Say you planned a backyard barbecue when the weather forecast said there was a 50% chance of rain. Just as the steaks are sizzling, it starts to pour and your party is ruined. Is it your fault that it rained? Of course not. But is it your fault if you didn’t have a Plan B? You bet. And this is what I want to talk about today: why “it’s always your fault” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen.
But first let me say that this is not about being harsh with yourself. Rather, it’s about always looking for ways that you can constantly improve. It’s about looking for those things within your control that you can do better.
Why It’s Great Advice to Always Think It’s Your Fault
Start By Being Gentle With Yourself
As I said, this is not about self-abuse. It’s about gently establishing a mental routine that leads to continuous self-improvement. Think about it: when something undesired happens, you can blame others, maybe feel better, and go on about your life none the wiser. Or, you can think about whether’s there’s anything you can do to get a better outcome the next time.
One leads to stagnation, the other leads to progress.
Think About How You Can Improve
When I took my first bar exam, I vividly remember that someone in that huge auditorium had a long coughing fit. It was extremely annoying and distracting, though I still passed the test. Indeed, I felt bad for the person coughing.
Was it my fault that someone started coughing? Was it even their fault? No.
What if I had failed because of the distraction? I did not cause the distraction, but the smart thing would be to think that it’s my fault that I failed. In other words, I should try to put this good advice into practice by focusing not on blaming the person who coughed, but instead focusing on how I can better deal with distractions in the future.
That way, it becomes a learning opportunity. It becomes a springboard for teaching myself ways to concentrate better, since it’s foreseeable that distractions will keep coming up in important life situations.
It’s Great Advice Because It Doesn’t Let You Blame Others When It Truly Is Your Fault
Of course, there are also situations when something truly is your fault, either in part or in whole. By adopting a policy of following this great advice of thinking it’s always your fault, you can resist the temptation to look for someone else to blame.
Yeah, it’s hard to blame yourself and to be self-critical. It may even require a major mindset shift or a big change in your worldview. Maybe you’ve been protecting yourself mentally by tending to blame others for bad situations in your life that in reality you’re responsible for.
But how are you going to improve if you never look in the mirror? The truth is you won’t. You may feel some temporary comfort but, in the long run, you’ll just keep running into problems in life.
How to Put it Into Practice
Here’s a process you can follow when something bad happens or an outcome is not as great as you wanted. (And outcomes are never truly perfect, so you can actually apply this all the time).
- Sort out the events into factors that you had absolutely no way to control, and factors that you could influence or control in some way. Be creative and think outside the box.
- Think about those things that you could have controlled or influenced. Make a mental list, or even write one down.
- Figure out which of those controllable factors are the most important. Which could make the biggest difference?
- Make a plan to act in a different way from now on, so that you can change those factors in a positive way. Take baby steps.
- Be kind to yourself and remember that we all make mistakes, and learn from them in a gradual way.
I don’t like to be too abstract, so here are some examples:
- Are political arguments ruining your close relationships? Don’t focus on who’s right or on changing minds. Focus on the positive parts of your relationships, and on how your interactions with those people can be centered on that. Look up ways to avoid discussing politics and to change the subject when they bring it up. Don’t let them rile you up.
- Do you become very anxious frequently? Being prone to anxiety is not your fault, but failing to do anything about it is. So, make changes in your life to reduce anxiety.
- Are you socially awkward? Don’t shy away from people. Instead, look for ways to become less awkward.
Summing Up the Great Advice
Really, this all boils down to having a self-improvement mentality. It’s about acknowledging that there are plenty of things that we cannot control, but there are also many that we can control – often, more than we may initially think. By gently asking yourself “how was I at fault here”, you can start the process of looking for those things that you could have done better, so that you can make yourself better.
Have you ever thought that it’s always your fault?