Archive for April 2011

Let Go of Blame

April 26, 2011

For this week’s audio podcast, click here.

Michelle and I were having dinner with some friends a few months ago and our friend Joel said, “I’m practicing giving up blame completely.”  As he said this, I found myself simultaneously inspired and confronted. As I’ve explored the idea of letting go of blame in recent months, I’ve been quite humbled and surprised to realize how pervasive blame is in our culture, my community, and in my own life.

How often do you find yourself blaming other people or circumstances for your stress, frustration, or for things “not being the way they ‘should’ be?”

For me, blame shows up in various places and ways in my life.  Some of the most common focuses of my blame are my past, my family, the economy, people I don’t agree with, my body, my clients, my schedule, my responsibilities, and more. And, the harshest blame is usually reserved for me – blaming myself for making mistakes, not doing things “right,” and simply not being good enough.  Maybe you can relate to some of this?

While blaming other people, challenging circumstances, and even ourselves is common, understandable, and reinforced in our culture, it never leaves us with any real power or with the ability to make positive, healthy, and lasting change in our lives. Blame is about avoiding responsibility and not dealing with the real issues at hand.

One of the best analogies for this is that of an orange. If I have an orange in my hand and I squeeze it, what will come out of it?  Juice.  If you squeeze it, what will come out of it? Juice.  If we give it to a friend of ours and they squeeze it, what will come out of it?  Juice.  Why?  Because, that’s what’s inside the orange.  It doesn’t matter who squeezes it or even how it is squeezed, juice will always come out of the orange (because that’s what’s inside).

You and I are like oranges and our “juice” is emotion.  We have every possible emotion within us – joy, guilt, love, shame, gratitude, anger, peacefulness, fear, happiness, rage, excitement, sadness, and more.  As we walk through life, other people, certain situations, and specific personal thoughts and reactions “squeeze” out some of our own “juice” in the form of these emotions. However, instead of taking responsibility for our emotions, we blame the people around us, the situations that arise, and even ourselves for “causing” these feelings within us.

What if we stopped doing this and let go of blame?  This doesn’t mean we live in some unrealistic, Pollyanna world where nothing bothers us.  It also doesn’t mean that the things that have happened in our past, the relationships we currently have, and the important situations in our lives right now (and the ones that show up in our future), don’t impact us.  What it does mean, however, is that we take full responsibility for our lives, our reactions, and, more important, our emotions.

Here are a few things you can do or think about as you practice letting go of blame in your own life:

  • Take inventory of who and what you blame.  Start to notice, with empathy and compassion (i.e. without judging yourself), who and what you blame the most in your life.  Maybe it’s your work, your spouse, your past, your co-workers or clients, the state of the world, or other things or people.  The more specific and honest you can be about the focus of your blame, the more ability you’ll have to let go.  Remember, some of this blame may be overt (direct, and easy to notice) and, some of it may be more covert (hidden, subtle, and “justified” in such a way that it seems “true.”)
  • Inquire into what it would be like to let go of blame. Start to ask yourself, especially with the specific people or situations where blame comes up a lot, what it would be like, look like, and feel like to let go of blame in your life.  Allow yourself to imagine this, think about it, talk about it, and ponder it.  Regardless of how easy or difficult you think it would be, just allow yourself to imagine your life without blame. Inquiry is a powerful tool when we use it consciously like this.
  • Take responsibility for your reactions and emotions.  In just about every instance, the person (including us) or situation that we blame brings about a specific emotion or reaction (or set of emotions and reactions) that we don’t like. Instead of blaming, what if we took responsibility for our reactions and emotions, and allowed ourselves to vulnerably acknowledge and express ourselves fully.  As Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Letting go of blame allows us to be free, to take back our power, and to avoid the trap of thinking that someone or something else has the ability to dictate our experience of life.  Whether our life is “wonderful” or “difficult” is always up to us.

Where in your life do you blame?  What can you do to let go of blame in a way that will liberate and empower you?  Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more on my blog below.

