What Personal Responsibility Is And What it Means For You
No matter the outcome, taking personal responsibility means you recognize and accept for yourself and others that you will receive credit or the blame for whatever happens. Or, at the very least, the part you played in the entire effort.
By M.Ward / April 26, 2020
A Therapist’s Perspective on personal responsibility…
So much of what brings people to therapy revolves around issues of power and control. As adults, recognizing and owning our own power is a mark of maturity. That includes a recognition of our own personal responsibility to others and to ourselves.
Showing up for ourselves, taking responsibility for our own choices and our own actions can liberate us to challenge the ways in which we’ve been giving our personal power away.
Taking ownership of our personal responsibility, as this blog explains, is a way to regain control over our own life. Personal responsibility can help us to build resilience, to adapt to setbacks and disappointments.
We become masters of our own destiny, rather than blown about by the storms and gales of other’s demands.
“Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.”
Making The Choice to Take Personal Responsibility
You do something, or you don’t do something, by choice or by direction.
Sometimes you do that thing when you are asked to do it. Other times you decide to do something because you want to, and you make the decision to do it on your own.
In either case, you have a task to accomplish, and you can do it the correct and admirable way, or you can screw it up.
In an article in Psychology Today, Jennifer Hamady points out:
“Owning that you might have had a hand in creating what’s happening in the world around you doesn’t make you a sucker. Nor does it mean that you’re to blame for everything that’s going on.”
Some things are absolutely essential for a successful life, and taking personal responsibility is the number one key to creating a successful life and successful relationships with others.
People will trust you and know that they can depend on you to have their back.
When you start to take responsibility for yourself, you learn that everything in your life ultimately depends on what you do and not what others do.
Once you learn that, you truly become an adult, and moreover, you become dependable.
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Dependability gets you everything.
“Professionalism in art has this difficulty: To be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is esthetically boring – an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.
― John Updike
It is so easy to blame everyone else for everything. That’s why you’ll find that many, if not most people are quick to blame everything on someone else.
It seems that it’s never their fault. Someone else screwed up, or so and so did this to cause the screw-up. Such and such happened, it was out of my hands, etc. etc. Blah, blah, blah. People that place the blame elsewhere are simply not dependable.
Jonathan Lister makes the point in a post he wrote in Chron that dependability is a critical element in the workplace;
“Dependability in the workplace leads to consistency. As a consistent member of the workforce, you begin to build your own niche as an essential element of the larger team. In short, your employer can count on your level of performance and he doesn’t have to worry about you giving less than your best effort.”
You know you won’t ever be able to depend on this type of person because you know that they will never take full responsibility for anything.
Give this kind of blamer a task, and they will be quick to take shortcuts, sidestep it, bob and weave around critical aspects, and drag their feet. If they get it done, it’ll probably be done late and poorly.
People that do not take responsibility for themselves will certainly not take responsibility for you. You do not want to be this type of a person if you’re going to have a successful life.
You do not want to be this person, so don’t be. Take responsibility, and others will begin to understand that they can depend on you. Continued…
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Making mistakes and failing
“Success is walking from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill
Taking personal responsibility means having the courage to take chances and then taking full responsibility when you fail, or you make a mistake.
And you will fail, and you will make mistakes.
Suck it up, apologize for it, learn from it, accept that you’re only human, then reset and try again.
Failing is the only way to succeed. You cannot succeed at anything unless you try, and then keep trying until you either succeed or learn that what you are trying to do cannot be done. If it’s the latter, you can move on, knowing you did your best, and try again with something new.
Mike Robbins is the author of several books, which include Focus on the Good Stuff, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken and Nothing Changes Until You Do.
In an article he wrote for Huffington Post, Mike pointed out the value and the power of allowing for mistakes:
“By giving ourselves and others permission to make mistakes, we actually create an environment within our own being and within our key relationships and teams, that is conducive to trust, connection, risk-taking, forgiveness, creativity, and genuine success.”
People will most likely tell you why they couldn’t accomplish a task, and you can bet that they will tell you someone or something else was to blame too. An unreliable person will not tell you that they failed, or that they made a mistake.
Nobody wants to fail, and no one wants to admit that they’ve failed to others.
However, real leaders can be depended upon to always take full responsibility for their own failures.
