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Do you know someone like Hannah?
Hannah is a 32-year old office worker. She’s been working in an office downtown for 7 years but never seems to get a raise or promotion.
People avoid her because she always turns the conversations toward herself. Inevitably, anyone within earshot gets to hear how horrible her boss is, how wretched her boyfriend is, how life is so unfair, and how she “just can’t ever catch a break”.
Even worse, she’s miserable. And her miserableness is contagious with all the blaming, complaining, and “Woe is me!” sob stories.
Nothing is ever her fault, of course, and she “can’t do anything” to make life better for herself.
The truth is, I’ve met lots of “Hannah’s”. I even was a Hannah many years ago.
What about you? Do you know a Hannah? Are you a Hannah?
It’s fine to be in that mindset for a bit – until you don’t need it anymore.
If you’re growing, though, you’ll inevitably get to a time or place in your life where you know it’s time to take responsibility – for yourself, your life, your actions, your attitude and beliefs, and even your results.
But what does it mean to completely take responsibility, and how do you go about it?
Below, you’ll find an action-packed list of effective ways to take responsibility for your life – in all areas of your life.
But first, let’s take a quick look at why it’s important to take responsibility for your actions – and every other part of your life.
Why It’s Important to Take Responsibility for Your Actions
You have no control over other people and external situations, yet you have total control over you
Trying to change someone or something else can often result in wasting decades of your life, only to arrive at the end feeling frustrated, miserable, and helpless.
But YOU – you have total control over you.
Seize the power you hold within!
Don’t like where you’re at in life?
You can change that!
Don’t like the people around you?
You can change that!
Can’t tolerate your present situation?
You can change that!
Don’t like your looks, health, finances, friends, mood, attitude, thoughts, or actions?
You can change that!
Remember this: You have TOTAL and COMPLETE control over you – which encompasses your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes regarding the people and things around you, which means
YOU HAVE THE POWER.
Embrace that power you already possess and use it to craft the life of your dreams.
Greatness Equals Responsibility
Think of the great people throughout history.
Go ahead, name a few who are long gone but whose legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of many today.
Who comes to mind for you?
I instantly think of Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ben Franklin, and a plethora of others.
For all the people you thought about, think of their character.
Did these people epitomize taking responsibility – in their own life and in the lives of others? Did they feel a responsibility to the world, even?
Most of the greatest souls who ever lived exemplify the virtues and results of taking responsibility.
In general, you don’t get very far or leave a lasting legacy living a life full of blame, excuses, and moral and social irresponsibility.
So if you want to rise above and let your true greatness shine for all to see, embrace the power of taking responsibility for yourself, your community, and your world.
You Will Become a Rare Role Model
Everywhere I look these days, I see people ignoring their innate power and blaming everyone and everything else for their woes.
It’s sad, really, because if you don’t realize the power of taking responsibility for yourself and your life, you can’t fix anything. (see #1 above!).
But imagine a world full of strong women who own up and take responsibility for everything in their lives.
Imagine a little girl who gets caught doing something wrong and immediately wants to lie and say, “It wasn’t me! I had nothing to do with it!”.
But then, the little girl looks over and glimpses her Aunt – who has always been a staunch role model for honesty, integrity, and personal responsibility.
She says nothing, but she gives the girl “the look”.
The girl thinks twice about uttering that lie to absolve herself of responsibility. She ponders her amazing Aunt and decides to be honest instead.
“Yes, I broke the lamp. I’m sorry. What can I do to make it right?”.
Just by being a role model who always takes responsibility for herself and her life, the Aunt has positively impacted the psyche of the little girl and possibly created a pathway whereby the girl leads a life with less grief, less troubles, and a lot more satisfaction and happiness.
And truth be told, people like the little girl’s Aunt are rare. Wouldn’t you agree?
As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Be a role model.
Here are 13 ways to take responsibility for your life. Each aspect includes several action steps you can implement – starting today.
Recognize and discard self-imposed limits
Can you even imagine how powerful you are?
From the time we were tiny, we’ve constantly directly and indirectly heard things like:
- “You can’t!”
- “You must ______!”
- “You’re so stupid/bad/ugly/____!”
- “Don’t ______!”
Most have internalized these limits and derogatory statements so much so that they don’t need anyone else to say it anymore. Now they tell it to themselves all the time – automatically.
These statements serve one purpose really well – they falsely make you believe you have limits where none actually exist.
You can’t control what happens to you, but you always have control how you view, interpret, and react. You hold all the power.
(Stop believing that crap! It is your choice!)
Admit It When You Screw Up
“I did it, I’m sorry. How can I make it right?”
