Blame Yourself First; Change Your Perception First


“The first difference between the philosopher and the uneducated man is that the latter says, ‘Woe is me for my child, for my brother, woe is me for my father’, and the other, if he is compelled to speak, considers the matter and says, Woe is me for myself.’ For nothing outside the will can hinder or harm the will; it can only harm itself. If then we accept this, and, when things go amiss, are inclined to blame ourselves, remembering that judgement alone can disturb our peace and constancy, I swear to you by all the gods that we have made progress.”  Epictetus Discourses Book 3, Chapter 19

In this excerpt, Epictetus reemphasizes that our impressions, that is our own mind, is what causes us suffering or impedes our progress.  Our impressions are fully in our control.  We did not choose the capability of our minds…some of us are naturally more inclined to negative traits such as anger, impatience, distraction, alcoholism, obsessiveness, laziness…the list goes on.  No excuse!  You still have control over the mind you’ve been given.  Use this control to change your perception.  If you do not make an effort to do so, then you only have yourself to blame.

This control of your impressions has much to do with your reaction to tragedy and grief, but it also includes your attitude toward your everyday duties as well.  A few years back, I was watching an interview by Oprah of Jamie Lee Curtis.  Jamie Lee said she would adjust her attitude by saying “I get to” instead of “I have to.”  Probably, this was not her original idea, but it was a very good one, and I was glad to have been watching at the time.

I "get to" study!

I “get to” study!

For example, I could say that “I have to teach my kids Spanish this afternoon,” which is indeed true.  I have set a goal to concurrently learn Spanish with my elementary school children.  How much better is my perspective, though, when I instead say, “I get to teach my kids Spanish this afternoon.”  So much is implied by changing the statement.   It reminds me of how blessed I am to simply spend time with them; to watch them absorb the language like little sponges.  On top of it all, I can take pride in the fact that I am attempting (slowly but surely) to master a different language myself.  I “get to” do this!

Simply waking in the morning and saying, “I get to live another day” changes your outlook from “I have to wake up this morning.”  Don’t you think?

We "get to" see another sunset!

We “get to” see another sunset!

Give it a try, see what happens.  I find it very useful to control my impressions this way.

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