This Year, Own It: Stop Blaming and Start Accepting Responsibility for Your Life

Now is the perfect time to stop blaming others and begin to accept responsibility for your life

I love the New Year.

It’s a time for fresh starts and endless possibilities. It’s a time to reflect back on what we may have done differently in the past and commit to a better life moving forward. When we make our New Year’s Resolutions we have good intentions to keep them. But when we break them — one by one, for whatever reason — why do we often blame others for our decision to not see our resolution through? And why do we tend to blame others for choices we alone make?

Everyone does it. You hear countless examples of this throughout the day; we’re so used to it, we actually nod along and agree with people. “It’s out of my control,” someone might say, even when it’s not. A friend recently told me they heard this from a client who owns a company and was blaming a subordinate for not allowing them, the owner, to make a big decision. Somehow we knew he was using this as an excuse because he didn’t want to be the “bad guy” and tell her she was going to lose his business. She was hurt and frustrated and wished he just ‘owned it’ by telling her the truth vs. playing the victim, as if he had no control.

Why do we do this? Why do we play a victim instead of owning our decisions?

I think some people don’t even realize they do this. It just comes naturally, because they are so use to blaming others for their circumstances or decisions.

So often as adults, we turn our power over to others and blame them for the state of our lives, like we had no choice in the situation. If you want to start taking control of your life, you need to learn emotional adulthood — the process of taking responsibility for all your thoughts, feelings and actions.

I’ll be the first to admit I blamed others for years for things in my life. Nothing was my fault; I had an excuse for everything and I exonerated myself from all responsibility. I was the youngest of six so I learned at an early age to blame my siblings for everything. I blamed people, places and things for everything I actually had control over, but unconsciously thought I didn’t. “I can’t help it, I’m Italian, I talk loud” is a small example of how I use to blame and give up control like I had no choice in the matter.

My parents (sorry Mom and Dad) were the people I blamed the most for my life circumstances. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But once we become adults, why do we keep blaming our parents for how we are now? Yes, our past contributes to our present being, but the past is over so why do we still drag it up, giving it more power than it deserves?

The new year is a great time to replace blame with ownership for who we are now.

When you make a decision (or even when you consciously don’t) — own it — don’t blame your spouse, your kids, your dog or whomever for why you did or didn’t do something. Stop being a victim when the only crime being committed is by you to you. We have more power over our lives than we give ourselves credit for, so how about using the New Year to make a commitment to YOU: Stop making excuses and own it!

Expectations: Do we Expect more from Others than we do from Ourselves?

A friend disappointed me recently, or so I “thought”. Turns out their response to a situation was different than what I believed it should have been, aka “expected” from them, and I was disappointed.  “That’s not what I would of done”, I kept thinking and I was upset they didn’t respond in the exact same way I would have. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this way, it's human nature and most of us were never taught differently. We learned early in life and society confirms when you expect something from someone and your needs are not met, you should be disappointed.  So if I was just doing what I have been conditioned my whole life to think, what’s the problem?  The problem for me was I was counting on them to make me feel better. My subconscious mind was thinking, “This is what I want you to do and if you do it I'll be happy, if you don’t, I won't”.

Expecting someone else to do something the exact same way we would puts a big expectation on them and alleviates us from any responsibility.  It’s a convenient way of not taking ownership of our feelings, it’s easier to blame another person and “expect” more from them.  We usually do this without even realizing it. But when we do, aren’t we giving them all the power over how we feel and not expecting more from ourselves?   Because if you think about it, when we place an expectation on anyone but ourselves, we are frequently disappointed. No one is ever going to do things exactly the way we would, so why do we place such a demanding expectation on them?

Ok, then are we never supposed to expect anything from anyone?  You can, but just be aware of what that expectation means to you, how are you anticipating it will make you feel? My dictionary defines expectation as the “anticipation of something happening”.  Along with an expectation we often attach a subconscious feeling of what we are going to feel when that expectation is met, and when it’s not met the way we anticipated, there lies the disappointment. So maybe a better question we should think about is why do we allow others to determine our happiness? What if we expected ourselves to be in charge of our own happiness?  What if we expected from ourselves the same high standards we hold others to?  I expect others to be tolerant and understanding of me, but do I show myself the same compassion?  I expect others to be kind and loving to me, but I am often my biggest critic.  Next time I find myself disappointed because of an expectation I had that wasn’t met, I’m going to first look in the mirror and ask myself these questions first. And, I’m going to try to understand we are all doing the best we can-and that is good enough.


Freedom Over our Thoughts


A while ago I wrote an article on Mind Yoga and I talked about how we can change our thoughts, once we begin to notice them. This summer while I was coaching a client and they were stuck in a cyclical pattern of thinking that was not serving them, I challenged them to use what was then the upcoming 4th of July holiday week in our country, to free themselves from thoughts that no longer served them. I applauded their awareness of their thoughts but asked how they would feel if they no longer had these thoughts? Their immediate response was “free”.

