Who’s to Blame?©

None of us want to admit that we blame or make excuses. While we know that blaming, excuse-making and playing the role of the victim are prevalent in our culture, certainly it must be everyone else. The problem is that the math just doesn’t add up – if the majority of people tend to blame and make excuses (everyone seems to agree with me on this conclusion), then where are they? Everyone I know says that they don’t blame, don’t make excuses and don’t point the finger at people and circumstances to explain their situation. If that’s true, then I must be amazingly blessed that I only hang out with the non-blamers. I think you get my point. If not, give me a call and I’ll explain it.

I was recently reminded of this cultural tendency for blaming when I heard a speaker talking about work/life balance. Certainly, it’s a hot topic and one that seems to be top of mind for many people. I regularly hear people talking about the lack of work/life balance and their unending search for it. The speaker was sharing some information about the obstacles to balancing life and work, and it struck me that people’s “reasons” for not having this balance provide evidence of our culture’s blaming nature.

Here are the results of a national business survey on the reasons that people give for not having good work/life balance:

  • Bad Boss                             69%
  • Long Hours                        39%
  • Incompetent Colleagues  31%
  • Long Commutes                30%

Notice the theme? All of the “reasons” chosen are something other than the person and his or her own choices.

Let’s turn these into statements and see how they sound:

  • I have poor work/life balance because I have a bad boss.
  • I have poor work/life balance because I work long hours.
  • I have poor work/life balance because I have incompetent colleagues.
  • I have poor work/life balance because I have a long commute.

Are you seeing the pattern (it’s always about the patterns)?

I can summarize all of these answers as follows – I don’t have work/life balance because of something or someone that is not my fault or out of my control. If that’s the reality, then the only way that things change – that people will get the work/life balance they desire – is if someone or something else changes for them. Frankly, I don’t like those odds, and I certainly don’t like the idea of leaving my balance, success or satisfaction up to someone or something out of my control.

Now let’s rephrase these answers from a self-accountability and personal responsibility perspective:

  • I have poor work-life balance because I choose to work for a bad boss.
  • I have poor work-life balance because I choose to work long hours.
  • I have poor work-life balance because I choose to work with incompetent colleagues.
  • I have poor work-life balance because I choose to have a long commute.

Do you see the impact of this ownership perspective of the situation? I immediately take responsibility for my circumstances and thereby give myself some options. As long as I’m the victim of circumstances, there’s not much I can do, and every day feels like a bad day because of someone else – and I’m stuck in it.

In contrast, when I own my choices in any situation, I immediately invoke the opportunity to change things. I may choose not to change things, but at least I’m back in control of my circumstances. I may choose to stay in a certain situation, but that’s my choice and doing things by choice is empowering (while being the victim of circumstances is disempowering).

Embracing the choices that create my circumstances also opens the doors to new approaches and ideas. For example, if I have poor work/life balance because I choose to work long hours, then I can focus on ways to work less hours. Perhaps I can be more efficient or effective or better prioritized. Perhaps I can make some changes in my schedule or work habits. The point is that I have options, but only when I own the choices that have created the circumstances that I want to change. Hoping that things will change is not a strategy, and it almost always fails. However, having hope that things can change supports me as I work to make different choices in order to change my circumstances.

Work/life balance (however you define that) is best created by your choices – it’s not the result of outside circumstances. In order to achieve your balance objectives, you first must acknowledge that your choices (even if difficult ones) created your lack of work/life balance. If you leave it to everyone and everything else, you know the results you’ll get. Are you ready to own the choices that have created your current reality? If you are, then you are free to create the different results you desire.

Blame Game Fingers Pointing

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