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You Have More Than This Requires

April 14, 2011

I had a powerful conversation recently with my good friend Theo.  I was telling him about some of the intense challenges I’ve been facing and my underlying fear that I simply can’t handle all that is going on (and what I fear may unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months).  Theo listened to me with empathy and compassion, and then said something simple, but profound. He said, “Mike, it’s important to remember that you have more than all of this requires.”

As I took a step back and allowed what he said to resonate with me, I was touched by a few specific things.  First of all, I appreciated his acknowledgment and reminder.  Second of all, it allowed me to take inventory of some of the adversity I’ve overcome in my life, and, in doing so, it reminded me that I am quite resilient.  And, finally, over the next few hours and days after Theo and I had this conversation, I got to thinking more and more about the power of the human spirit.

In just about every situation and circumstance in life, we really do have more than is required to not only “deal” with what’s happening, but to thrive in the face of it. As the saying goes, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” And while I don’t believe that we have to necessarily suffer and struggle in order to grow and evolve in life, one of the best things we can do when dealing with adversity or challenge is to look for the gifts and find the gold in the situation as much as possible.

Think about how this plays out in your own life and how it has played out in your past.  Often we have things happen that initially we don’t think we can handle – sometimes these are things we consider “bad” and sometimes they’re things we consider to be “good.”   Feeling overwhelmed is feeling overwhelmed, regardless of what it is we’re feeling overwhelmed about.

However, as we look back over the course of our lives, we can probably find many, many examples of times we were able to overcome challenges, deal with fear, rise above limiting beliefs, and deal with things we didn’t initially think we were capable of.  Another great saying that I love is, “circumstances don’t define you, they reveal you.”  Ain’t that the truth?

Here are a few things to think about and do so that you can remind yourself, especially when things get particularly difficult or scary in your life, that you do, in fact, have more than the circumstances or situations of your life require.

  • Remind yourself of all you’ve done, experienced, and overcome. Take some inventory of your life from the perspective of resilience.  Think about all the times you’ve dealt with change, loss, newness, fear, pain, disappointment, failure, etc. – and been able to work through it.  You’ve also probably had many experiences in life where wonderful things and exciting opportunities showed up for you and you were able to step up and take your experience of life to a whole new level. Even though we’re all unique, our stories are different, and we have varying personalities and life experiences, most of us have done, experienced, and overcome a lot in our lives up to this point, and by remembering this and acknowledging ourselves for it, we can create an even deeper and more authentic sense of self confidence.
  • Remember that you have a great deal of support and you can reach out for it.  One of the things that can get in our way when life gets intense, is that we sometimes think we’re all alone. No one understands me.  No one really cares about me. No one has time to support me.  Regardless of our circumstances, relationship status, or family situation, just about everyone of us has some important and powerful people around us who we can lean on and who would be happy to help us – if we’re willing to ask for and, more importantly, receive their help.  This one can be tricky for many of us, myself included, but when we remember that other people love being of service and our request for help is not a sign a weakness, but a clear indication of self care as well as a beautiful opportunity for people to serve, it can empower us to reach out and tap into the incredible amount of resource we have around us.
  • Focus on what you appreciate about yourself and your authentic power. Self appreciation and self love, as I write and speak about often, are the cornerstones of self confidence and authentic power. Having a fundamental belief in our own goodness, power, and beauty are essential to us living an empowered and inspired life.  While it’s not always easy to do and can sometimes seem downright counter-intuitive, selfish, and arrogant, self appreciation is truly the “key to the kingdom” when it comes to personal empowerment and resiliency.  Remembering that we are good enough just as we are and have all that we need within us and around us to deal with the stress, challenge, and uncertainty that is somewhat inherent to being human in today’s world, is essential to our well-being and overall fulfillment in life.

Regardless of what you’re dealing with in your life right now – however hard, easy, challenging, or wonderful things are – you truly have more than is required by any of the circumstances and situations of your life.  And, the more we remember this and live from this perspective, the more freedom, power, and peace of mind we’ll experience.

What can you do to remind yourself that you have more than the circumstances of your life require? Share your ideas, commitments, thoughts, dreams, and more on my blog below.

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