Accountability Day 3: Who Controls Your Day?

If you’ve read Thomas Hobbes, you probably know that he thinks we’re all living in “social contract” with each other to keep us out of the natural state of war that would inevitably have us murdering each other over wild deer meat, or whatever it is that humans do in our natural condition. Even if you have only read Calvin and Hobbes, you probably understand that being a social creature involves some compromise, but it is awesome that your neighbor can’t go all willy-nilly killing you or stealing your stuff without getting punished.

So, we take it for granted that in any given day, you do things you don’t want to do as part of the social contract. Giving your seat up to the elderly may be a real pain, but if since your other option is fending for yourself in a ruthless wilderness, you do it.

But sometimes, the social contract makes it really easy to blame other people for your problems. Other objects, even. For example, today, I wrote about the TicketMaster/Live Nation merger. This is scary to people because of control. If one company controls all promotions, venues and ticket sales, surcharges can go through the roof, and the consumer is literally powerless. Some consumers are actually fine with this, because they’re glad not to have wait on lines. But anti-trust laws are in place because even within the realm of the social contract, there many things we have a right to choose for ourselves. There are many areas where we are entitled to be in control of our decisions and fate.

Still, the response to the merger has mostly been reckless naysaying and complaing. Everyone is really grumpy–I only read one well thought out suggestion to Obama that dissolving the company could be a boon to his presidency.)

In fact, I think most of us spend a fair amount of time being pissed off at someone or something (mother-in-law, late train) and feeling justified in having a bad or mediocre day. We might even find, if we really thought about, that we’re making a lot of decisions that aren’t autonomous–rather, they’re reactions. So the day three challenge is to sit down at the end of the day and take a few minutes to ask yourself: was your day spent reacting and blaming, or acting and claiming responsibility for your actions?

My guess is that if you can realize how many times you blamed someone else, you might find that slowly, over time, you’ll make more decisions that are your own. If you have a minute, write down why you did certain things, and which things you might not have done if you didn’t feel implicitly obligated. That doesn’t mean violate the social contract. Being aware of why you acted the way did may mean that next time, you can both hear exactly what others are asking of you, and then make a decision that suits both parties. In short, it means learning to compromise without feeling compromised.

Here’s a little YouTube inspiration; Make Your Own Kind of Music.

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