One of my favorite comic strips is set in a bookstore. In one corner of the store, there is a section with a sign that reads, “Self Help. ” Right next to it, there’s a sign for the “Fixing Others” section. The “Self-Help” section has one person in it while the “Fixing Others” section is crowded. Just like life, right?
At home and at work, perhaps too often, we tend to complain about others, point out their shortcomings and failings, and try to make them change. While it would be fun and, from our perspective, easier to fix others, we know that doesn’t work. Truthfully, that’s not our job. Our real task, and it’s a big challenge, is to attend to ourselves. We must work on making ourselves the best we can be.
When we take ownership for our own life, when we stop blaming others for what is not working, we stop complaining and asking them to change. An added benefit is that this approach makes you feel more in control of the situations you find yourself in and of your life in general.
In every situation you face, even when you think you’re not the one who needs fixing. Ask yourself, “What’s my role here? In what ways am I, intentionally or unintentionally, contributing to the problem?” These questions will lead you down the path of changing yourself in positive ways. After all, the only person you can actually control is you.
At first you might find it extremely difficult to ignore the defensive reaction that leads to pointing fingers. It’s a reflex that’s tied directly to primal survival instincts. As with anything, making conscious choices about how we react gets easier with practice. The ability to approach anything life throws at us mindfully and with emotional intelligence is a gift we all have — a gift that, through example, we can pass down to the generations that follow.