It’s no secret that the last 12 months have been a roller coaster of presidential elections, stock market tumbles, foreclosures, unemployment, and bailouts. We’re in unprecedented economic times for many of us. I’m in my mid-30’s and have never seen such a string of bad news.
It’s so bad, that about 9 months ago, I quit watching the news — completely. I no longer check CNN.com or watch the evening news. It’s greatly improved my attitude. So little of what is reported in the media is positive. Sure, there’s the random feel-good story. And there’s always sports news to keep me entertained. But watch the typical evening newscast and you’ll almost always leave angry or depressed.
One of the main reasons I started my “media fast” is that I was tired of listening to self proclaimed experts play the blame game. It seems no piece of news is complete without accusing someone of wrongdoing. It’s human nature. We all have a tendency to look to someone else when problems come up. When times are good, we take the credit. When times are bad, we look around for someone to blame. I’m guilty of it too.
Can you really make a change in 3 seconds?
Blaming others for your plight in life is understandable. In some cases there is truth that someone else caused your problems. I don’t fault people for the initial reaction to look for someone to blame – it’s inevitable. Where most of us fail is in the 3 seconds after our initial reaction. That’s when a critical decision is made. Most of us don’t know we’ve even made a decision. What happens in those 3 seconds is we decide whether to attack the problem or wallow in our troubles. Are you going to take responsibility or look to someone to bail you out? Are you going to buckle down and work hard, or just skate along waiting?
The major problem with the blame game is that in most people, it creates a sense of dependency. We feel helpless to correct our problems. That’s when we look to others for a quick fix.
Once we cultivate a sense of dependency, we give up control. We may be placing our future in the hands of someone who is worse than the situation we are in. Are you looking for a lifeboat? I know I do from time to time. Have you checked your lifeboat for leaks lately?
In my life, the people and resources that have been the most helpful have the following characteristics:
- Provide very short, tangible relief to the situation. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a quick lunch and some much needed perspective on a problem I’ve been facing. For some people it may be one-time financial assistance just to keep the lights on. The main thing is that the relief is short. Long enough to enable the person to catch their breath, but short enough that they don’t become dependent on the help.
- Help figuring out where I made mistakes. Rather than play the blame game, make sure you look in the mirror and see what you could have done differently to avoid (at least partially) the problem.
- An action plan to get out of the mess. The quicker the better. Steps forward, even small, can drastically change your attitude and your outcomes. You don’t need to have every step mapped out, just get moving!
The thing that happens when people take responsibility for the problems in their lives is this: when you fight through and emerge victorious, the feeling is so much better knowing you worked through it on your terms.
I’ll end this post with a story about a guy I know who has been through a tough time in the past 6 months. After a decade with the same company, he found himself without a job. Sure, he spent a little time blaming others, but then he did something many people don’t: he didn’t look for a lifeboat. He attacked! Because he had planned ahead and had some money set aside, he didn’t have to worry (short-term) about paying the bills. He took time to catch his breath and then investigated different jobs, even considering a completely different industry. Because he planned ahead for emergencies, he was able to consider what he really wanted his next move to be. He didn’t have to jump at the first thing that came his way. Ultimately, he’s decided to go a slightly different direction with his career. While he never would have planned on this turn of events, he’s suddenly re-energized about his career.
I’m still staying away from the news media. Chances are the media will always report much more bad news than good. I don’t really care. I’m choosing to attack the issues in my life and not look for a leaky lifeboat to come and rescue me. What about you?