All of us have been in a position where we don’t want to take personal responsibility for our own lives. That seems crazy at first doesn’t it? This is our lives so why wouldn’t we want to take personal responsibility? Often times it just seems easier to blame problems on other people or things outside of our control. When you reach an obstacle, sometimes it seems very easy to submit to the negative things happening and give up. It’s easy to get angry with God, your parents, your boss, friends or whomever else for all your problems.
Taking personal responsibility is not always easy but it is rewarding and will ultimately be what helps you to get on the path to living the life you want.
Photo Credit: Kirit Chaudhary
How do you know you struggle with taking personal accountability? Here are 4 ways that you might not be personally accountable for your life.
- You complain. Yes, as hard as it is to admit, you could describe yourself as a complainer. You might find yourself complaining about your job, relationships, and your family or not being able to achieve your dreams. This can be hard to swallow but many of us have found ourselves in the complainer role before. Think about the topic of your conversations the past few months. When you catch up with friends, do you find yourself complaining about your job? Do you find yourself complaining about the weather or how long it takes to walk somewhere? Complaining is a poor habit that can infect all aspects of our lives if we don’t keep it in check. You’ll see the world in a negative light and you’ll be overly focused on the negatives rather than what you can do to change your situation. If you find yourself complaining too often, then that is a sign that you aren’t taking personal responsibility.
- You give excuses. Instead of taking personal responsibility, you blame your failures on circumstances that came up. When you can’t meet your health goals, you blame it on the fact that work has been stressful and you can’t find time to exercise. You don’t get a new job this year and you blame it on the fact that you like to take your time when sending out resumes. You don’t save your money and you use the excuse that there are just too many sales happening right now. Instead of taking responsibility, you have an excuse that justifies your circumstances. However, when you remove excuses from your life, you take the necessary actions to ensure you will succeed.
- You blame things on other people. Whenever something goes wrong it is always someone else’s fault but yours. You won’t even take part of the blame. One thing that is tough but also rewarding about my job as a project manager, is that I’ve learned that nothing is not my fault. I can never say something is the fault of a client or an internal team member. In some way, I have to take accountability for my actions. This makes my job very hard as I can never shift the blame away from myself. As a result, I’ve had to learn how to own up to my responsibilities and figure out ways to ensure I’ve done everything possible to meet timelines and deliverables. If someone didn’t give me something on time, I need to send emails, make phone calls and do everything possible to ensure that the person gives me their deliverables in a timely manner. This has been a great skill, as I’ve learned to preemptively defend myself against obstacles and do my best to minimize the risk of something horrible happening. When something bad does happen, at least I can say that I did do everything I could to prevent the negative situation from occurring. Even when something isn’t completely your fault, you do need to learn to take responsibility for your actions in the matter. Instead of focusing negatively on another person, you can learn to focus on what you can do to make the situation positive again.
- You play the victim. When a relationship goes badly, the other person is a jerk, the one who plays mind games, the one who used you. You blame horrible situations on the belief that your parents never loved you, how your friend betrayed you, that your coworkers hate you and because the world is always against you. Because you feel external stimulus is the reason for negative situations that happen to you, you lose power over your own life. You feel you are completely out of control. When something good does happen you blame that on luck or something external to you.
Those are the signs that you struggle with personal responsibility. However, there are many exciting benefits of having accountability. Below are some of the amazing reasons to have personal responsibility in your life.
- You have control over your life. Personal responsibility removes the illusion that your life is outside of your control. Instead of placing the blame on everyone else, you can take complete control over your own life. But what about obstacles outside of our control? Personal responsibility doesn’t mean that you control everything in the universe that happens to you, but it does mean that you can try to stop controlling the uncontrollable and focus on the choices that you can make. Instead of taking the victim way out, you can instead choose a positive attitude and make the best out of your situation.
The great thing about life is you will often be in situations that are in your control. Even when horrible things go wrong, most of the time, the situation is in your control. When you get laid off from your job, you can either take the position of feeling anger and hopelessness about the situation or you can take the situation for what it is and find alternate pathways such as a new career. If you get rejected from all the medical schools you applied to, you can take a negative attitude and let this derail your ambitions completely or you can re-focus on finding another pathway that will make you happy.
The wonderful thing about understanding you have complete control over your life, is you realize that you can pull yourself through challenges. You can work on your own personal development and skill set to find other options to get yourself to somewhere you would like to be. Obstacles may happen that push us off the path we were on, but we can figure out a way to get back onto the path or choose a much different and exciting path.
