As a kid, I learned to never throw something that wasn’t working and proclaim, “It won’t work, stupid glue!” Why? Because the reply would always be, “A bad workman always blames their tools.”
As a child, you don’t really pay a lot of attention to the sayings your older and wiser counterparts try to impart to you. But as you get older, you find yourself revisiting them and thinking, “I get it, that’s so true!”
When it comes to being a bad worker blaming their tools, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? However, the issue with blame is that it is rarely so obvious.
I want to share with you how to spot hidden blame, why you need to take ownership of it, how to eradicate the blame game for your mind, vocabulary, and life, and what outcomes you could see as a result.
I’m going to share real case studies with my clients so you can see firsthand how blame really hides out in your life and how to fix it.
“It’s Not My Fault!”
Why Do We Do It?
One of the reasons blame exists in many of our lives is that it makes it easier for us to deal with tough situations.
Take the pandemic—no, seriously, will someone take it! All joking aside, the blame game is not new to the 2020 pandemic. In the 1918 Spanish Flu, the virus was reported to be spread by various untrue methods, to the point it was even given different names according to who the countries’ political opponents were!
Blaming the Chinese or Anti-Trump supporters is no different to the blame game that was used to spread fear and lies before. Different virus, same trends in human behavior—why? Because when you consider blame in your own life, you can start to see that it helps us restore some control. If it was made by someone else, then it’s out of your control to fix it.
Blame in Action
The perfect example is the client who was mortified to be sent to me for coaching because according to their company, “they weren’t coping”. They were annoyed because the pandemic was not their fault, so their inability to work in a new way was clearly not their fault either. It was outside their remit (and belief on what was possible).
So, What’s the Big Deal?
When you don’t challenge what you believe, you risk playing the blame game and blaming others, and that takes away your power to get better results in every aspect of your life.
In this example, the person adamantly believed that after the pandemic leaves, they would perform better and nothing could improve until then. Relying on billions of people, the world’s politicians, and a virus to get your success in life is just bonkers!
For this person and you, the first thing you have to do is to challenge:
- Challenge what you believe to be true.
- Challenge what you believe to be possible.
- Challenge if you have control.
- Question what you could do moving forward.
If you find yourself being able to justify being stuck in life or drifting along or not getting the results you want on some external force, then there’s a good chance that blame is at work.
Use questions like:
- If this is true, how are other people managing to achieve more than me?
- If this is true, what evidence do I have that everyone has the same opportunities as me?
Once you start to break down what you believe to be the reality, you can alter that reality.
The client that blamed the pandemic on their poor performance at work questioned what they believed and could see that other people weren’t getting the same poor results as them, so there clearly was a better way.
Challenging what they believed led them to ask for some additional tech support and advice on best time management practices and some honest conversations with their colleagues that helped my client see what to do and how to do it.
“I Can’t Control That!”
Why Do We Do It?
The great thing about blame and blaming others—and a reason you may choose to hang on to yours—is that it takes the onus off of us. “I can’t do anything about other team members not pulling their weight” means you accept that your career is in the hands of other people. So, if you don’t get the pay rise, promotion, corner office, and bonus you want, there’s no blame on you, right?
“I can’t do anything about where I was born” means you can blame the world around you, and you have no control to make things any better.
Blame in Action
My favorite example of someone removing blame from their life is Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump. He is a hero of mine. He lost so much and, for a long time, was lost in wanting someone to blame.
We see this in real life, too. One person experiences something horrific and goes on to make the world a better place while another loses themselves in grief, unable to move on.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
I don’t say these things flippantly. I really appreciate how hard life can be and how much some have to face. And it can be incredibly challenging to appreciate that the control is with you as to how this defines your future.
It seems very unfair how some must endure more and more, but that shouldn’t stop you from achieving something great and removing the blame. Right now, as I write this, my husband had just come out of the hospital and only has 20% of his heart—and we will go back soon to plan what surgeries to do.
In the last 14 months, I’ve had to get my mother-in-law protected from a violent stepfather-in-law who is now sectioned (because of me). On top of the pandemic’s impact on my children, my Mum faced 3 serious surgeries and my sister was very poorly with Covid, and I’ve Lupus and 3 other auto-immune diseases that get worse with stress.
