When I was in my early teens I was a bit of an athlete. Other than one very infamous year of Little League, it was mostly just playing football, baseball and basketball with the neighborhood kids.
I was never very big or fast, but my mom said I was “graceful” and I guess that meant that I had some decent hand-eye coordination (and I think mom was being very graceful for even saying that).
As I’ve grown older, my body has developed some of the classic symptoms of aging: I threw a football a couple of months ago and tweaked something in my arm and had to stop throwing immediately, and the last time I tried to play softball I threw my back out with my first swing.
So that has left basketball as a sport I can play with others, or by myself, and doesn’t involve much harsh or severe strain, or wear or tear on the body.
Today my normal workout is to spend about 25 minutes with the weight machines at the local recreation center, followed by going outside and shooting some baskets. I started with shooting 100 baskets and kept track of how many I made.
The first time out I made 20, then 22, then 25 and finally, after a few more times, I hit 30. Not bad, I thought, making 30 random shots for a 59 year-old guy.
However, (this is where the wind comes in) my most recent outing wasn’t so good, as I upped my routine to 200 shots but only made 30.
That was only half what I made the last time out. And the only difference, according to me, was there was more wind. Therefore, I had the perfect rationalization:
I blamed the wind!
And as I caught myself in this line of thinking I realized my mind was up to one of its old tricks: The blame game.
This is where, instead of accepting a situation for what it is and making the most of it, my mind doesn’t want to feel defeated or admit any inadequacies, so it finds something to blame.
In the world of psychology we often refer to this as the almighty ego.
I can recognize this because my thought begins to use the word “because” more often.
- “I wasn’t able because…”
- “I didn’t because…”
- “I couldn’t because…”
- “It was because of…”
I think you get the gist of this. I like to call this the blame game because it allows a person to not look inward and take one’s own responsibility.
NOTE: Responsibility = Response-Ability
Being fully responsible for one’s life means using the ability to respond appropriately without blame, rationalization or justification.
Some people call this, “life on life’s terms.”
I’ve noticed that people will often blame outside influences for their lack of performance, productivity or appropriate responsiveness.
- An angry spouse blames the other for causing the anger.
- A supervisor blames a subordinate for a lack of team production.
- A golfer blames other noisy golfers for his hook into the pond.
Or me, as I blamed the wind for my poor basketball shooting.
But here’s what really happened:
- I made the choice to shoot baskets outside on a windy day.
- I did not think to try to compensate for the crosswind when my shots either went too far or not far enough.
- I concluded that it must be the fault of the wind, thereby alleviating me of any further responsibilities.
I wonder what might happen if, instead of blaming, we decide to do one or some of the following:
- Look at the situation as a new challenge.
- Dig deeply to discover new resources.
- Ask for help.
- Accept “what is” as part of life.
Perhaps we improve our Response-Ability and stay out of the blame game.
Here’s what happens without the blame game:
- People take more responsibility for themselves instead of accusing, condemning or indicting others.
- Relationships become healthier as communication is less charged.
- Business is improved, as the focus becomes more solution oriented.
- You feel better about yourself because you can accept that sometimes “life just happens.”
After my first 100 shots (of which I had only made 9), I took a minute to assess the mental game going on between my ears. I realized that the blaming was influencing my attitude to shift more negatively. I also realized that I wasn’t completely connected with my body, as I got more and more preoccupied with my blaming thoughts. I stopped visualizing making the shots as I already decided in my distorted thinking that I wasn’t going to make as many.
So I adjusted and:
- I reminded myself that this is only basketball and I was doing it for fun and exercise.
- I visualized how an eagle might compensate soaring on a windy day.
- I experimented with changing my shooting methods.
- I consciously became “fascinated” with the entire process rather than “frustrated.”
In my second 100 shots I improved as I made 21. But more importantly, I changed my mindset. I made a conscious choice to have fun and detach from any competitive outcome. And most importantly, I enjoyed myself.
What will you do the next time you catch yourself in the blame game?
Whatever you do, just don’t blame the wind (Ken)!
Today is THE day: Marry YourSelf First!