Philosophy Friday: No Excuses
“It’s not my fault I’m late; traffic was bad.”, “I can’t help it; it’s just the way I am.” and “I didn’t have enough time.”
What are these? Excuses, pure and simple.
I got news for you, but you won’t like it: It is your fault. Accept it; deal with it. You’ll be better for it. By the end of this Philosophy Friday, you might even want it to have been your fault.
Admit it—when you listen to these excuses from others, you’re not impressed. Why would other people want to hear them from you?
There are just about always means to overcome obstacles. Will traffic be horrendous? Leave earlier.
Not taking responsibility for our shortcomings implies that we are victims—things happen to us. As if we were powerless puppets, with circumstances and other people pulling our strings. Is that how we see ourselves? Would we not rather be in charge of our lives?
At least when we are to blame, we can choose to do something about it. Then we are strong. Sure, when it’s someone else’s fault, we get to maintain the illusion of a perfect self-image, but the price we pay for that deception is high: We are weak and unable to fix the situation.
Contrast this with “It’s my fault we didn’t make the project deadline.”, “Yes, that’s on me. It won’t happen again.”.
On the surface, these are problematic statements. Innately we don’t like being the scapegoat, the problem child. However, there is a positive angle to being accountable: It’s a sign of power. It implies you know what went wrong, and you’ve learned from the experience. You’re a leader and in charge.
Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had a rule: Blame yourself or no one. His attitude is worth adopting.
Often it’s hard taking responsibility. Yet, it gets easier with practice.
You can even have some fun and accept extra responsibility—take the blame for failures that almost certainly were not your fault. A project at work bombed, and you played only an insignificant role in its outcome. What if you took responsibility for the failure? People would see you in a different light. Significant mental realignments would be taking place in your coworker’s minds—you must have been more involved and had greater influence than they had previously thought!
With great power comes great responsibility. The reverse of the usual one-liner is also true:
With Great Responsibility comes Great Power.
Take more responsibility and watch yourself grow more influential.
“A gem cannot be polished without friction,
nor a man perfected without trials.”