On Being Self Reflective

April 22, 2009
Written by Cathy

271100458_3f5b6eb3f9 Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

When I come across a difficult situation or a conflict, the ask the question: What did I do to influence this?

The trick is to phrase it so only my direct actions are in the picture. The wrong answers are, "I should have told my partner to do this", "I told my partner and if only he had listened to me". These are projecting actions onto another person, whom I have no control over. The only person whose actions I can control are mine.

To drive the right answers, I must drive the right questions. "Did my actions make things better or worse?" Removing anything that has to do with someone other than me. Not "My partner wasn’t listening to me," but "Did I listen to my partner?"

I must recognize the things within my control. If I get a fee, I ask myself, "What can I do to prevent this from happening again?" I don’t think about the ways anyone else screwed up. "My landlord cashed the check early." I think about what I can do. I can’t control what my landlord did. What was my part in this? If I had not sent the check early, would this have happened anyway? Do I have a cashflow problem? Am I running my accounts too close to zero? Am I buying frivolous things? It’s easier to change what I do, rather than try to change what they do.

If this sounds like putting all the blame on myself, it’s not. I ask the question, "Did this happen to me on purpose?" The answer is usually no; people make mistakes. Did I WANT a fee? Did my landlord WANT me to have a fee? Did the bank MAKE the landlord go to the bank early? Unlikely. Thus, there is no blame.

What about issues on a collective scale? Can I alone fix the problems with global warming? Why bother if I can’t change it? I am not in direct control of global warming. I alone cannot change the situation. I do my part to reduce my impact. I take my own reusable grocery bags to the store, drive less by working from home a few days of the week, find a more energy efficient car, and adopt more energy efficiency in my home.

If no one else in the world joins me, then what I do alone will not change what is already in motion. That is no reason to not do this myself. I change what little part of the world I can directly change – me.

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2 Responses to “On Being Self Reflective”

  1. I really like this article! Too many people try to place blame elsewhere so they don’t have to take responsibility. By reflecting inward a person realizes just how much power they really have to influence their situation in life. It isn’t about “why did this happen to me” but rather, “how did I make this happen”.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks, Steven. :) I once listened to a Buddhist monk give a speech about how to find happiness in your life that touched on some of this. Her words still resonate very clearly with me.

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