There is nothing more exceptional and powerful than the human mind. There is nothing like it in our known universe. It seeks meaning, and it seeks a narrative. It seeks something that provides us with a “how” and a “why.” But this ability to make sense of things is not without costs; it also provides us with an amazing capacity to rationalize, absolving ourselves of any blame for our circumstances or our failures.
It identifies villains.
It’s easy to rationalize our circumstances or our failures by blaming events instead. Events are nameless. They’re faceless. More still, they are sometimes so large and create such a tremendous impact that they provide a wonderfully convenient explanation.
“If it wasn’t for this recession, I’d be having a much easier time making my number.”
“If the horrible event from my past hadn’t happened, I would be much more successful and much happier than I am now.”
The problem with casting events as your villain is that they cannot be defeated directly. You don’t have the power to prevent a recession. You surely don’t have any power to alter the space-time continuum and undo events that happened in your past. Because you are powerless to change the event, none of your lot in life is your fault. How could it be?
When events don’t work well enough to absolve us of responsibility, we recast our story. We give the villain a human face and a name.
There are all kinds of people that will cause you all sorts of inconveniences and problems in your life. It’s true. But your unhappiness or your lack of success don’t have much to do with other people—especially not people that don’t hurt you directly.
“If this President wasn’t elected, things would be a lot better for me.”
“If it wasn’t for my sales manager, I would be making my number.”
“If it wasn’t for big finance, big pharma, big corporations, big government, or big brother, my life would be better.”
“If it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be this way.”
You can’t do much to determine who wins a United States Presidential election. You can’t do much about your sales manager, either. There isn’t anything that you can do about big banks, big pharmaceutical companies, big food manufacturers, big companies, or any other collection of people that you might easily demonize and cast as your villain.
Casting people or groups of people as the villain in your story might provide you with a way to explain away your situation, your lack of results, or your unhappiness, but it won’t do a damn thing to improve your lot in life.
Who, Then, is the Villain?
The real villain in your story is your own belief system. The villain is your mind’s unique ability to rationalize and its talent for absolving you of any responsibility for your current circumstances.
The villain is literally all in your head.
The truth is that there is no one who has a greater responsibility for your success, for your failure, for you happiness, or for your circumstances than you do. And it’s a good thing that this is true. Because it is true that you are responsible for your life, the villain in your head is a villain that you have the absolute power to defeat.
You have the power to turn negative events into empowering events that change the course of your life for the better. You have the ability to give them meaning. Don’t believe me? Read Frankl.
You have an ability to succeed in spite of other people—especially people you don’t know and that don’t have any real power over your life. Most of the people you name as problems have no real or direct effect on your life. You always have the power to leave behind the people who don’t make you a better person, the people that treat you poorly, and the people that make you feel smaller than you know you are.
Casting events or other people in the role of villain may make you feel better. But it’s only temporary. The only path to success and happiness begins and ends with you taking control and responsibility for your life.
Who do you cast as the villain in your life?
Is the quality of your life driven by external events over which you have no control? How do others find happiness in spite of far more terrible circumstances than we might imagine?
Do you allow other people to control your happiness or success? Do they deserve this much power over you?
Do people you don’t know or large groups of people determine the quality of your life? How do they have more power and control than you do?
Who is ultimately responsible for your life, your happiness, and your results?
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