Have you ever played the blame game over and over?
You know, the one where your job, your spouse, your neighbor, the guy who cut you off while driving are all somehow responsible for the problems you’re having.
I sure have. In fact, many times!
How do we break this cycle?
I’m hoping that by sharing an experience I lived a few months ago, it will serve as a guide to feeling like a winner.
Whether on my own or with company, I love going to a café and enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures; a good flavored cup of coffee!
There’s only ONE thing that can break my relaxation of this indulgent experience… SUGAR!!
One particular morning, at a café in Santa Marta, Colombia, I took a sip of my first cup of coffee that had me coughing for a few minutes. It felt like I had eaten a spoonful of sugar! I called the waiter and asked if it was possible to have coffee with no sugar already added.
He smiled and said, “There’s no sugar in the coffee, that’s why I brought a bowl of sugar at the table for you.”
I smiled back and replied, “I apologize for the inconvenience, but there’s a lot of sugar in this coffee. Do you mind checking with the person who made the coffee?”
He kept insisting there was no sugar. So, I thought I would have a little fun with it. I lied about being a diabetic and could collapse within minutes by drinking a cup of coffee with sugar.
Even though I laughed (to point out I was joking), suddenly, his face became serious and said, “Ok, hold on, don’t drink it, let me check.”
Within seconds, he came running to my table, practically spilling coffee all over the place as he grabbed the cup away from me.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, “Yes, there’s sugar in the coffee. I’ll bring you another one.”
Do you see what happened here?
Until I pointed out the consequences of his actions and made him accountable for them, the waiter wasn’t interested or willing to make an effort to attend to my needs. Even though, it took seconds of his time, only when he thought he may be responsible for something serious, did he change his behavior.
The point is not about me and getting my coffee the way I like it. I share this because on that particular day, I realized how most of us believe that in order to change something in our lives requires a really big external act. At least, I believed this for the longest time. It was the small things like paying attention to my own thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis that made the BIGGEST difference!
We don’t realize that it’s our own thoughts which we are attached to, our own behavior which are responsible for that ‘something serious’ happening in our lives, keeping us trapped in our problems.
Now, just like the waiter, what if someone would point out the consequences of your thoughts and held you accountable for how they impact your actions which are creating your own problems, your own misery? The thing is that you can’t wait for someone to make you accountable for yourself. Only one person can make the choice to take full responsibility for all you achieve in your life: YOU!
It’s not an easy thing to do, I’ve been there. It took me years to make the change I wanted in my life, until I held myself accountable for my thoughts and actions. I remember imagining what my perfect day would be like. At first it seemed impossible. I kept telling myself, “it’s too late now” or “you can’t give up everything you worked so hard for,” or “what if it doesn’t work.” The more I envisioned my perfect day, the more I wanted it. Slowly, I paid attention to my thoughts and replaced them with, “you can totally do this,” or “what’s the first thing I need to know,” or “Every mistake will be an opportunity to learn.” It’s incredible, at some point I found myself taking action towards achieving my goal.
Just like breaking any bad habit, it requires effort and practice.
Here’s a short guide to get you started:
1. Observe your thoughts; as soon as you find yourself paying attention to a negative thought, notice how it makes you feel. Examine where they are making you feel hopeless, stuck or unworthy.
2. Try to understand the impact these thoughts are having on you. Of course we are human, and in certain situations we will feel grief, anger, fear, etc. We can’t eliminate them. What’s important is to ask questions about your thoughts so that you don’t become attached to them and let them take control of your life.
Questions you can ask yourself
What value does the thought have?
Is it actually true or is it an assumption?
What good can come from this?
3. If you catch your thoughts putting you down or saying mean things about you, example, “I’m such a loser” or “I can’t ever do anything like that,” stop them immediately and replace them with a positive one. If you can’t be kind, loving and compassionate to yourself, how can you expect great things to happen?
You need to be willing to accept full accountability and commit to making this change happen. Don’t do like the waiter and wait for ‘something serious’ to present itself before taking action. As you keep practicing, you will notice a change in the way you speak and the way you respond to adversities. Remember, it’s the small things that make a big difference, not one big act! Furthermore, you will notice that your actions will be guided by your positive thoughts. You will slowly start doing things you never thought you would do.
The mind is everything. What you think you become. –Buddha
What’s one negative thought that comes to your mind that you will practice replacing it with a positive one? If this practice has already brought a change in your life, I would love to hear about it!