Accountability: What Do You Say to Yourself in Difficult Times?

Think of a recent difficult situation you encountered. What was going through your mind?

During challenging times many of us we tend to ask unproductive questions, questions that lead to victim thinking, procrastination, and blame. “Why is this happening to me?” “Whose fault was it?” “Why did she do that?” “When are they going to get back to me?” (This last one, by the way, allows us to procrastinate.)

It’s helpful to pay attention to what we’re telling ourselves during frustrating times. If we focus on anyone or anything other than ourselves, we are not being accountable. When we point fingers, when we complain about our situation, when we delay doing anything while we wait for others to act, we’re not being accountable.

We want to turn the focus back on ourselves and what we did to contribute to the situation and what we can do next. This simple change of focus changes the results we get in life. Better questions to ask ourselves during challenging times contain the word “I”– not they them, you, or even we. Because remember, these are questions we ask of ourselves, not of others. We are working with our own thinking. (Because it’s pretty hard to work with other people’s thinking — even though we continue to try!)

Here are a couple of examples of how this works. You get passed over for a promotion. You might say, “Why does this always happen to me?” or “The person that interviewed me didn’t ask good questions.” or “This is so unfair.” Haven’t we all spent days, weeks, years, spinning on thoughts like this? Accountable questions you could ask instead could be, “Can I get feedback on why I wasn’t selected?” “What can I do to make it more likely I’ll get the next job?” Simple! Just a switch of mind.

My mother-in-law has lost much of her vision due to macular degeneration. It has been a few years, but she stays stuck in the “Why me?” question. Yet she has met many people at the San Diego Braille Institute who are coping with their vision loss in different ways. She rides in a van with a group of blind and visually impaired people to spend one day at week at the Braille Institute. She told me recently about talking to a guy in the van and telling him how she still gets angry and sad about her vision loss, and he said, “Really? I used to feel that way. But I’ve been blind for 9 years. Now I just do what I can and it’s the new normal. And I’m happy.” What a choice we can make in any circumstance: to look at things in a way that’s helpful or in a way that causes us more misery.

What questions and thoughts go through your mind during difficult situations? Are your thoughts helping your cope and solve problems, or are they keeping you from taking action or accepting situations that can’t be changed?

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