Why does blame seem to be our first line of defense? Maybe because so many of the people in the media who are caught engaging in bad behaviors use this tact. Rarely do we witness a person taking ownership for their actions and genuinely expressing repentance. What a wonderful and positive example that would be for our youth. Better yet, wouldn't it be refreshing for the media to cover more uplifting and positive stories that showcase people with character and integrity? Unfortunately, negative media sells since people like to see someone else worse off than them. We are overwhelmed with information, most of it negative, and some even hateful. We also are not good at discerning truth from lies and don't have or spend the time necessary to research the facts. Too often, we believe the information that supports our view and disregard the rest. We can always find someone who believes in the same things as us if we search long enough. But how about carefully researching all points of view on a topic, not only those that align with our own. And maybe we can even consider acknowledging when we're wrong. When we are well-informed, authentic, and transparent, people will value our opinions more even if they disagree.
A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that optimistic people live longer, possibly because optimism reduces stress, and promotes healthy behaviors. Focusing on the positive aspects of life and our circumstances produces beneficial effects, but acknowledging wrongdoing can also be equally as powerful. So often people deny, deceive, manipulate, and lie to cover their mistakes rather than owning them and dealing directly with the consequences. Some live by the creed of begging forgiveness rather than asking permission. At times people don't think beyond their impulses and desires and give little consideration for the impact or consequences of their actions. Others convince themselves that if they don't get caught then their actions are not harmful. Many of us can easily rationalize our bad behaviors and avoid taking ownership for the negative effects they can have on others and ourselves.
As the New Year is upon us let's reflect on our how our own behaviors can hurt or harm others and take ownership for them. We have to own it before we can change it. Maybe we are unaware or insensitive to others, hold grudges, are overly critical, focus on the negative, and/or lie while minimizing the effect on our loved ones. We may need to work on our impatience, need for control, and perfectionistic tendencies. Change starts with awareness, but it also requires acknowledgement to others so they can hold us accountable. We all have issues we can work on to improve our relationships and our lives. Identify your growth areas and write down concrete steps to make changes in your thoughts and behaviors. Let's get a fresh start as the new decade begins and make a commitment to ourselves to be better and do better. We are all a work in progress, so let's get to work.