I have been burned out before. When I was burned out, everything looked dismal to me. My outlook was terrible. That was when I traded optimism for pessimism. Everyone around me began to annoy me. I blamed the way I felt on them. It didn’t make me feel any better. It only made things worse.
One day, I had had enough. I was tired of making the world my enemy. It wasn’t getting me anywhere anyway. I decided to make some changes. I decided to take control of my circumstances and make the task of improving them my responsibility.
Things got better, immensely better. It was then I realized I was responsible for what had happened to me. Sure, my work environment was certainly conducive to burnout but I hadn’t done anything to circumvent it from happening or to escape from its clutches.
Once I realized I was burned out, I stayed that way far too long before taking needed actions because it was easier to stay miserable and blame someone else for the way I was feeling. I didn’t want to take responsibility for my own feelings.
I was reminded of all this recently when a friend of mine, Casie, was talking about assigning blame by finger pointing. She said, “Someone once showed me when you point your index finger at someone else you have three fingers pointing right back at yourself.”
This is not only true in reality, it is true in principal. Most of the time when we begin to assign blame to others we become clueless as to what role or part we played. We fail to accept responsibility for our own actions or in-actions which contributed to the undesirable outcome.
I have done this countless times in the past. It was easy to do. I didn’t want to be wrong or at fault. Making someone else to blame for a mess I created not only absolved me of blame but also of the responsibility for cleaning up the mess.
It was all designed to help me to feel better about myself. I may have felt better while doing this but it wasn’t making me any better as a person. Ultimately, it was self-defeating.
It is true, we can not control the actions of other people when they are making decisions which directly affect us as individuals. Not every bad or undesired outcome is our fault or our responsibility.
It is likewise incorrect to assume every bad or undesired outcome is never our fault or responsibility. What is always 100% our responsibility is how we react to a bad or undesired outcome, no matter if we are at fault or if someone else is rightly to blame.
It has taken me most of my life to realize that accepting responsibility for a failure doesn’t make me a failure. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn and grow, if we chose.
The next time there is a bad outcome which affects you either directly or indirectly, rather than automatically assigning blame which saps energy and solves nothing, ask yourself the following questions.
- What decisions did I make or actions did I take which lead directly to the undesired outcome?
- Where there in-actions on my part which lead to the undesired outcome?
- What could I have done to ensure a better, different or more desirable outcome.
- If I was not at fault for the undesirable outcome, what decisions can I make or actions can I take to make things right or better?
- Can I find a way to be grateful for what has happened and what lessons can I take away from the experience?
I believe asking these basic questions when things go wrong will lead to a happier and more peaceful existence, one imbued with self-awareness and marked by personal growth.