Updated: Apr 20
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of comments on social media that make this bold statement in a variety of ways: “Stop blaming your past! Stop blaming your parents! YOU are responsible your future / life!”, as if they are two separate concepts, each exclusive of the other. Yes, we each are responsible for our life and future. AND, there is a ‘past’ that contributed to where we are now. This is where the dualistic thinking and confusion can begin.
A case in point is this motivating 2017 Impact Theory interview with Simon Sinek, which I saw reposted recently on another social media platform. In it, he points out some factors that contribute to the unique experience Millennials face, one of which is the environment they grew up in. And then he offers suggestions as to where they can begin to make change. From my observation of the comments that followed, many people interchange ‘blame’ with the concept of ‘part-to-whole’ sense-making – they are not one-in-the-same.
Understanding what pieces go together to form a result - whether it’s the ingredients in a cherry pie or the steps that contribute to an outcome - doesn’t put ‘blame’ on any one ingredient (the sugar in the pie, or the skillset you picked up that helped to achieve the outcome). It simply helps our brain organize or ‘makes sense’ of what led to a particular result. This, not only can be quite empowering (ah, I see what’s involved, which means I can also see what’s I can do to change it or get a different result) but from a neuroscience perspective, it’s what’s needed to integrate, or ‘make whole’, the pieces of our experience that may not ‘make sense’ at the moment.
Sense-making - it's an essential part of gaining AGENCY and moving forward in any capacity.
Let's run a more objective example: “Why is this pie so delicious?” - Because of these ingredients. ”Ah. I see. I bet could replicate that”. OR…. “why this pie really bland?” - Because of these ingredients. “Ah, well then I can see what needs to be added or tweaked, to make it sweeter and to my liking”. Both can offer empowered agency. Do I ‘blame’ the tasty ingredient? Do I ‘blame’ the missing ingredient? Of course not. But now I can see what parts contributed to the whole.
It’s not much different with our mind-body state. Understanding how we got where we currently are, both psychologically and physiologically... understanding some of the terrific ingredients that we like and want to repeat.... and understanding what ingredients were either unhelpful, left out or lacking (perhaps the original 'baker' was simply using the only ingredients on hand ) ... all of that is part of the brain’s INTEGRATION process.
And integration - matching our body-felt experience with logical sense-making - is an essential step in fully, optimally experiencing life as a human.
In the interview, my sense is that Sinek was aiming to help Millennials see the ‘part-to-whole’ relationship of their current state - that critical first step for integration. He wasn't ‘blaming’ their parents, their upbringing or even social media's influence. He was helping them see the 'ingredients', giving them hope, and inspiring them to use this more objective understanding to become their own agents of change. He then suggested ways that companies could facilitate an environment that could support them in the process. And personally, I think he gave some very do-able suggestions on how both could begin.
Think about it another way: If you were assigned the task of taking over a stagnant corporation and making it productive again, what’s the first thing any responsible COO would do? Find out how it got into its current state. What’s working? What’s not? What ‘ingredients’ resulted in the current state? It’s not a blame-game folks. It’s simple and necessary, part-to-whole analysis. And it's only from this perspective, that we can see what’s really needed to get different results and to flourish.
So check out the interview. And ask yourself, do you know what ingredients in your past have contributed to the life state you are in right now?
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