stop_making_excusesOne of my greatest revelations this year was the idea that there are two ways of living: At Cause and at Effect. 

C => E  is a symple equation which describes a more than complex concept.

Life “at Effect” is what most of us are living when we complain or feel sorry for ourselves. At “Effect” we are overwhelmed by circumstances we cannnot control, the causes for our unhappiness is outside of us, others are to blame, we have bad luck, we have problems. At Effect we cannot control anything – others or external circumstances care controlling us. At Effect someone else is always to blame. Us? Never! At Effect we are victims, powerless. The fundamental question that urges us to live at Effect is Why?.

In case you haven’t noticed, people rarely ask Why? when things are going well. “Why did you get an A?” is an almost unnatural question. “Why did you get a C?” is the norm.

When we ask ourselves or others “why?” what we get are excuses, justifications, stories, explanations. “Why?” is the easiest recipe for victimising someone, for putting him or her on a defensive, to simply throw them at Effect.

“At Cause” the attitude is completely different. Here is the place where we finally get rid of the Why? and replace it with What? and How?.

At Cause” we are no longer powerless, on the contrary, we have the certainty that we can do something regardless of the circumstances, that there are no unsurmountable obstacles and that every experience, hard as it may be, is a lesson. Instead of wallowing in self-pity we ask ourselves “what can I learn from this?” or “what can I do with this situation?” or “what opportunities lay hidden here?”.

At Cause  we feel fully responsible for our lives. Of course there are circumstances, moments, people, instances we cannot control. Being at Cause give us the certainty that we can always control our attitudes towards whatever is happening in our lives in a given instant.

At Effect you see no lessons, just bad luck. Unhappy childhoods, failed relationships, uninspiring jobs. At Cause you can choose to do something constructive with whatever life brings your way – In what ways have you become a better person thanks to your unhappy childhood? How can you leave a toxic relationship behind and take something good out of it that will serve you well in the next one?

At Effect there is no forgiveness, just blame – towards self and others. At Cause you will discover compassion, understanding and self-confidence.

At Effect you are convinced that you are the result of your past. At Cause you discover that you are the creator of your future.

One life, two attitudes.

At Effect there is always someone to blame. At Cause you finally understand that you are the only one responsible for your own choices and that, although you cannot change what was, you always have the power to create what follows.

At Effect you cannot do anything. At Cause you are the only one who can actually do something.

It’s very comfortable to live at Effect. It’s magical to live at Cause. 

I know people who desperately cling to a job they hate just because they are convinced that nothing better exists, who waste their inner resources and time by feeing victims of fate. I know other people who lost their jobs and who discovered, after some time of desperation, that it was the best thing which could happen to them. These people chose to see the opportunity beyond the misfortune, the chance where others only saw bad luck. They chose to use the present moment to build a different kind of future – one where work is connected to their passions, one where the fear of “what will be tomorrow?” was replaced with “tomorrow can bring anything!” This goes for failed relationships or the attitude towards the vicissitudes of our own past. At Effect we are perpetually small, insignificant, vulnerable. At Cause we discover how powerful we really were and never knew it.  

Why is it so hard for so many of us to live at Cause?

I’m not sure there is but one answer to this question. I for one believe, out of my own experience, that it’s terribly hard and uncomfortable to accept that you are the only one in charge of your life’s choices – that’s why so many people would rather stay forever at Effect, perpetual victims. With choice comes responsibility. At Cause you can’t really blame others anymore – neither parents, nor bosses, life partners, misfortune. At Cause you accept that you and only you are the owner of your choices – stay or leave, blame of forgive, say your mind or hold back, act or withdraw. At Cause there are no more excuses and justifications, you can no longer cry in self-pity for whatever you didn’t have the courage to do, nor can you blame others for your actions which you now regret.

At Effect life is more comfortable but less happy. At Effect you may blame, accuse, complain, criticise, judge. At Effect you may look out the window when something goes wrong. At Cause you must look in the mirror. And that can be hard.

What can you do to go from Effect to Cause?

The answer, I believe, is simple: Learn your lesson!

What positive lessons can you learn from your own mistakes? How about unhappy relationships? A job you hate? What about your own childhood, with all its good and bad? How do all of this help you become better and stronger? What is up to you to do? What do you really want? What would you do if you weren’t afraid of anything? What would you do if you knew you have the power to forgive those who wronged you? How about forgiving yourself? What would your life be like if you accepted that you are the only one responsible for your own thoughts, reactions and choices?

These are questions for you and I, for all of us who catch ourselves living at Effect and still feel like victims of destiny. It is us who, if only we learned our Lesson from each experience, we’d finally take responsibility and embrace the joy for a life lived at Cause.