As human beings, we have an innate tendency to blame external factors for our problems. We place fault on other people for our own wrongings. We place fault on institutions and systems for failing us. We place fault on bad luck or destiny for hindering us. Behavioral research has shown that our minds have a strong bias toward negativity. That's why when we receive 25 compliments and one piece of criticism, we tend to focus on the criticism. This negativity bias is natural, but it's not optimal. Taking responsibility for our problems forces us to think positively and grow from our experiences.
If you have depression or anxiety, it's easy to blame a chemical imbalance in your brain as the cause of your irritability, unhappiness, and lack of motivation. If you're unhappy in your relationship, it's easy to blame your partner for not treating you right or failing to understand your feelings. If you do bad on an exam, it's easy to blame your professor for being a terrible lecturer or making the questions too difficult. Maybe those external factors play a role in your problems, but you are ultimately the one that's responsible for them.
"The quality of our lives comes down to the quality of the questions we ask ourselves" - Tony Robbins. We can improve our lives by having the mental discipline to hold ourselves accountable for things that go wrong. Next time you find yourself in a negative situation, instead of getting upset and blaming other people and other things, ask yourself what you did wrong and what you can do to improve. Victimizing yourself makes you weak.
Bad things that happen to us aren't inherently problems - we turn them into problems through our minds' negativity bias. For instance, in the book "Rich Dad Poor Dad," Robert Kiyosaki, explains the impactful words of his two dads. One dad would always say "I can't afford it" and the other dad would always say "How can I afford it?" The first question makes it easy to give up and puts the blame on things outside of our control. The second question forces us to be creative, take action, and hold ourselves accountable. The difference in thinking between the two dads highlights the importance of a crucial skill - mindfulness.
Mindfulness is our psychological ability to be aware of our thoughts and not be overly reactive to the experiences around us. We all know of someone that gets easily triggered and quickly reacts with anger or resentment. Maybe this person is you. This person isn't inherently bad and anger isn't just a character flaw, he or she just isn't very mindful. We can all think of someone that is the exact opposite of that hothead as well - someone that listens, thinks before they speak, and reacts in a calm and collected manner, despite the situation. This person is extremely mindful. The important thing to understand is that it doesn't matter how mindful we naturally are. All that matters is that we are in control of it. Research suggests that "mindfulness increases positive judgments and reduces negativity bias."
The next time you're having a problem and can feel your frustration building up, take a moment to sit back and realize that you're not special. Everyone in the world has problems - the difference lies within you. Take fault, be mindful, and watch yourself grow.