I enjoy some of the blog posts from Farnam Street but I was rather disappointed to see a blog post on "active mindset" entitled Yes, It’s All Your Fault: Active vs. Passive Mindsets.
The broader point, I think, stands: a failure to take responsibility for mishaps and circumstances, a failure to examine whether things could have been different, can lead to feeling out of control and helpless. The unspoken instruction is to take responsibility for your part in things, to cultivate an active mindset in the language you use about your day-to-day life, in order to learn from your mistakes, and presumably experience feelings of control and efficacy.
But, well. It really isn't my fault that my parents split up when I was very young, and that has had repercussions throughout my life. It really isn't my fault that the current political situation in the country in which I live is, er, a trashfire. Nor is it, in any sense, my "fault" that I was born into a situation where I received a good primary and secondary education, such that going to university was not thought of as unusual, despite this not being the case for millions of other people; it is not my "fault" that I am white and therefore have many privileges, or that I grew up with shoes that fit.
There are (at least) two ways that assuming bad things are your fault can go wrong, and neither of them are very helpful. One is where we try to take responsibility for things that are simply due to bad circumstances by chance. Taking responsibility for a train being late or missing is reasonable; blaming oneself for being late when a bad storm takes out the entire transport network for an entire day is less so. There are usually efficiency tradeoffs to be made when planning journeys: should I go up to Aberdeen a day early, spend money on an extra night in a hotel, in order to ensure that train problems won't interfere with my studies? This is the option I usually take; but it looks very different if I have to miss some paid work in order to do it. The longer the journey, the more things can go wrong and the more likely I will want some downtime to recover at the other end.
The second failure mode, and I think the more dangerous of the two I discuss here, is assuming the actions of bad actors to be your fault. This is very common with victims of domestic abuse, who may come to believe that their abuser is only lashing out at them because of their own inadequacies or failure to perform certain actions; that if they just try hard enough to be a better spouse or child or partner, the abuse will stop. In fact what will stop the abuse is leaving.
Similarly, believing that all or most the good things that happen to you are your own doing can also cause problems. I live in a major city and I don't get huge amounts of street harassment, despite walking around on my own a lot. Is this because I'm doing something right in the way I walk? Or is it because I'm six feet tall and people think twice about giving me any trouble? The latter seems more likely -- and this is nothing that I have chosen. Similarly, I don't often run up against anti-migrant prejudice, despite being a migrant. This isn't because I have integrated particularly well into British society: rather, it is because I already speak English very fluently (I did not choose my first tongue), and probably also because I am white. Let's be honest, here: the playing field isn't level. That's wrong, and it also isn't entirely my fault, but pretending that I have the same resources as a homeless woman of colour who isn't fluent in English is simply preposterous; such pretense would definitely make me part of the problem.
And just as it is dangerous to discount the actions of bad actors in your own misfortune, it is ungrateful to look at your own success without acknowledging the help you may have received along the way. I am a musician not just because of innate talent (I come from a family with musicians on both sides), and not just because of my own hard work, but also because of the patience of many, many teachers and mentors over the years, not to mention the support of friends and family at various times.
Rather than basking in success as if it's only your own doing, or beating yourself up verbally because a train was late or you made a mistake, I would suggest that a healthy active mindset would mean asking yourself: Is there anything I would do differently next time?
This lets you learn from your mistakes, get better at navigating random things that just go wrong, and increase your skill at dealing with bad actors. And it doesn't leave you thinking you're doing something right when you just chanced to be in the right place at the right time, or judging people less fortunate than yourself for not attaining the success that you have.