There were two scenes in the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, that I remember very clearly. The movie was released in May 1980, the same month that I finished my first year in law school. In the first scene, Han Solo is in his spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, with his co-pilot Chewbacca (Chewy), and Princess Leia.
They are being fired upon by the enemy ship, the Star Destroyer, and Han yells out, “Let’s get out of here. Ready for light speed? One, two, three…” At that point, Han pulls back on the hyperspace throttle and nothing happens. He then shouts, “It’s not fair!” Chewy becomes angry and growls at Han while Han desperately pulls on the throttle. Han then exclaims, “The transfer circuits are working. It’s not my fault!” Leia reacts by asking “No light speed?” Han again shouts, “It’s not my fault!”
Later in the movie Lando Calrissian, Chewy, and Princess Leia are in the Millennium Falcon being pursued by the Star Destroyer. Lando says to Chewy, “Ready for light speed.” Leia then says, “If your people fixed the hyper drive. All coordinates are set. It’s now or never.” Lando gives the order to Chewy to pull back on the throttle. When Chewy pulls the throttle, nothing happens. Lando reacts by shouting, “They told me they fixed it. I trusted them to fix it. It’s not my fault!”
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have attempted to avoid responsibility by declaring “It’s not my fault!” After Adam and Eve defied God, Eve claimed that it wasn’t her fault because she was simply doing what the serpent told her to do. Adam claimed it wasn’t his fault because Eve told him it was okay to take a bite of the apple.
I’m sure you’ve met people who have claimed that they were unable to correct a certain behavior or habit because they were born with a certain trait. Or they may have claimed that other factors that were outside their control were to blame. One example would be the person who is chronically late for work and says, “I got that from my dad’s side of the family” or “That’s just the way I am” or “I didn’t get much sleep last night” or “I can’t help it, I’m doing the best I can.”
If you were to tell the person that they were making an excuse for their behavior, they would tell you that what they said was not an excuse — that it was a valid reason for their behavior. They would not be willing to admit that their “reason” is the same as an “excuse.”
Students blame their teachers for bad grades, athletes blame referees and umpires for their losses, employees blame their employers when they’re not getting paid enough or when they get fired, fat people blame their genes or the chemicals and preservatives in the food for their inability to lose weight, and husbands blame their wives for their marital problems while the wives blame their husbands for the same problems.
When people come up with a reason or an excuse for their poor performance or bad behavior, they absolve themselves from all responsibility. By doing so, they avoid the process of thinking through and analyzing their behavior. Because they have placed the blame on outside factors, there is no reason or need for them to figure out a way they can improve their future performance or behavior. By making an excuse or giving a reason for an undesirable result, a person proclaims to the world: “It’s not my fault!”
By adopting the attitude and belief that what happened was someone else’s fault, the person accepts the fact that the result was beyond their control and there is nothing they could have done to change the result. They also accept the fact that there is nothing they can do in the future to guarantee a different result.
I want to reveal to you a secret that has the potential of giving you the ability to exercise much greater control of your life and your future. If you decide to put what I reveal to you into practice, you will see a dramatic change in your life and your relationships with others. What I am about to suggest to you can sometimes be very painful and humiliating, but if you master this secret, you will experience a great deal of personal, mental, emotional, and economic growth.
Here’s the secret: Anytime anything goes wrong in your life, you must do everything in your power to convince yourself that what happened was all your fault.
What I’m asking you to do is extremely difficult because it goes against your very nature. Because of our pride, we hate admitting fault and accepting responsibility for our actions. However, when we blame ourselves for the problems and events that occur in our lives, we not only accept full responsibility for what happened, but we begin working on ways in which we can make sure that what happened to us does not happen again.
When you convince yourself that a certain outcome was your fault, you automatically begin a process in your mind of evaluating the situation that led to the outcome. You then begin to figure out a way in which you can change your behavior so that you can avoid a similar outcome in the future. The process of reflecting on and modifying your behavior eventually helps you to exercise greater control over your life and your future.
Think about the last time you got into a major argument with your spouse or someone you cared about. After the argument, both of you were angry and blamed each other for the argument. You continued to go over the argument in your mind which caused you to think about other things you should have said to the person. You refused to talk to the other person for a period of time. To this day, you may have never fully forgiven the other person for what he or she said to you.
What if you had walked into the bathroom after the argument, closed the door, and looked in the mirror and said to yourself “That argument was all my fault.” What if you would have continued to tell yourself that the argument was your fault until you finally convinced yourself that what you were saying to yourself was correct?
At the point in time that you finally convinced yourself and came to believe that the argument was your fault, a shift would have taken place in your mind that would have caused you to start evaluating everything that led up to the argument. More importantly, the self-evaluation process that you were going through would have forced you to step into the shoes of the other person, causing you to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
After carefully considering what the other person was going through prior to the argument, you would have realized that you had come to some conclusions that were based on assumptions that were incorrect. You would have also realized that there were certain things that you could have done differently that would have helped you avoid the argument.
This technique is extremely powerful. I started using it on myself a couple of years ago and it has helped me to make dramatic improvements in the way that I think, behave, and react to problems that come up. It has also helped me to do a better job in getting along with others. Try it and let me know how it works out for you.