Junior was 8 years old and seemed to always have an excuse for everything. Anytime that constructive criticism or reprimand was given to him there was always someone to blame but himself.
Junior grew anxious and sad because things would just not go his way most of the time. It was usually his brothers fault, his daddy’s fault, his teachers and so on. His explanations were very believable and to be fair, they might have been true.
Gordon was 40 years old and seemed to always have an excuse for everything. Anytime that constructive criticism or reprimand was given to him there was always someone to blame but himself.
Gordon grew anxious, depressed and ended up having a laundry list of issues both emotional and physical. His lack of happiness, work promotions, quality of life and so on was always his wife’s fault his boss’s fault, his childrens’ fault and so on.
Both Junior and Gordon have similar issues with nearly exactly the same results.
Junior may be testing the boundaries. Dodging accountability. Fearful of punishment, etc. In this case it is almost understandable because he is after all a child.
In Gordon’s example it seems as if he should know better by now. By 40 we should understand that accountability is part of life. But the truth is that many of us are still stuck in this vicious cycle.
One of the first things a therapist tries to do to many adults is to go to ones memory and try to find one or two unresolved issues in order to work towards resolving them. Once those are resolved life gets a bit easier to manage.
In both examples above we see that reasons, explanations and/or excuses are useful for understanding.
Nevertheless, only action and execution drive change. Understanding does not and never will equal change. This is why change behavior is the best apology not an elaborate explanation for the wrong doing.
So all this is great but what am I supposed to do with this? Do I need to find a therapist now? Maybe, but first let’s try to do a simple yet extremely effective exercise to try to resolve some issues in order to slingshot forward to the better half of your life.
Go grab a notebook (be sure to have plenty of blank pages) and a pen and sit down in a quiet place. Next, think about the one person who has done you the most wrong in your past. Take your time and find the One.
This can be a parent who while drunk beat you senselessly. It can be a person who molested you. It could be someone who hurt you more than anyone else in this entire world. In order for this exercise to be most effective you probably have some deep rooted negative feelings towards this individual, maybe even hate.
Now for the hard part… Write them an apology letter.
This is where the many blank pages come in handy. If you’re anything like me, shortly after you begin your apology letter it becomes full of hatred and is driven by the victim blaming them in everyway. Although this may be true and justified, it is not an apology letter so rip it off the notebook toss it on the floor and start again.
Follow through until somehow, someway you complete the letter wholeheartedly taking responsibility for the whole situation by honestly apologizing to them. This may take some time to get to but you’re worth the time, effort and love invested into this exercise.
Quite literally immediately after completing this letter, this huge weight comes off your shoulders, mind and soul. Consciously or unconsciously you’ve been blaming all issues, bad choices and behaviors to this one issue from your past (and you might have been right).
The exercise is over and you don’t have to send the letter to the individual. The reason behind finding such a dark instance is because if you can take responsibility for the worst issue in your past then you can resolve any other issue from your past and deal with any issues thrown at you from this point on.
The issue has been resolved. But how? By you taking full responsibility for it even if it’s not even logical for it to be your fault in anyway.
This is a very personal experience and only an exercise, not one to determine fault or blame but solely to get to a mental state where we can resolve a deep rooted issue. Taking this exercise in a way to assign true blame in yourself admittedly can cause an onslaught of a bunch of other issues.
The math might not make sense. It may not be logical. Nonetheless, the fact is that in order for you to truly change something from the very root you must own it, you must take full responsibility for it.
When we correct someone whether our children or employees, we simply want to hear a yes; ok; I’ll work on it; etc. Because the person without stating it, is taking responsibility for the actions and now I know there’s a good chance for change and for us not to deal with this particular issue again. However, if they try to explain (excuses) their actions in anyway it is pretty much a guarantee that we’ll be dealing with this exact issue again and again because explanations do not equal change no matter how true the explanation is.
Taking responsibility is not just a term of blame or even accountability. It is a prerequisite for change.
Junior is just a child and this is a great time to teach him about self responsibility because he’s a sponge through his adolescent years.
Gordon is going to have to learn new habits, ingrain new habits and it’s going to take some hard work and practice in order for him to heal himself and create happiness into his life.
This exercise is not the end all cure all. It is not a substitute for professional therapy and it may not even work for everyone. However, I know it works and I also know that with some honest hardwork and execution behind it, it can lead to an amazing rest of your life.
Remember, only action and execution drive change.
If you know better, do better.
Stay in the fight!