’s just the reality. Harsh it may be. So, what should we do? Simple – be competitive. Be the best in your field or profession. The best ones are always on top of the priority lists of prospective employers. And if in our respective countries there are no job opportunities, or we won’t get the salary we want, let’s consider applying for work overseas. If you’re not satisfied where you are, go somewhere else.
“You can always move out from where you are now to find yourselves better opportunities. You’re not a tree.” That’s also from Mr. Rohn.
The ones who won’t get employed, or do not want to work for others because they have better plans for themselves, could perhaps succeed as entrepreneurs. Not everybody is trained to be in a workplace and be someone else’s employee. Some of us will be farmers, or fishermen, or plumbers, or drivers, or gardeners. There is always a way to earn an honest living. Whatever it is that we find as a source of livelihood, let’s us be thankful.
Accept the reality that some are rich and some are poor. And hey, don’t blame the rich if they don’t want to help the poor. Don’t blame your rich siblings, friends, and neighbors if they don’t share with you their blessings. It’s either you work as hard as they did for you to have what they have or be content with what you are capable of having.
Just bear in mind that each of us has a choice to A – Be rich; B – Have the means to meet both ends and at least get extra cash to afford some luxuries in life; or C – Have 3 square meals a day. Yes, I consider A, B and C as choices. It’s up to us to decide what to aim at… which of the three would make us happy.
Some people live simple lives happy to be able to eat three times a day. Some set their ceilings high and sometimes even go through it. Each of us has a chance at A. Nobody would prevent us from wanting to become rich. But becoming that won’t be easy… unless you win millions in the lottery.
There are two ways to go (and robbing a bank is not one of them) for those who would aim at A – hope that you hit that lotto jackpot or work as hard and wisely as those who became millionaires and billionaires did.
And when you fail to be so… when you fail to achieve your dreams and realize your goals… blame no one.
People who suffer from setbacks and face adversities would more often than not blame their friends or family members – parents, siblings, children, spouses – citing lack of support. Let’s not forget that support is something that is given voluntarily. It is not an entitlement. We could say that it is the obligation of our loved ones to help us. But what if they are not capable of helping for just like us they also need help or they also have problems of their own?
Or what if they have the capacity to support but they won’t? That would bring us to another “don’t” aside from don’t blame. That is don’t expect. If we get support in the pursuit of our dreams and goals we should be thankful. If not, our fight goes on. It’s not the end of the world. We should always be ready to fight our battles alone.
And please, let’s not blame our parents also if we are not doing well in life. Let’s not accuse them of not paving the way for us and ensure that rolled in our paths to better lives is a red carpet. Whatever kind of parents we have (or had) – good or bad – they ceased to be in control of us and our future the moment we became capable of deciding for ourselves. The question is, “What did we do when we sat in the driver’s seat of our lives?” Did we do everything we could to ensure that we succeed in our endeavors? Or did we expect that success is like the manna that fell from heaven which the Israelites in the Exodus just freely picked up?
Remember the narrative of Mr. Rohn? It did not end after he made a litany of the reasons why he was not succeeding and who and what should be blamed for that. Mr. Shoaff patiently listened to him and at the end said the following, “Mr. Rohn, the problem with your list is you ain’t on it!”
Before Mr. Rohn decided to work for Mr. Shoaff, he tore off his old blame list and replaced it with a new one where he wrote the only reason for not doing good in life – “ME.”
Now, let’s review our personal blame lists? Are we included on it? Or we automatically assign fault to something or someone for the misfortunes and failures that befall us?
Something that we should understand and accept is whatever we have become, wherever we are in the socio-economic pyramid, and whatever we have and don’t have, are the results of all the decisions we made. Others may disagree but I believe that our destiny is the sum total of all our decisions and indecisions.
We disagree in our interpretation of destiny. Theists believe that whatever happens to us is the will of a supreme being. I also believe that God exists but I think that we chart our own destiny. He gave us the gift of volition so we could have the dignity to decide for ourselves.
