Like discipline, responsibility is one of those words you have probably heard so many times from authority figures that you’ve developed a bit of an allergy to it. Still, it’s one of the most important things to grow and to feel good about your life. Without it as a foundation nothing else here or in any personal development book really works. So today I’d like to explore personal responsibility with the help from some timeless thoughts on the topic.
1. There is always a price to pay.
“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves” -Friedrich Nietzsche
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” -George Bernard Shaw
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” – Unknown
Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…
2. Build your self-esteem.
“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, self-esteem and personal satisfaction.” - Brian Tracy
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion
Why do people often have self-esteem problems? I’d say that one of the big reasons is that they don’t take responsibility for their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered. This damages many vital parts in your life. Stuff like relationships, ambitions and achievements.
That hurt will not stop until you wise up and take responsibility for your life. There is really no way around it. And the difference is really remarkable. Just try it out. You feel so much better about yourself even if you only take personal responsibility for your own life for day.
This is also a way to stop relying on external validation like praise from other people to feel good about yourself. Instead you start building a stability within and a sort of inner spring that fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you. Which brings us to the next reason to take personal responsibility…
3. Give yourself the permission to live the life you want.
“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” -George O’Neil
By taking responsibility for our lives we not only gain control of what happens. It also becomes natural to feel like you deserve more in life as your self-esteem builds and as you do the right thing more consistently. You feel better about yourself.
This is critically important.
Because it’s most often you that are standing in your own way and in the way of your success. It’s you that start to self-sabotage or hold yourself back in subtle or not so subtle ways once you are on your way to the success you dream of.
To remove that inner resistance you must feel and think that you actually deserve what you want. You may be able to do a little about that by affirmations and other positive techniques. But the biggest impact by far comes from taking responsibility for yourself and your life. By doing the right thing.
4. Taking action becomes natural.
“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
It is often said that your thoughts become your actions. But without taking responsibility for your life those thoughts often just stay on that mental stage and aren’t translated into action. Taking responsibility for your life is that extra ingredient that makes taking action more of a natural thing. You don’t get stuck in just thinking, thinking and wishing so much. You become proactive instead of passive.
5. Understand the limits of your responsibility.
“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” - Epictetus
Taking responsibility for your life is great. But that is also all that you have control over. You can’t control the results of your actions. You can’t control how someone reacts to what you say or what you do.
It’s important to know where your limits are. Otherwise you’ll create a lot unnecessary suffering for yourself and waste energy and focus by taking responsibility for what you can’t and never really could control.
6. Don’t forget to take responsibility in everyday life too.
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” - Helen Keller
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -Abraham Lincoln
Life consists of each day. Not just the big events sometime in the future. So don’t forget to take responsibility for the little things today too. Don’t postpone it. Taking responsibility for your life can be hard and taxing on you. It’s not something you master over the weekend. So you might as well get started with the it right now.
7. Aim to be your best self.
“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” - Henry Ward Beecher
“Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.” - Brian Tracy
This is of course not easy. But it’s a lot of fun and the payoff is massive.
- You are not trying to escape from your life anymore. Instead you take control, face what’s going on and so the world and new options open up for you.
- You start taking action not just when you feel like it. Improvement isn’t about short spurts once in a while. Consistent action is what really pays off and can help you achieve just about anything.
- You build your self-esteem to higher levels. And may discover that many smaller problems you experience regularly such as negative thinking, self-defeating behaviour and troubled relationships with yourself and others start to correct themselves as your self-esteem improves. You gain an inner stability and can create your own positive feelings within without the help of validation from other people. So how do you take responsibility? Well, it’s simply choice that you have to make.
Reviewing the reasons above – and now also the awesome quotes – is for me a powerful way to keep myself in line. Though it doesn’t always work. Doing the right thing in every situation is hard to do and also hard to always keep in mind. So don’t aim for perfection. Just try to be as good a person as you can be right now.
When you know those very important reasons above it becomes a lot easier to stick with taking responsibility. And to not rationalize to yourself that you didn’t really have to take responsibility in various situations.
That doesn’t mean that I beat myself up endlessly about it. I just observe that I have hurt myself and my life. And that doesn’t feel good. And so I become less prone to repeat the same mistake.