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Why personal responsibility and authenticity go hand in hand

Feb 21, 2022

This week’s Winning Edge Mindset Blog is written by Richard Jackson MBE – the founder and co-architect of The Winning Edge...

 It’s so easy, isn’t it, the words just trip off the tongue:

  • ‘Sorry I’m late darling, I had to finish that client presentation.’
  • ‘I would have fixed that tap but I didn’t have time.’
  • ‘She kept me talking for about half-an-hour, I just couldn’t get away.’
  • ‘It’s a cold, wet evening and I’ve got to run the kids to football practice; I don’t want to do it because I’d rather stay home in front of the fire.’
  • ‘After all I’ve done for you and then you treat me like this.’
  • ‘Mummy would like to read you a bedtime story this evening sweetheart, but Mummy has to work late again’.

We will be returning to all of these later.

So why do we use these expressions that tell the world, but, more importantly our self-respect, that we’re victims? Why do we tell these lies? Who is it to protect? When we use the forms of word above, I’m sure we would like to think it’s the people we’re talking to that we would like to protect but it’s, of course, all about us.

It’s laudable that we want to be sensitive and prevent those we care about from feeling hurt or rejected but we don’t have to lie to do it. You may think the word ‘lie’ is a little strong but it’s a generally accepted word for not telling the truth.

Let’s examine the oft-used sentences quoted at the beginning of this article. In the first one: ‘I had to finish the client presentation’. The question is that if this person had received a message to say that one of their loved ones had been taken seriously ill, would they still have stayed at work? No, of course not; there would have been something higher on their value chain than the client presentation and they would have gone home to the hospital or wherever.

We always do what is most important to us at any one moment, the thing from which we gain the biggest emotional pay-off to satisfy our values. So, whenever you’ve had a choice between two or more options (which excludes being born / dying / being sick / going to the loo / going to prison or other lighthouses i.e. situations which we have absolutely no power or influence over), you’ve always done what’s suited you, you’ve always taken the course of least resistance, you’ve always taken the easy way out, you’ve always acted in your self-interest, you’ve always got your own way.

People always behave in a way that is consistent with their emotional needs. When we make a choice it's always the easiest for us emotionally at that time compared with any other choice at that time. In other words, we always choose the option with the consequences that are easiest for us to bear emotionally.

Which means if indeed we are at work, it is more important to be there than it is to be at home, based on the consequences to us of finishing or not finishing the client presentation.

 ‘I would have fixed the tap but I didn’t have the time’. As the author, salesperson and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said:

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.”

Yes, it’s a good idea to spend some of those 24 hours sleeping but the rest of the time is spent doing what we want to do. This is again based on the consequences of what we do or don’t do. If the consequence of the tap not being fixed would have been the house being flooded, then the tap would almost certainly have been fixed. It’s always amusing when someone says: ’When I get a minute, I’ll do xyz', when a more honest way of expressing it would be: ‘When it becomes important enough to me, I’ll do xyz'.

‘She kept me talking, I couldn’t get away’. Oh, really? We can walk away any time we like but it’s easier to blame the person we stayed and listened to, probably because we wouldn’t like the person to be upset if we’d walked off before they’d finished what they wanted to tell us. So we’d rather tell that lie than say: ‘Sorry I was late, I wanted to listen and listen and listen. Then when I thought I had finished listening, I then listened some more’.

‘It’s a cold, wet evening and I’ve got to run the kids to football practice; I don’t want to do it because I’d rather stay home in front of the fire’.  No, because you love your children and place value in their interests, you would rather run them to football practice than stay in front of the fire; again, consequences.

‘After all I’ve done for you and you treat me like this’. What nonsense. We never do anything for anybody but ourselves - everything we do is to satisfy our emotional needs and live up – or down – to our values.

‘Mummy would like to read you a bedtime story this evening but Mummy has to work late again’. I think you’re getting the picture…

Being honest with yourself, if you’re prepared to accept the consequences, you know that you don’t have to do anything. And if the emotional blackmail hand is played, that’s pretending you do things for other people and is about the most dishonest form of behaviour modification you can get yourself into.

Do you use the following words:

Have to
Got to

These are victim words and using them means you are describing an external locus of control. And if you think you’re not in control of your life then you won’t be. You are telling others, but more importantly yourself- that you are donating control over your life to external factors- that other people and situations are seemingly running your life. It’s the person who checks whether it’s raining or not before deciding what kind of day they are going to have. This means your brain cannot be as resourceful as when you feel you are running your life. Let’s not use these victim words as they are dishonest and disempowering. We are only a victim of our own values.

 So, words you could use instead are:  

Want to
Like to
Choose to
Get to

By using these words, you are demonstrating that you are running your own life. If you develop a strong internal locus of control, what do you stand to gain? Resourcefulness, peace of mind, empowerment, wellbeing, health. Less stress perhaps..?

Want is very powerful - when you feel in control you are generally healthier. And Get to shifts the dynamic to a place of recognition of what you have in your life – an attitude of gratitude which means you notice more of the good stuff going on. That can only feed a healthy mindset.

Back to those statement at the top, they can be reframed and rephrased:

  • ‘Sorry I was late darling, I wanted to get the client presentation finished- it’s really important for a meeting I have coming up.’
  • ‘I will put some time aside on Saturday and the tap will be fixed.’
  • ‘She obviously had something to tell me she thought was important and I didn’t want her to be upset, but I think I need to value my time more sometimes.’
  • ‘It would be nice to stay in and sit in front of the fire this evening, but the kids really enjoy their football practice, so I’m going to take them and enjoy the time I spend with them.’
  • ‘Mummy would like to read you a bedtime story this evening but there’s some things I want to do at work. I’ll make sure I’m home tomorrow for bedtime.’

You might not like the form of words used above, in which case, come up with your own for your own circumstances, but make sure you avoid lying to yourself and others. It’s not just about ‘semantics’- the way you express yourself determines how you feel and the outward evidence of the way you feel is the way you will behave and perform in all areas of life. It’s important, therefore, to be aware of whether your self-talk is propelling you forward or holding you back.

And remember- you might not always like what you want to do, but it sits more comfortably with you than the other option(s).

There’s a direct link between feeling in control of your life and being an effective human being, so it's important to realise you have, and always have had, control of which option you choose when faced with more than one, and take full responsibility for the choices you make in life– it’s the pinnacle of adult maturity.

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Do you frequently feel like a ball in a pinball machine being buffeted around by the flippers and springs of circumstances and other people? Do you wish you could feel more anchored and take personal responsibility for the choices you make in life?

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed to be the best version of you. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the future you want. Find out more here

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