Naturally, if our goal is developing lasting underachievement, then we want to ensure we belong to the third group. In order to do that, you must believe that where you find yourself today has little, if anything, to do with you. Everything – and I do mean everything, from what you do to who you are with – is a direct result of all the decisions you’ve made in your life, right up until this moment in time. And remember, a decision to do nothing is still a decision.
What about the future you now face? You must continue to sit back, make yourself totally unaccountable and irresponsible, and wait for someone else to show up and make things better. Mark Twain would encourage you not to do that by pointing out: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first.” But just put your hands over your ears until he goes away.
Some people argue that the key difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom is our conscious awareness. It’s claimed we are the only species which has the freedom to choose our reaction to any given set of stimuli. We can just react or we can think before we react. The idea is that it’s not what happens but how you respond to what happens that counts. You see, you might be pleased to hear that terrible things happen to successful people too. The “Chicken of Doom”* has had an impact on almost every human being on the planet. However, some have chosen to have a different response than most.
So, just how responsible have you been lately? If you are like the average person you probably look for someone else or thing to blame. By the way, if you want an excuse for tolerating the blame culture that has grown up around us, you could blame it on the car insurance industry. Because what are you taught to do if you have an accident in your car? That’s right, it’s drilled into you: under no circumstances whatsoever admit liability. That’s why accident insurance forms have included genuine comments like: “As I approached the intersection, a stop sign appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident” or “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished.”
Now I’m not saying if you have an accident you should leap out of your car and cry “it was all my fault”, because it would probably affect your insurance, but I am saying successful people don’t let this way of thinking permeate all the other areas of their life. One of the best bosses I ever worked for always took full responsibility for the results the team generated and never looked for excuses (even when we, the people who worked for him, knew there were plenty available).
So, don’t take ownership of your life, how you feel and the results you produce. Don’t make your life all about getting results (failing at something is just a result to learn from). Instead use a favourite of people the world over – the ‘wish’ strategy. This is where you tell people you wish you could change something, for example: “I wish I could drive.” This will fool people that, one day, you are actually going to take some personal responsibility and do something about it. Whereas you have no intention of ever trying.
Or, for the sake of variety, how about indulging in a burst of ‘If only . . .’ This is also a great expression for avoiding responsibility. For example, “If only there wasn’t a pandemic . . . If only I’d gone to a better university . . . If only I had more money . . . If only I didn’t live here . . . If only I were younger . . . If only I were older . . . then I’d be much more successful.” Need I go on? I’m sure you can think of loads of your own favourite excuses that will mean you will never take action to change things.
Don’t, whatever you do, start to count how many times you wheel out these excuses as a matter of habit, without even realising that what you are truly expressing is just a series of limiting beliefs. Don’t think that instead of wasting all that energy moaning you could instead change what you focus on and the meaning you attach to your experiences. Talk to any successful person and they’ll all say, in life, there are only results or excuses. Which do you go actively looking for? Happy people stay that way by doing their absolute best to only ever focus on what they can personally influence rather than getting wound up by things and concerns that are outside their control.
Do you feel you are a trapped victim of circumstance or a free creator of circumstance? At the end of every Jerry Springer Show, Jerry would point out: “No matter what your age, you are responsible for your own actions, irrespective of the actions or inactions of anybody else. If you are past the age of legal reason, you and only you are accountable for what you do or what you don’t do.” Yet if you look at the guests on the show, and the people in Jerry’s audience, you’ll see that being responsible for your actions and accountable for all your results is too hard a belief for most people to follow. I do appreciate it is almost impossible to adopt this belief when the whole of the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart. Here’s the thing, it’s not at all important if this belief is true or not but how it makes you act.
Action not to take
The point is, you can only blame others and what’s going on in the world at large for so long but it will at least buy you a bit of time before you have to stand up and be counted. The alternative is to adopt a victim mentality for the rest of your life. If that’s your choice, don’t ever say, “I am 100% accountable and responsible for my life, for my feelings and for every result I get.” Don’t put yourself at cause rather than at effect. And don’t listen to the advice of George Bernard Shaw, when he said: “People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them . . . make them . . .”
*My personal term for Coronavirus
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