Personal Responsibility – Your Choice
A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world. We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle. If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Its not my fault I’m late for work, I have ‘snooze syndrome’. Its not my fault I get angry in traffic, I’m afflicted with road rage. Its not my fault I can’t grow my business, the economy is bad. Its not my fault I can’t find good people, the economy is good.
“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise . . . personal responsibility” – Albert Schweitzer
What does responsibility mean anyway? We often confuse it with commitment. Lets look at the word itself: ‘response + ability’ = means literally the ability to choose your response. The operative word in that description is “choose”.
According to Stephen Covey, “Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”
When we place blame outside of ourselves for our disturbance, our life situation and ultimately our happiness, we become numb and unaware of ourselves. We don’t even have to make the effort to come up with our own disturbance anymore, just go home and turn on any news channel – they’ll tell you what you should be upset about today and who to blame for it.
Anonymous quote: “I never met a man who was just late…”
This lack of responsibility is even rewarded in our court system. I read a news story about a woman who successfully sued a clothing store because it failed to prevent a small child from running around the store, and she tripped over him. Near the end of the article, it casually mentioned that it was her child. Seriously?
So what does it mean to take responsibility, to choose my response? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses. Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”. Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.
Responsibility – The big 3 – you’re responsible for:
- everything you do;
- everything you don’t do;
- how you respond to everything else
That third one is the challenge for most people. Think of a situation where you last got upset or had an emotional response to something. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got it? OK good, now imagine that instead of becoming angry, frustrated, sad etc.. you could choose to just accept that the thing had happened, and maintained a neutral or even positive attitude about it? I know, you’re thinking that’s impossible. I’m just asking you to consider the possibility right now that you could chose to have a neutral response, or no response at all, you don’t have to do it, just consider the possibility. How would that feel? Would you feel empowered? What if you carried that possibility and the empowerment with you every day? How would that impact your quality of life? How would it impact your relationships? These are questions for you to consider slowly and thoughtfully.
The empowerment of choices can even be fun, and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before. Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and react neutrally if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything. If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, or have any negative feelings about the result.
What if having true happiness and contentment in your life was simply a choice? What if you didn’t have to make more money, work harder, get a better house, better job, better car, better spouse?
What if we could just choose to be happy and content?
You can. Its not easy, but its possible. The first step is acceptance. Acceptance of what is, and acceptance of your ability to choose your response.
The second step is to begin to separate the things you are reacting to, the things – out there – from your emotional responses which all happen inside you. Recognize that the car, house, job etc.. are all things out there. The reaction you feel is inside of you, not out there.
The third step is to consider that the things – out there – are not what is causing your disturbance. What if it was actually the other way around? What if your inner unresolved issue is what is creating these so called external upsets? What if ownership of the disturbance creates a golden opportunity to heal the true source of the upset that exists only within one’s self? That is a subject for another blog. . . if you can’t wait until then, get in touch.