2. You are trustworthy. Someone who takes personal accountability is someone that can be trusted. We are all human and as humans, we all make mistakes. A challenging lesson I had to learn is at one point during my life is that it is okay if I make mistakes. The truth is, I make mistakes all the time. There are days where I say the wrong thing. Sometimes I make silly mistakes at work. Other times I find myself forgetting something that will have negative repercussions at some point. Mistakes do happen to everybody, and owning up to those mistakes will save yourself quite a bit of energy trying to blame someone else and will make you a person worthy of respect and trust.
A few months ago I had to rent a car. I incorrectly looked at my itinerary and thought I needed to pick up the car at 10:00AM. When I arrived into the rental car office, the attendant informed me that my car was scheduled to be picked up at 11AM. My initial reaction was that there had been a mistake that was not my fault. Surely, the rental car company had made an error with my booking. I checked my email and confirmed that I had indeed gotten my reservation wrong. I admitted to the attendant that it was my mistake and I apologized for the confusion, then I sat in the office and waited for an hour for the car.
When my car arrived, the attendant thanked me for being kind and waiting patiently. He even upgraded my car for free and gave me a discount. I was shocked as this had been completely my fault but perhaps the attendant was having a good day and was grateful that I took personal accountability rather than trying to blame him or anyone else for a mistake that was ultimately my fault. When you spend more time owning up to your mistakes, you’ll come across as a trustworthy person to others. People will tend to be more forgiving of you and less critical when you can take accountability for something that was your fault.
3. You can get to the root of the problem. Have you ever met someone who blames something that happens to them on their horrible childhood or the fact that nobody gave them a break in life? Probably a few examples come to mind. I used to know someone in college who would blame their inability to finish college or come to class on the fact that their parents disciplined them as a child. Instead of focusing on what the real problems were that were in the way of him going to class and getting work done, he chose to focus on an issue that was likely not the real source of the problem. We probably do the same thing without even realizing when it happens. When we don’t take personal responsibility, we shift the blame to something or someone else. As a result, the problem continues to occur. Because you’re focused on the incorrect thing being the source of all your problems, you’ll never actually ask yourself the right questions. More importantly, you’ll be less likely to make actual changes in your life. Instead of asking yourself how can I do this or what fears do I have that are inhibiting me from going down this life path, you’ll be stuck blaming your issues on things or people outside of your control. Instead of looking outside of yourself for all the answers, you can instead look within yourself to take the right actions to get to where you need to be.
4. You can resolve conflicts. When we shift the blame to anything but ourselves, the conflicts are less likely to be resolved. You’ll feel resentment or anger towards someone else and become powerless against the situation. Let’s say your boss decides to not promote you, and it has been years since your last promotion. Instead of blaming your boss on your situation, look within yourself. What choices do you have? You can either look for a new job, ask for constructive feedback from your boss and actually do it or look for opportunities at your job to really boost your skills. By taking personal responsibility, you can work to resolve situations right away. Instead of feeling helpless and miserable, you can take steps to work through the situation.
Okay so how do we develop the habit of taking personal responsibility for our actions? Below are 4 smart tips to take personal responsibility in your life.
- Develop a habit of not blaming or complaining. When something goes wrong, stop yourself from getting angry and wanting to blame someone else. Take a deep breath and give yourself some time to reflect on the situation. Ask yourself, “What could I have done about this situation? How did I contribute to this situation?” Even when the situation is not completely your fault, focus on how you are responsible. Breaking this habit can be tough, but the more you focus on finding ways that you are accountable, the more you will be less likely to blame something or someone else for negative situations.
- Accept the situation. One reason taking personal responsibility is difficult, is we don’t want to accept that the situation happened. When you don’t show up to classes and end up failing a class, you’ll want to blame anyone or anything but yourself. However, when you accept the situation for what it is and learn to accept your part in what happened, you can start the process of making real change in your life.
- Readjust your expectations. When you take personal accountability, you learn to stop expecting someone to be responsible for a success. Your manager is the gateway to a promotion. A university decision on your application is the next step on your career path. Neither of these are actually correct since a promotion and the strength of your university application primarily rests on you. When you start expecting yourself to be in control of the situation, you’ll rely less on external elements to control the success or failure in your life. Yes, things or people may become obstacles but they don’t have to rule your life or be a factor in why you can’t succeed in something you want.
- Forgive yourself. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes and that’s okay. Learn to forgive yourself so that you can take responsibility and start the process of moving on. If someone else contributed to what happened, then also learn to forgive them and let the situation go. You will not move forward by holding onto resentment and past mistakes.
Now you have the tools and strategies to start taking personal responsibility for your life. Being accountable for your actions may not be easy but choosing to be accountable is very rewarding and worthwhile. You will be in control of your life and be able to handle different obstacles along the way. In what ways have you been accountable for your life? What strategies do you use to help you have personal responsibility?