Those 11 words seems to be the scariest words in the world to most people.
Imagine how much stress, grief, discord, and effort could be avoided if people just took a deep breath, uttered those words, and stood tall to take responsibility for their actions.
I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect.
We don’t grow without failing a few (hundred) times first.
Why not admit it when you mess up, take the consequences, and move on to bigger and better things?
And teach our kids (and other adults) through example to do the same?
Eschew blame and excuses
If you go around blaming this and blaming that or making excuses upon excuses, you have given away your power to change the situation.
Blame and excuses are the antitheses to taking responsibility.
- Invest effort listening to what you say. Look out for “…but, ___”. An excuse is likely to follow. Catch yourself and re-phrase.
- When you’re in a disagreement, watch for phrases that start with “You always___” or “He is such a ________” or “It always _________”. Blame might be trying to rear its ugly head.
- Remove the phrase “It’s not my fault!” from your vocal repertoire. You may think it’s not your fault, but if you sit and think, I bet you can find some thought, some belief, some word, or some action that contributed to the current situation. Reclaim your power and keep it where it belongs – in you.
Master Your Physical Body
Do you hate the way you look or feel physically?
The only one can change it is you. How bad do you want to change?
Are you willing to sacrifice to make things better? It always takes a sacrifice to improve.
Maybe you’ll have to embrace discomfort, sacrifice those tasty cookies, work extra hard to get yourself to a gym, or give up friends so you can make room for more supportive people in your life.
But what if you’re paralyzed from the neck down or locked up in solitary confinement 24 hours a day?
You can still change how you think. Learn to accept and love yourself as is. Skip the cookie and grab the broccoli. Do whatever you can do right now. And be happy about that.
You get one body in this lifetime, and how well you care for it now may well determine how much time you get to stay here on this earth and have more time to live, grow, and share.
Master Your Beliefs
Did you know that all the sensory input that comes into your brain from your eyes, ears, hands, and mouth get filtered through your deeply-held belief and experiences before you even generate a thought about it?
Spend some time to write down and understand what it is you truly believe about yourself, your friends, family, and life in general.
Do you believe all women / democrats / millennials / animals are a certain way? What are your beliefs about money? What do you believe about what you can and cannot do?
Get a notebook and spend a week just writing down your deeply-held beliefs. Write at least 75.
When you finish, take a highlighter and highlight the ones that no longer serve or empower you.
Next to your list, write something you’d like to believe in place of the disempowering ones.
It’s hard to change core beliefs, but not impossible. You made those beliefs because they were either handed down to you and you never questioned them, or because you had enough proof to convince yourself they were true.
If you want to change a belief, search for plenty of proof to support the replacement belief and to discredit the old belief. Review them often until they’re cemented in your mind, and the old belief doesn’t even make sense anymore.
Master your thoughts
Often, people mistakenly believe that they can’t change their beliefs or thoughts. They just pop up randomly and there’s nothing you can do about it, right?
With consistent time and effort, you can change your thoughts and beliefs. There are plenty of how-to books outlining various processes for doing so. First, though, you have to become aware of them.
Keep a notebook and write a list of thoughts. When something happens and you have an emotional reaction, take the time to analyze.
- “What was I thinking in that moment?”
- “What thoughts am I having that causes me to feel sad/angry/etc.?”
- “What’s another way of thinking about this? Would it better serve me to change how I think about this?”
When trying to become aware of and/or change thought patterns, meditation can be very useful. Read some how-to guide, download some guided meditations, set a timer (you can start with just 5 minutes a day), and try it.
The brain’s process usually follows this pathway: Belief → Thought → Feeling → Action.
By changing your thoughts, you change many other important areas of your life, and you can increase your sense of fulfillment and happiness, 24/7.
I don’t promise it’s easy. But I do promise it’s effective.
Take responsibility for your thoughts, and you’ll be much more able to take responsibility for your actions and your life.
Master your moods & attitude
Do you ever wake up in a crappy mood, and you just snap at everyone who comes near you?
Often, your moods and attitude just seem uncontrollable, too, don’t they?
To take total responsibility for your life, control your moods and attitude as well. If you simply can’t, at least control how you respond and act in spite of your current mood and attitude.
In a bad mood and can’t seem to snap out of it?
- Imagine one of the happiest moments of your life. See the space around you in that happy moment. Smell the air. Feel the goosebumps on your skin. Immerse yourself in the scene. Your body will react and it’ll be easier to snap out of your present mood once you shift your focus back to the present.
- Read a book on neuro-linguistic programming. Practice some of the exercises.
