The Power of Apologising and Taking Responsibility

More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.

Greg Lemond

Mistakes, in life, are inevitable. We try our best to avoid them, but they happen. Even when our intentions are noble, our thoughts measured and our actions carefully considered They are a part of life, and a very valuable learning experience if we reflect on them. The fallout from a mistake can be painful, but the long-term benefits can far outweigh the negatives. It’s really about the mindset you adopt when viewing the mistake. A negative mindset will blow a mistake out of proportion and could lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, loss of motivation and the fear to take risks in the future. With a positive mindset, you look for lessons to be learned, and are more likely to take risks again in the future, armed with the knowledge gained from the previous experience.

Sometimes, however, our mistakes affect other people. This is what I would like to discuss today. When things go wrong and it’s largely us who are affected, we can perform a post-mortem, determine what we can learn from the experience and then do our best to bounce back. When other people are involved, that’s a different matter.

Very rarely do we set out intentionally to hurt or upset another person. Especially if we value the relationship we have with them. But it happens. We set out upon a course of action, only to completely misjudge what would happen or how it would affect other people. So, while we acted with the best of intentions, we ended up with the most undesirable of outcomes. In this instance,the first step should be to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong, provided that it was your fault. Next there should be a genuine heart felt apology and, if possible, an explanation of what you had set out to do. It is important to communicate to the other person what you were trying to achieve so that they can understand your reasons and intentions. Share what you have learned from experience with them too,  if you get the opportunity.

This is no time for bravado, ego or empty words. Be humble, and take responsibility  for what you did and didn’t do. Apologies must be followed by action to rectify or improve the situation. Without action, all that you are offering are mere words and platitudes. Prove how sincere you are, and don’t just say it. Tell the other person how sorry you are (and make sure that you mean it!!) but then show what you are doing to either fix the problem or to ensure that it never happens again.

Why talk about this subject on a blog about fulfilling the potential we hold within ourselves? Simple answer? Because of what it teaches us.

Apologising is not a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t make you any less of a person. When we own up to our mistakes and apologise either to ourselves or to others, we take responsibility for them and this is a mark of maturity, honesty and integrity. These are traits which are respected by others, and can actually strengthen relationships, both personal and professional, as well as reputations. In business, people want to know what type of person they are dealing with, so being known for honesty, integrity and trustworthiness is never going to be a bad thing.

Most of all, though, we will never reach our potential or get anywhere near it until we take responsibility for our lives. I have read countless quotes about how the circumstances in which we find ourselves today are a result of decisions we have made and actions which we have taken in the past. So very true. If you are not where you hoped to be in life, you need to look at where you went off-track. That’s not to say that you should just beat yourself up and give up hope, though.

Take responsibility for where your life choices have led you to so far, and learn as much as you can from this reflection. Once you have learned all that you can, it’s time to start looking forward. Time, now, to take responsibility for your future, and make sure that the decisions you make and actions you take today will be steering your forward towards the life you want.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
George Bernard Shaw

“No” is not a dirty word. Embrace it.

Wherever we look, there is a battle going on for our attention. It’s big business. There is a whole array of books, seminars and programmes devoted to it, because attention is priceless. Once someone is granted your attention, they can use their sales and marketing techniques to try and manipulate you into buying something you don’t want, or doing something you don’t want to.

Most of the time we don’t realise that we are being manipulated into doing another’s bidding . Even when we do, it’s only after the event, or because we feel unable to decline or picture any alternative and therefore just go along with it. The downside to all of this is that time, focus and energy is taken away from our own lives. We stop doing whats important to us. Our progress slows and our relationships become strained, all because somebody else convinced us that their need was all that mattered. This is why we should start saying no, and stop putting the wants and needs of others before our own. Of course, there must be give and take in life but we need to be careful of just how much of ourselves, our time and our energy we give.

If it sounds a little selfish, that’s because we sometimes have to be. In this case, putting yourself, and those you care about the most, first is absolutely necessary if you want to be happy. If you handle the situation respectfully and with tact, people will respect your decision to say no. What form this “no”  takes will differ from person to person. For me, I prioritise my own journey and the goals which I am working towards, alongside spending quality time with my family. As such, I say no to things which can divert my energy and attention away from what is important to me, such as resisting the temptation to check work emails at home. When you say no to things which you don’t want to do, strange things happen, such as an increase in productivity. You find yourself getting fewer requests, and having more time to do what makes you happy. Most significant of all, though, you get to focus on what’s important to you. Your confidence also gets a healthy boost as you take back control of your life and stop being led by others.

