The following statement has become a personal guideline since I first came up with it. It’s served me well.
Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.
You can always find someone to blame if you want. Blame is fundamentally about the past, which you can’t change, and judgmental, which repels people. But the main issue is that when you blame someone else for your situation you reinforce a belief that their influence on your life is greater than yours, likely in a situation you consider important. We usually blame people for things that affect us significantly.
The problem with blaming
Blaming, therefore, disempowers us and and reinforces unrewarding feelings. Guilt is blame directed toward ourselves, usually a self in the past we continue to cling to. The flip side is that blame can help us feel better about things about ourselves we don’t like. It let’s us say, yes, I’m that way, but it’s not my fault.
The power of responsibility
We can act in the present to bring about futures we want. Responsibility doesn’t say anyone is blameless or that anyone didn’t contribute to an outcome. Taking responsibility says things are how they are, but doesn’t put a priority on the past. It puts a priority on the present, about what you can do now.
Responsibility empowers us. It enables us to improve our lives. It lets us say, how things got this way isn’t as important as making things better and I have that ability.
I see every human act lying along an axis with blame toward one side and responsibility to the other. In the direction of blame also lies helplessness and victimhood. In the direction of responsibility also lies self-determination, self-awareness, and being a rock star.
Also, taking responsibility brings emotional reward, which is one of the best things in life. Blame bring indignation, self-righteousness, and the like, which I don’t like feeling.
I increasingly choose responsibility over blame, in large part based on this perspective, in particular the phrase above, and it’s served me well. I recommend it.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book