So much of what happens is not our choice or in our control. It makes it exceedingly easy to carry pieces of a passive mindset or victim mindset with us, which in turn only release control further. Things that happen in life, while difficult, are typically completely normal and common, but with a passive mindset they become increasingly oppressive and start to shape our narrative about our own lives. This increasing lack of agency over our situation compounds over the period it goes unchecked, and it shapes the story we tell ourselves. It shapes the way we view the situations around us, along with our ability to make material changes in our lives. It can make us drift away from a life we want to live.
A more productive outlook is to take responsibility for everything in your life. Even things that can be blatantly seen to be the fault of another person – take control of the situation by taking responsibility. Reflect on if you could have communicated more clearly or calmly, could you have changed something in your actions to have improved the outcome, could you have simply controlled your reaction better? Don’t make yourself a doormat and let people take advantage of you, but in general holding yourself accountable in all interactions gives you agency over your actions and the life you are living. Even when counter-intuitive, why not blame yourself? If it’s your fault, you can improve.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin touch on this concept masterfully in their book Extreme Ownership. Early on in their experience driven outline on leadership and achievement, they establish the lesson of blaming yourself for everything that happens. Being highly successful Navy SEALs, Jocko outlines a story from his military days where a field operation goes disastrously wrong and ends up with “Blue on Blue” – a friendly fire situation. While there were arguably dozens of failures in the communication pathways that lead to that outcome, when giving the debrief to command, Jocko goes around the room asking who is to blame for this. After a multitude of answers, he simply states everyone was incorrect and that he – the mission’s field commander – is the only person to blame. The fact that anything was unclear through the operating teams rests with him and his leadership.
While that is an extreme example (few of us are actively engaged anything nearly as intense in daily life), it outlines the key point. That even in the most intense situation with so much at stake, the best path forward is to take accountability for your actions. Leading by example, Jocko also creates a humbler environment for others to do the same.
The relationship of leadership in that situation is important, but many of us are going through our lives mostly alone. We have friends and family that we should lean on and look to, but we make our own decisions and must choose how we view all our experiences.
Shane Parrish has a great article outlining active vs passive mindsets and gives tangible examples that we would experience in everyday life. I have personally gained a lot by adopting the concepts discussed in like Extreme Ownership and an active mindset.
There is nothing to gain and no nobility in being a victim. Choose control and blame yourself. Then you can start to change the world around you.
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: Extreme Ownership, Active mindset, Farnam Street
Image Source: Jocko Willink