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Overcoming your own doubt and disbelief
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
No one will ever be a more significant critic of us than we are for ourselves. This is where you need to find a way to overcome your own negative, self-deprecating thinking, which is something that everyone lives with to some extent.
You are not unique or less than others because those negative thoughts exist in your own mind.
When you learn to accept what is over and done with, moving forward after making a mistake or failing at something instead of dwelling in the pool of self-pity, you don’t get stuck.
Getting stuck because you failed or made a mistake will only help ensure that you never succeed.
When you can learn to reprogram your own mind when this type of negative thinking occurs, you will get to the finish line and accomplish anything that you try to do. You will become your own cheering squad; you can become the mentor.
There is a process of reprogramming and reshaping your mind to counter negative thinking that is relatively easy to do and very powerful. Take a moment and write down any and all of the positive things about you and your life that you know to be true. All the positive things from your past or your recent and present experiences.
For example, you finished high school, and maybe even that you were B+ or even an excellent C+ student. Or you are great at math or science. You are a fantastic bowler, that you just finished your sixty-third and most fabulous panting ever, you are an excellent cook. Etc.etc.
You are probably going to be extremely surprised that you filled up a whole page and started on a second. Surprising, isn’t it, all those fantastic positive things about you.
Now fold that piece of paper up and stick it in your wallet or your purse and carry it with you wherever you go. Whenever your negative mind begins to tell you in one way or another that you can’t or that you’re not good enough or you’re not this or that, pull this list out and read it to yourself right then and there.
Don’t wait until you get home or until your next coffee break. Stop and do it right then and there. Even if you are in a meeting.
Do this every time a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind.
Over time, you will begin to reprogram your mind to tell itself the truth about who you indeed are. You’ll overpower the repetitive, deceptive, and personally destructive negative mind.
This is a very straightforward and simple approach to overcoming negative thinking. You may have just discovered it for the first time; however, it is one of the most potent forms of psychotherapy practiced today, and it’s been around for decades.
It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, and it was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Aaron Beck.
Here is an abridged but relatively concise description about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy from the Instructors Guide on CBT by Aaron Beck, published by Psychotherapy.net:
“The cognitive model describes how people’s perceptions of, or spontaneous thoughts about, situations influence their emotional, behavioral (and often physiological) reactions.”
Becoming personally responsible for your own actions means that you take control of your own mind, your own body and the world around you.
Taking personal responsibility for your own personal growth
“Every moment of one’s existence, one is growing into more or retreating into less.”
If you are not willing to learn and grow as a person throughout your life, then you just don’t get why you are here on this earth in the first place.
The meaning of life is the experience of life itself. When you stop learning, growing, experiencing, and trying new things, you simply stop living.
One of the most important things about personal responsibility is knowing and accepting and being grateful for what is really good in your life now.
Allow yourself to dream and imagine what you might want to do with all time you have in front of you. This is vital for a life that is growing, joyful, and inspired.
Reading, listening, eating, traveling, falling in love, finding, trying, and yes, even losing and being heartbroken at times.
Being personally responsible for your own life and taking chances will lead you down that road less traveled that will enliven your spirit.
You will learn along the way that others will follow you because they will know that one way or another, you will lead them to the finish line. They will know that they can depend on you, and in the end, you will know that’s the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Marty Ward is the creator and publisher of the 1-Vibrant-Life blog. Marty has over 35 years of sales and marketing experience, along with some success as a musician in his earlier years. At the age of 26, Marty was injured in a car accident in which he sustained a traumatic brain injury. This injury and recovery led him down a path of self-improvement, and self-discovery… Learn more on the 1-vibrant-life about us page.
Claire Law is a UK-based Counsellor and Psychotherapist from Preston, Northern England. Claire became a therapist after a career of almost two decades of High School teaching experience. She’s also worked extensively in the Social Care and Charity Sectors, and as a Mental Health Advisor in Higher Education. Claire combines her current Psychotherapy practice with freelance writing on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Psychology topics. She has a passion for Social Justice and environmental causes.
Claire holds a degree from Nottingham University, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Leeds Trinity University College and a Post Graduate Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy from the University of Central Lancashire. She’s completed a wide range of extensive training and certifications in Domestic Abuse, Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence, Suicide and Self-Harm, Expressive Arts Therapy, Gender Variance, Online and Telephone Counselling and Polyvagal Regulation developed by Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and “Distinguished University Scientist” at Indiana University.