** SPOILER ALERT **
It’s not their fault. It’s yours.
It’s so much easier to blame others. Point fingers. Relinquish control.
All too often we divert accountability onto someone else. We desperately try to keep our sidewalk clean by sweeping all the dirt and leaves onto the lawn next door.
The fault is ours.
A former boss of mine loooooved to talk. She was the kind of person that worked through problems by talking them through with someone. Which is fine, unless you’ve a) got work to do or b) plans after work. I normally left the office at 5:30pm, and at 5:20pm I got the dreaded call, “Can you come to my office please?”
I figured it must be something important, so I dropped everything and rushed over to her desk. It wasn’t. She just wanted to show me the latest budget she was working on for a project that was 8.months.away.
Meaning NOT urgent.
As I listened to drawn-out stories of the importance of risk management and reading every last clause of a hotel contract, my eyes anxiously darted around her desk trying to decipher what friggin’ time it was. I was taking my friend out for her birthday dinner at 6pm and it was going to take me at least 20 minutes to get there (pending transit delays). I still had to touch up my makeup. Change outfits. Shut down my computer.
By the time I rushed out the door it was 5:50pm! My boss had not only slowed me down but made me feel harried and panicked – not a good look for cocktails. Traffic was at a standstill. It was peak rush-hour. Nothing but a sea of red brake lights before me.
I was going to be late – a perfectionist pet peeve.
My irritation (and stress) grew with every minute that clicked by on my iPhone.
Then out of nowhere, I am struck with another realization: I had forgotten my friend’s birthday present on my desk. GAH!!!!!!!
I could feel the anger begin to rise.
In Matrix-like fashion, my mind flashes through those last moments at the office. In a span of 1/2 a second it finds the culprit: my boss.
If only she hadn’t called me… I wouldn’t be late. I’d have my friend’s gift with me. I wouldn’t be stuck on the subway with no cell service and no way to reach anyone. My heart was racing, my breath was short, my scarf felt like it was strangling my neck when really all I wanted to do was strangle my boss for making me late AND forgetting my gift!
But, what if I hadn’t picked up the phone…
When we deny accountability and fail to see the part we played in the unfolding of events, we give away our power. By blaming someone for our bad day, emotional experience or any other twist of fate, we make it THEIR responsibility to fix. It becomes THEIR dirty lawn, when in fact the leaves are ours.
So what could I have done differently? I HAD TO take the last-minute meeting, right? Not necessarily. My boss had NO idea I had dinner plans, so I could have made her aware of that and politely excused myself from the conversation. Or I could have mentioned it when she called, offering a time in the morning to lend my supportive ear. If I had taken action and honoured my own needs in the moment, perhaps I could have avoided the whole situation.
Instead, I blamed my detail-oriented, risk-averse, talking tornado of a boss, who really only wanted my opinion on something.
It wasn’t her fault, it was mine for not speaking up.
Remember, you can’t change others. You can only change yourself. To help illustrate this even more, check out this RSA animation where Dr. Brené Brown talks about how blame often shows up in her life and the importance of taking accountability instead.
We’re not alone in playing ‘the blame game’. Think about something, or someone, that pissed you off recently. Take an honest look at the role you had in that situation (and, yes, you had one). See the part you played in the unfolding events. What can you do differently in the future that would garner a better outcome? Taking responsibility for your actions (or inaction) allows you to take the power back and make changes that honour yourself AND your boundaries. So get the dusty gardening tools out of the shed and clean up your own damn leaves. After all, they are yours to take care of.