I have a theory that a lot of a person's attitude about life in general can stem from external versus internal causation and blame. If you're curious for a more scholarly look at the theory you can google "Internal versus external locus of control". Of course, I'm not the first person who came up with this theory, but I figure that I will put my own spin on it in this brief blog post.
In short, people who don't blame anyone or anything for their situation are more satisfied with life in general. Those who are focused on who is to blame for their struggles or woes, are too focused on the negative rather than moving forward and improving their lot in life.
Normally, I would assume that this must apply primarily to people in extreme circumstances, because I have a pretty good life, so who would I be blaming for anything? However, I was recently challenged by some things I've been reading for our small group discussions, and realized that blame is a really powerful thing. If all my flimsy excuses are taken away, what am I left with as a reason for not doing what I should?
The other night, I stayed up late, even though my 2 year old was in bed. I was tired the next day, but I took responsibility for my actions and said that it was worth it. So, even though my attitude and even my level of sleep weren't what I wanted, I still made it through the day in a relatively positive light. Again, I'm not saying that I didn't have moments where I took a nap while my oldest played on the computer or that I didn't yell at my kids when they stretched my nerves, but I am saying that I felt different.
Even better, the next night, when my 2-year old decided not to go to bed, I didn't blame him or myself. I could have gone on about how he kept me up and I was already tired because of the night before and had a generally bad day, but actually it ended up being a pretty good day. I got 3 loads of laundry done, 2 loads of dishes, homeschooled my kids without killing anyone, and actually have a day with less yelling and stress than normal.
You see, it's not my physical tiredness or bad attitudes of my kids that hold me back, it's the fact that sometimes I blame them, whether I do it consciously or not.
Starting today, I'm going to try to be more conscious of my attitude. While I don't want to yell at my kids, I do it more than I would like. So, when I catch myself, rather than guilting myself, feeling bad, or even internally blaming something in my circumstance, I'm going to try to accept the responsibility. Yes, I did yell at my kids. They are not to blame, my circumstances are not to blame, even my lack of sleep is not to blame. I won't feel guilty, because that doesn't fix the behavior, but I will accept responsibility and move forward.
I'm doing a great job of teaching my kids that I'm not perfect either, but I need to do a better job of improving my behavior. Because I really don't want to make it about blame and excuses.