The more you try to help others  and accommodate their wishes, the more they will ask of you. However, if you say no to whatever you don’t feel to be a good use of your time, people will soon get the message and leave you in peace. Say no, and watch as your happiness, time, confidence and productivity all get a healthy boost

If you don’t take control of your life..

…someone else will. This is why I feel so strongly about why we should become more self-aware, set goals in life and pursue them. It’s why we need passion, purpose and drive, or else life can become uneventful, dull and repetitive.

That is not to say that we need to have it all figured out, but we do need a certain level of direction in our lives. We need to know, roughly, where we are headed. With this awareness, we are less likely to be led astray or manipulated by others. We become stronger mentally, more focused and wiser. We are, essentially, better able to position ourselves to live the life of our dreams.

We also need to have interests which we are passionate about, as this gives us a break from the stresses of life. Being in control of our lives means that we will be immune to the doubts and criticisms of others, and have the strength to do whatever it is that makes our hearts sing. After all, when we follow our passion and share that which we create, we are inspiring others to have the courage to do the same.

Humans are creatures of habit, though. We like that which we know. Hence we develop routines which feel safe and also provide a source of comfort. We also don’t need to think too much when something is familiar. But there is a downside to the comfort of habit and routine, which is best summed up in a quote from the inimitable Charles Bukowski;

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”


The unconquerable spirit

We all face challenges and go through difficult times. It’s a hard fact of life, but also a formative opportunity.  The way in which we respond to adversity can forge our character and make us stronger.

The truth is that each of us, alone, is responsible for our own life and the direction it takes. The power really is in our hands, and the sooner we realise this, the better. I’ll say it again; you are in control of  your life. When you realise this, wonderful things happen. Chief among these positive changes is the shedding of the victim mentality. You no longer feel helpless and powerless in tough times, and that things just happen to you. Simply put, you gain a new perspective. You become stronger mentally, more resilient and more confident. You then begin to see challenges as a small bump in the road which you will overcome.

When I am going through tough times, I revisit one of my favourite poems, Invictus by William Earnest Henley, which I would like to share with you below. Invictus itself is a Latin term and means to be unconquerable or unbeatable. It’s about an indomitable spirit and a refusal to accept defeat. It is also strength and perspective in the face of adversity, which makes it perfect for times when you find yourself lacking courage or strength after a setback. Take ownership of, and responsibility, for your decisions and actions…..then watch the magic happen as your life changes for the better. Things do not simply happen to you. Understand that you make things happen. You have the power. Use it wisely.

Invictus 

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.   
   
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.   
Under the bludgeonings of chance   
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.   
   
Beyond this place of wrath and tears   
  Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years   
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.   
   
It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul

	

Taking responsibility.

Also referred to as accountability or taking ownership, taking responsibility for our decisions and actions is crucial if we want to lead lives which are happy and fulfilled.

There are times when we find ourselves in bad situations only to realise that, after some honest reflection, that those circumstances were a result of our decisions, actions or lack thereof. These instances, although less than ideal, have the power to become a force for good, IF we act upon them. Firstly, we need to accept responsibility for what has happened. This should then be followed  by some introspective reflection,  exploring where we may have gone wrong and what lessons can be learned. Then comes action. Having turned the undesirable situation into a learning experience, we take action to address it and get ourselves back on track. Sounds simple when described in those terms, but there is a lot of hard work involved as well as difficult questions.

Today, however, I would like to discuss taking responsibility for times when bad things happen through no fault of out own. Unfortunately, it happens and there is little we can do about it. Sometimes it happens as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sometimes we become the victims of the manipulations and machinations of others. It’s our response to when things go wrong which are not our fault, that shape our character and determine whether we will make progress towards our goals and a fulfilled life.

The truth is that when these setbacks are viewed with a pessimistic eye, or we adopt a victim mentality, it breeds further unhappiness. We become disheartened and our progress towards our goals screeches to a halt, which can create a cycle of negativity, potentially ushering in anxiety and depression.

On a brighter note, research has shown that there is an alternative. A very good one. This one involves a combination of positivity, hope and confidence that you have the strength and ability to overcome this setback. When you realise that failure is not permanent or fatal, unless you refuse to take action, you are on your way to making a comeback. Buoyed by this realisation, as above, the next step is to reflect on yourself and your goals and plan your recovery. Finally, you need to take action, which will get you back on track. In this way, the setback becomes not only an opportunity to learn from, and reassess your efforts, but it also builds resilience. Overcoming one obstacle gives you the strength, courage and wisdom to either avoid further obstacles on your journey, or bounce back from future bumps in the road.

What happened to you is often not your fault. How you respond to it, however, is your choice. You can choose to stay down and blame everyone and everything else. OR you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and fight back.

Which will you choose when the time comes?