Ask and you shall receive
Anouchka Blessed advocates asking the right questions as they can empower you to emerge a victor rather than a victim
Tony Robbins said that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. I couldn’t agree more. This may sound obvious, but I believe that the only way to solve a problem is by asking the right questions. I recently came across a maths test I had taken when I was in high school and on which I had gotten a bad grade. In a fit of desperation, I had written across the top of the page, “Why am I so hopeless in maths?” When the teacher came around to collect our papers, he noticed my question, stopped abruptly, and read it aloud for all the class to hear. “All those concerned should ask themselves the same question,” he added. My classmates looked at me and broke into fits of laughter. I was mortified.
The first step
In one way, however, the math teacher was right. When we ask ourselves questions, we effectively recognise that a problem needs to be solved. Asking questions is the first step to regaining control of the situation. That’s what happened to me. I asked the question, and the following year, my grades went up. I even started to enjoy maths. (Being less maths-anxious would be more honest.)
Some years later, I found myself asking another question: “Why do I keep attracting the wrong guys?” The first time this question came up, I wasn’t ready for the answer. I wasn’t ready to take responsibility. I didn’t want to hear the hard truth—that the common denominator in all my failed relationships was me. Instead, I just wanted to complain about the jerk who was unfaithful, the guy who ‘used’ me, or the umpteenth guy who didn’t understand the slightest thing about women. In other words, it was always the guy’s fault. Or the situation was to blame. Or the planets were not aligned. Or whatever. In any case, it wasn’t my fault—no way!
Drop the blame game
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Blame Game (thunderous applause). I’m your host, Anouchka Blessed. Obviously, some bad eggs are in this sometimes shady world. Of course, there are men who can’t be trusted, who have no idea what they want in life, or who are looking for a ‘good time’ more than a real connection. But if you’ve been fishing for a long time and you’ve only ever hooked the wrong kind of guy, you probably need to stop blaming your gear. Instead, you should take a hard look at yourself. You just might discover something interesting!
The way we answer tough questions that ultimately ascertain who has responsibility in a given situation is crucial. It is also a good predictor of our ability to move through difficult situations and initiate personal change. It is true that in all kinds of situations, from a fight with your partner to a failure in business, the natural tendency is to immediately look for someone to blame. It has been our unconscious paradigm for centuries. “It’s not my fault; it’s yours.” “You’re the perpetrator; I’m the victim.” Problem solved, like 1 + 1 = 2. Easy. And then we are surprised how quickly we fall into the same pattern over and over again, secretly expecting a different result each time. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
We are often told to take 100 per cent responsibility for our lives. Some people describe it as ‘radical responsibility.’ What is the big deal about it? The big deal is that it moves you from being a victim to being a victor in your life. Radical responsibility comes from the recognition that if you are willing to accept responsibility for everything in your life, you can change a situation instead of being its victim. When you take radical responsibility, you stop blaming others—your parents, careless drivers, the tax system, politics, your ex-partner, your nasty boss, or even your negligent colleagues, your inconsiderate neighbours. I can go on and on because the list is endless. Rather than playing the blame game, look at how you helped to create the situation or, at least, how you might have done things differently. That is to say, you’re never a victim because you always have a choice.
Taking total responsibility does not mean beating yourself up about your bad judgment. It is not about lashing yourself with guilt over your own faults or past mistakes. (Why is this always happening to me? Why do I always put myself in such situations? Why am I so bad at judging people?) Furthermore, it is not taking on more responsibility than is yours. (Why is it always me who . . . ?) Taking responsibility demands a certain sophistication and balance; it requires your recognition that every situation has a contribution system, a web of shared, interconnected responsibilities. In fact, as with most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle. For the apprentice yogi learning to practise off the mat, for the person who is on the path of self-mastery, the sophistication and balance in taking responsibility comes from the ability to work with mistakes and turn any and every circumstance of life into an opportunity for growth. For such a person, the word ‘responsibility’ is actually thought of as ‘response-ability’—the skill of responding instead of reacting. This response-ability starts with self-enquiry; it begins with asking key questions that involve invoking the inner, wise person in each of us. It follows with an ‘I’m the actor of my drama’ mindset and a ‘Change the inside, and you’ll change the outside’ view of life. In other words, the yogi fully takes full charge of their internal world.
Let us agree that changing one’s innate abilities and turning into an advanced yogi overnight might itself be an unsolvable problem. I am not saying we are meant to be innocent and apathetic people lying around, hoping something comes along and changes our lives. Not at all! Sorry to announce this, ladies: Christian Grey is already taken. I know it’s a pretty hard pill to swallow. Gentlemen, sincere apologies for the discrimination. As a substitute, when we face problems or equations we can’t solve, we can start to look at ourselves and embark on a journey of realising that things happen for us and not to us. Hence, we can keep certain questions at the back of our minds: “How am I contributing to my happiness or unhappiness?” “What do I truly desire from my life (work life, relationships, physical health, and vitality)?” “What is it about me that contributes to the situation?” We can even learn to ask questions that could help us turn the situation to our advantage and move into the driver’s seat of our lives: “What did I learn there?”
I believe that, in the end, it all comes down to our attitude in each and every moment of the day. At a fundamental level, taking responsibility, in a nutshell, can be put into one single question: How are you meeting life? Are you doing so as a victim reacting to pretty much everything life throws at you, or as a victor choosing how to respond to life’s challenges? The answer is in your hands and yours only.
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