Gary stepped outside and knew at once that it was going to be one of those terrible days. Everything was dark and gloomy, like a thunderstorm was only moments away. But it was strange – the weather reporter had said the day would be sunny.
Gary continued on to his favorite coffee shop. Inside the coffee shop, the lights were dim, as if some bulbs had burned out. He thought, “What kind of lousy restaurant doesn’t change the light bulbs when they go out?”
Gary sat down and looked at the menu, but the dim lighting was making him more and more depressed. When the waitress came by to take his order, Gary ordered his food, but he stopped her as she started walking back to the kitchen.
“Why don’t you guys fix some of these light bulbs? It’s so dark in here. Do you think your customers like to eat in the dark?” Gary, whose mood had gotten progressively worse since he left the house, spoke angrily and a little too loudly.
“But sir,” the waitress said, looking confused, “No bulbs are burned out here. You’re wearing sunglasses.”
Gary pulled his glasses off. It was true! He had grabbed the wrong pair of glasses out of his dresser drawer. He apologized to her and made sure to leave a big tip.
What an eye opener! Isn’t it true that the fault we find in the world around us can often be traced back to what’s inside ourselves? It’s so easy to project our problems onto others when taking ownership of the issues would actually help us solve them much more quickly.
How often do we try to make a spouse or a roommate change behaviors, to no avail? We all know we can’t change others! We can encourage and persuade, but we can’t make people do anything we wish.
Knowing this truth, we ought to be able to see how counterproductive it is to get irritated by things going on around us. We automatically think those problems are someone else’s responsibility when we already have the power to stop the irritation!
Just like Gary in the story, when we think problems belong to someone else, we spend a lot of time grumbling and complaining that those people won’t fix their issues. We go around in a rotten mood and make things miserable for those around us.
Now contrast that unhappy picture with someone who takes responsibility for his own unhappiness. “Am I a part of the problem or the solution?” a wise person might ask. When things aren’t going well, the key is to stop and think about your attitudes and actions.
Blaming others keeps us from finding solutions to the root cause of the issue. Taking responsibility and examining our weaknesses, mistakes or contributions to the problem allow us to take positive action toward improvements.
Self-reflection lets us take off the sunglasses and put on the clear lenses. Maybe there are still a few bulbs in the restaurant that need to be changed, but at that point, we’ve done everything we can to improve the situation on our own.
Sometimes we can do a whole lot to improve a situation, and sometimes not so much. But taking ownership and moving forward always makes us happier than blaming others and waiting for them to change. Blaming others is automatically a recipe for frustration!
Questions to ask:
Are there issues in my life where I’m blaming others for things not going well?
What am I doing that may be contributing to the problem?
Is my perspective causing my own unhappiness?