This answer and my challenge to themhas made me think how much freedom we all have which we don’t even realize? Some of our freedoms we have due to heroic efforts of others who fought in wars to protect theirs and future generations freedom.

But, what about the freedom we have over our own thoughts? We too can be our own heroes and fight for our own freedom by recognizing and getting rid of thoughts that are weighing us down and holding us hostage.

While I certainly don’t know anyone’s thoughts but my own, I can provide a quick list of how you can notice thoughts that no longer serve you and which you may want to release and be “free” from. These are:

• Thoughts in which we want someone else to change or we think we can somehow miraculously change them

• Thoughts of jealousy

• Thoughts of anger

• Thoughts of resentment

• Thoughts where we beat ourselves up over past mistakes

How can we change these thoughts? By being aware and then realizing as the lyrics to the Eagles song says “so often times it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we hold the key”.

Yes, we hold the key to our freedom—the key to how we want to look at the world, our lives and everything in it. We cannot change anyone else but ourselves; so try to notice and free yourself from thoughts where you are trying to figure out how to do this. Thoughts of jealousy are a waste of time, just as anger, resentment and beating ourselves up over past mistakes are also a waste of time and energy. Why are we jealous? Do we think by someone else having something it takes it away from us? It doesn’t. The Universe has an abundant supply of whatever we want. If you choose a “you have it, now I can’t” philosophy you are limiting your potential.

As you go about your day, as you enjoy the freedoms provided by others; recognize the Freedom you can provide for yourself.  Remember the freedom you have over your mind and think about setting yourself “Free” of all thoughts that are not useful to your well-being.

Let Freedom Ring for You! Namaste

Mind Yoga-Why and How to Bring Awareness to your Thoughts

Recently a friend asked me, “what is mind yoga?” I responded that it’s thinking deeply about something you just read, heard or saw. It’s realizing what we’re thinking about and making an effort to determine if that thought is serving us or not. It’s taking your thinking to the next level.

I started incorporating (physical) yoga into my workout about a year ago. Although I am by no means a ‘yogi’, I love the way I feel during and after a yoga session. I love stretching my body and breathing consciously through each move, allowing myself to concentrate fully on the task at hand and feeling empowered and at peace while doing so. The mind-body awareness and balance which yoga provides to our ever-demanding lives is beneficial to all who practice it. But when you can’t get to yoga class, or you want to work out your mind instead of your body, I recommend a little ‘mind yoga’.

Our minds are our most powerful asset and scientists predict we have over 50,000 thoughts a day. Add to this a statistic which says we check our phones over 80 times a day, and I believe we need to learn to give our mind a healthy rest from all the clutter it receives. We can focus our attention in a mental workout, similar to yoga but without the physical moves.

When we consciously realize our thoughts, we can decide whether we want to think the thought we have or not. How come no one ever taught us this?

Why do we go through grade school, high school and college, and some of us even graduate school, and no one tells us this vital fact?  It sounds so simple, but how often do you ever really notice all the thoughts you have in a day? Why do we spend our time thinking about things that frustrate us? Since learning this valuable fact, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned to realize that just because we have a thought, it does not mean it is true. Our thoughts are not always factual, but they do determine how we feel. We can chose what we want to think about, but it can be helpful to first delve into our thoughts and see in a typical day what we spend our time thinking about.

Here’s an exercise for your mind to try over the next week or two—write down 5-10 different thoughts you have each day. Seriously, throughout the day—notice your thoughts and write down a few. Don’t think (no pun intended) too hard about what you are going to write—just notice a thought and write it down. Eventually, you may start to see a pattern. Maybe (if you’re like most of us) you will start to see thoughts you have which involve wanting to change someone else (i.e. “I wish my spouse, kid, friend, boss, would …” or “they should/shouldn’t have done…”). How many thoughts are about your past? How many are about your future? Keep a thought journal if you want—I know, I know—what if someone finds it? Yikes! OK, put it on your phone then, either as a note or a voice memo.  Whatever method you choose, IF you want to do it—I guarantee you will discover more about yourself then perusing Facebook or playing Words with Friends—two activities I do enjoy but try to control my usage of, ‘cause I get sucked in to these apps and lose precious time without even realizing it.

If you notice a pattern and want to change it, awareness is key. Once you realize you are having the same thought and you don’t like the way it makes you feel—and all of our feelings come from our thoughts—try to change the thought.

Even a slight shift in the thought can make you feel better.

“I can’t lose weight” is a thought that may make us feel bad about ourselves. “I’m going to eat a healthy breakfast” is a thought that may serve you better. Or try, “I can do anything I set my mind to do,” although that thought at this moment might be a stretch for a lot of people. Start off with a small shift in your thought. “My mother-in-law drives me crazy” could be shifted to “I’m grateful my mother-in-law lives far way”—you get the idea.  Try it with a few thoughts and see if you feel different.

I’ll give you one more thought to ponder. It’s not my quote, but it’s good ‘mind yoga’ and a provocative topic to think about alone and talk about amongst friends: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”