So, if we are not succeeding in our endeavors, if we are not healthy, and if we are not happy, we only have ourselves to blame.
* Jim Rohn was a successful American entrepreneur and motivational speaker and his net worth before his death, according to estimates, was $500 million.
“When we strive to become better than we are,
everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coelho
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
That’s the first line in Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Road Not Taken.”
Each time you wake up in the morning, you stand at a fork in a road – one path leads to self-complacency and the other to self-improvement.
“And sorry [you] could not travel both
And be one traveler, long [you] stood
And looked down one as far as [you] could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
You wouldn’t be able to see what lies ahead because the forest of life is dense and the road is not straight. All I can tell you is you will either bear the consequences or enjoy the results of choosing which way to go. And you were not born yesterday not to know the repercussions of self-complacency and the wonderful effects of self-improvement. You know which direction leads to ruin and which one winds through the valley of success and happiness.
But the road to self-improvement is either not taken or the one less traveled because it is easier, if not intuitive for people, to be complacent. Well, according to neuroscientists, we should blame our brain for this. And this is where we’re good at – putting the blame on someone or something else. Would you now add your brain to the list of what or who is to blame for your failures?
Neuroscientists say that we are naturally wired to prefer either lying on the couch or sleeping. We are naturally lazy. We hate getting out of our comfort zones. We want things to be given to us on a silver platter. Thus…
“Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;”
We don’t want to read or to do any personal growth and development program dropping as our excuse the lack of time to do it. We don’t like to undertake fitness programs saying they’re too difficult to commit to. We don’t believe in the value of proper nutrition reiterating that we have the right to eat whatever and whenever we want.
What we want is a magic pill that we can take to magically unlock our full potential and transform us into the best version of ourselves. The bad news is – there’s no such pill and there will never be. Self-improvement is not a magic pill to take but a Mt. Everest to climb.
Sometimes, when you feel like finally wanting to walk the path to self-improvement. You say…
“Oh I kept the first to another day!”
But having enjoyed your journey in the lane of self-complacency, you would exclaim…
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”
Well, God has given us free will. We live life the way we want. Nobody could ever coerce us into doing what we don’t like. Just don’t forget that whatever becomes of you when you get to the end of the path you decided to take when you came to that fork in the road is your personal choice. “Life is a sum of all your choices.” That’s from Albert Camus.
As I said in another article I wrote about self-improvement, “We indeed have the freedom to choose. It is just unfortunate that some people would choose not to make themselves better.” Free will is both a boon and a bane.
But should you decide to take the road not (or less) traveled – the road to self-improvement – this is what you would say when every strand of your hair turns gray…
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject
from various points of view.”
– George Eliot
I do have a friend who would usually be mistakenly identified as me. There were many instances that people in the university where both of us are teaching called me by his name and him by mine. Why? I am not a dead ringer for him but very likely that our similar built, height, and rounded face would make people commit that mistake.
Seemingly bemused, he asked me one time, “Why would they think I am you? Do I look as old as you are?” I paused for a while, smiled then told him jokingly, “No, I think I just look as young and handsome as you are.”
As my friend laughed at my response, I thought that the contrasting way we looked at the issue has opened an opportunity for me to revisit the topic “perspective.”
Perspective – our tendency to look at the same things, events, issues, and concepts differently – is one of the most amazing things about us humans. According to Duffy (2019), “perspective is arguably the single greatest aspect of our uniqueness and that each of us has a uniquely valuable perspective of life – a lens through which we interpret our lives.” She (Duffy) explained that we can expand our perspective through a tool called perspective taking – learning from the way others see life.
In this book we will refer to perspective taking without consideration of the way others see things, events, issues, and concepts. Yes, there is a need to respect and learn from the way others view life but are those views correct? Are those views not inimical to our interest and wellbeing.