I could so easily have hidden from the world and said, “no thank you”—but I didn’t. I wrote a new book with an amazing foreword from the CEO of this first-rate organization, wrote 8 courses for business, and even found time to get in the press and win some awards. In fact, my Lupus specialists are impressed I don’t have more symptoms considering what my personal life looks like.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take time to process what you face. It’s just that you should also try to work out what you can control, and what you can usually control is your mind.
That moment when Lieutenant Dan stops blaming others—everyone and everything—for the awful thing that has happened to him and accepts who he is now is powerful. We don’t need to face something horrific to be able to do this.
Trying to hang on to what was or a perception of what you wanted the world to be like won’t make it happen. Removing the blame that exists helps you take ownership and control over the future you want.
“I’m Just Not Made Like That!”
A word of caution before we move on to the final part of how to ditch the blame game. By now, you are seeing that blame can be something we don’t necessarily want to part with. Never is this truer than when facing the person you are.
I hear people tell me:
- “I’m not creative.”
- “I’m rubbish at numbers.”
- “People like me don’t do that kind of job.”
- “I’m too shy to stand up for myself.”
- “It’s my DNA!”
Giving me their proof of why it is just the way it is. Blameless and controlless.
We don’t have time to look at comfort zones in detail here, so if you fear there could be a comfort zone enabling your blame game, then learn to get out of your comfort zones before we bring this all together.
“I Can’t Do Anything Different Until the Pandemic Is Over.”
Why Do We Do It?
In the quote above, you could change the word “pandemic” for “boss,” “tech,” “project,” “house moving,” “weight loss,” “summer,” “pregnancy,” or anything you like. Basically, it still removes any responsibility from you, and if you have no responsibility, you have no obligation to alter it.
The opposite of this is if you accept that your future is in your hands (even if situations aren’t), you can look for solutions where others assume there is none.
- “I can’t stop them doing that!” becomes “What do I want to see happen and how will I make it happen?”
- “They don’t listen to me.” becomes “I am on my own agenda working towards a goal and I accept I can’t change others and will just protect myself and my results.”
Once you’ve learned to stop blaming others, accepted the blame, and understood what to control, you then need to question what is possible to create a plan to never let blame impact your happiness and success ever again.
Blame in Action
Working with a team from a large organization, I heard a lot of people tell me that they couldn’t do anything because a new system had been bought in by “them upstairs” and “them upstairs” have no clue as to what actually goes on around here.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
For this team, they were able to divert any responsibility for their time management, productivity, happiness at work, and success on “them upstairs.” Whether management got it wrong or not, things weren’t going to change, so they needed to work out what could be controlled.
Is it likely that this team would convince anyone to ditch the new tech? No, but through understanding how they saw the situation, where they placed responsibility, and what was in their control, they could create a plan of action that was very much theirs and has nothing to do with “them upstairs.”
When creating a new plan of action, a new way of thinking, responding, and working, don’t rule out any idea. I’ve seen people remove blame from their lives both personally and professionally with the simplest of ideas.
This is the great news about blame—when you go through this process, you can get better results very fast.
Learn to Stop Blaming Others
To see this in action, let me share with you the story of an amazing client who’d been treated very badly at work and home for years. They’d been subjected to the most awful things, and it now battered them long after the bullies and abusers had gone from their lives.
By finding all the blame in their life in the way they spoke, we were able to see the world in a new way and this led to simple things that reinforced the future for them.
- They reframed what they said to themselves from “I’ve been through so much, it’s not fair” to “I’m so proud of how resilient and tough I am, I now believe I can overcome anything!” (Imagine the power this phrase gave them?)
- They listened to the voice in their head and made sure it was repeating the positive “Wow! I’m a tough cookie.” belief instead of the old outdated beliefs. They started taking selfies. Sharing images of themselves attracted positive reinforcement from friends and boosted their confidence.
- They planned big. They’d always wanted to achieve their bucket list. It wasn’t big, but it covered their personal and professional lives. They always blamed their lack of completion on life, circumstances, genetics, even the weather. Now, I’m pleased to say their bucket list is gaining new bigger ambitions because blame is not in the game anymore.
Instead of blaming others, they learned to take responsibility. And lastly, as you dump the blame, have faith. Faith is not necessarily religious or spiritual. It’s about believing a better future can be yours. And with this process, it could happen faster than you think.
More on Taking Personal Responsibility
- How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances
- 5 Reasons to Stop Blaming Others
- Recognizing the Distinction Between Blame and Responsibility
Featured photo credit: Neal Markham via unsplash.com
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