The kind of perspective taking that I think we should be doing is choosing the best vantage point of looking at things, events, issues, and concepts according to their own merits and not according to the socio-cultural frames set by anybody. Are they positive or negative the way that they are and not the way anybody wants to see them/or the way you want to see them?
Anything in this world can be viewed from different perspectives. We get to decide at what vantage point we would look at circumstances, problems, events and even objects using lenses that are uniquely ours. We tend to measure and interpret those things using our own value system. We label and define them according to our beliefs. We react to them according to our attitudes. Those beliefs and attitudes, as I explained (in my other self-improvement articles which I hope you have read), are shaped by the way we were raised by our parents, trained by our teachers, influenced by the people around us, and conditioned by our culture. Two persons could look at the same window one morning and one would see the speck in the window instead of the sun rising. It is in this context that I wish to discuss enlightened perspective.
The sum total of the experiences we accumulated since birth and the amount and quality of information we gathered through the years from different sources are the factors that contribute to the kind of perspectives we develop as persons. Our way of viewing things depends on the value system that those experiences and information impressed upon us.
Each person is entitled to embrace a particular attitude towards something. There are no specific measurement to determine the rightness and wrongness of perspectives. Only the consequences of a person’s action (or the lack of it) as a result of embracing certain perspectives could perhaps be labeled as right or wrong.
When we are about to take a perspective it’s like we’re positioning ourselves in the number scale and decide whether to go north or south. We can either be positive or negative with our perspective. Those are the only directions we could take when we look at issues and circumstances confronting us. It’s a matter of choice. If you want more choices, imagine perspective as the Cartesian plane.
When viewing an issue, an event, or a circumstance and you’re about to make a decision about it, place yourself at the origin or the center of the Cartesian plane. Decide in which quadrant you would focus your lens on when making a decision – positive/positive, positive/negative, negative/positive, or negative/negative. What I mean is you can decide to view what is happening or what is about to happen purely as good, or purely bad, or you are objectively weighing both the good and the bad. There are always the pros and cons – the advantages and disadvantages. You have to carefully weigh both before making any decision or before passing your judgement.
An enlightened perspective is a perspective taking devoid of biases, prejudices, and preferences.
Your perspectives affect the decisions you make. They inform the things you think, say and do. Thus, while you are entitled to have any kind of perspective, in the same manner that we are entitled to our own opinions, you should bear in mind that we will bear whatever consequences there may be for embracing the perspectives we take.
You also need to understand that you could not assume that what you believe or see is definitive. Different people have different ways of looking at things. The perspective of the world that dictates the lens through which you see it is not the same for everybody. You need to develop the ability to see things also from another’s viewpoint. This is what I referred to earlier as perspective-taking. But while you try to understand and respect how others view things and issues, you don’t need to embrace them when you deem that that perspective is negative and contrary to the positive outlook that you are trying to develop.
Perspectives can either be broad or narrow.
Having a broad perspective means being able to see the bigger picture. `
I once had a conversation with another friend about working conditions. He bewailed the fact that a truck driver in his country earns more than what he is earning in a year as an expat teacher. After listening to his litany, I told him to pause for a while and dig deeper into his comparison and consider other factors like number of required work hours and the physical demands for the job. When computing the number of hours, I reminded him that we as teachers are not actually working during winter and summer breaks but we get paid in full by the university as stipulated in our contracts.
He realized at the end that his pay per hour is actually higher than the truck driver and his working conditions are much better.
It is not really hard to train the mind to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to look beyond the obvious if only we’re open-minded. It does not require a special kind of training. All we need is common sense.
There are a lot more that could be explored in the discussion of perspective. At the end, the thing that matters is the answer to the question, “How do our perspectives affect the way we live?”
If the lenses you are using to view the world have brought you success and happiness, why change them. We’ve been told many times, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what about if those lenses are seemingly broken and have caused you nothing but failure and misery? Is it time to visit an OPTIMIST?
Duffy, J. (2019). The Power of Perspective Taking. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.