- Read (or listen to) The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
Master Your Words
Words are one of the most powerful tools you own. They can create a Heaven or a Hell in a matter of seconds, and their effects can last for centuries.
We’ve already discussed mastering your internal words – you beliefs and thoughts – but it’s just as, if not more, important to master the words you form within and let fly without.
Six of the most effective strategies for mastering the words you speak include:
- Get into the habit of pausing before you speak. Even a few milliseconds gives you time to consider what you’re about to say and prevent problems before they begin.
- Increase your vocabulary so you can express yourself more clearly. If you only have one word in your verbal repertoire for “good”, for example, no one will understand just how amazingly awesome that visit with your sister was and how it affected you. Read more. Learn a new word every day and use it throughout the day.
- Join Toastmasters.
- When you want to verbally attack someone for some wrong you think they committed, take a second to imagine yourself standing inside their body, listening to the words you’re about to throw at them. Take time to imagine things from their perspective before you utter a single word.
- Alternatively, start off your adversarial conversations with questions to make sure you fully understand where they’re coming from before you start showering them with your opinions. Start with, “So, just so I’m understanding correctly, you think/said _____. Is that right?”.
- Read about nonviolent communication at The Center for Nonviolent Communication.
Master Your Actions
Our actions can get us into a lot of trouble pretty quickly, can’t they?
Taking responsibility for your life heavily relies on mastering your actions.
If you follow the steps above to work on mastering your beliefs, thoughts, moods, attitude, and words, you’ve already got a big head start on mastering your actions.
- Don’t act impetuously. Insert a pause before you act so you can act deliberately and methodically.
- Before acting, ask yourself, “Will this action I’m about to take align with who I am and who I want to be? What does it say about me and who I am?”.
- Get into the habit of reviewing your day at bedtime. Review what you’ve done, how it affected you and others, and how you can improve tomorrow.
- If you just don’t notice how you act or come across, put cameras (like the Wyze cam) in the rooms of your house and spend some time at the end of the day reviewing your actions, your words, and how you come across to the ones near and dear to you. Commend yourself for being a person of integrity and responsibility, and make notes of areas you want to improve upon.
Embrace Optimism & Growth
Do you know people who take responsibility for all aspects of their life and the results they have?
I’m willing to bet they’re aren’t people who sit around complaining and focusing on all the negatives. Every responsible person I’ve ever met is an optimist with a growth mindset.
Take responsibility for every aspect of your life, and do so embracing optimism and growth.
No one is happy and chipper 100% of the time. Just make sure that the majority of your days are flooded with positive, growth-seeking thoughts and actions.
- Create a morning routine that sets you up to have a positive outlook and the best day possible.
- Take at least 15-30 minutes a day to do something just for you. Set aside your stresses and responsibilities and indulge yourself in something that pampers or tends you and elevates your mood. Call an old friend, put rose petals in a steamy, warm bath, take a walk in nature. Schedule time for you.
Recognize It’s Not Just All About You
Thus far, we’ve discussed how and why to take responsibility for all aspects of your life. But there’s another aspect to taking responsibility that’s just as important and necessary.
You are responsible outside yourself, too.
I’m not talking about the responsibilities you’ve taken on at work or in your relationships. Those were created by you, and of course, your creations are your responsibility, too.
To fully take responsibility for your life, recognize that you are part of a dynamic, living system that includes our earthly environment, sentient beings that share it with you (and have no voice of their own), and other people who you will probably never meet.
I know, I know.
You’re born alone, you go through life alone, save the people you connect and disconnect with along the way, and you die alone. So it seems it’s all just about you, right?
You take care of you and let everyone else fend for themselves, eh? Seems legit, doesn’t it?
I don’t touch on spirituality anywhere on this site, but if you study science and metaphysics, you’ll probably realize that the separation we feel isn’t as it seems. We are all connected, even the plants, animals, and that little Tanzanian boy living in a tiny village halfway around the world.
What you do today over here in Podunk, USA in 2019 could quite possibly affect someone or something living over in China 80 years from now.
But even if it doesn’t, how you treat the beings you share this planet with define you and either hinder or accelerate your own personal growth. What kind of person do you want to be? What effect do you want to leave behind when it’s time to leave?
Expand your knowledge and widen your responsibility domain.
You are responsible for more than just you.
Plan, Review, Improve, Track Regularly
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail”.
Part of taking responsibility for your life entails:
- Knowing what you want
- Mapping out a series of tasks that will get you where you want to go
- Following through consistently
- Adjusting when things go awry, and
- Reviewing often to make sure you’re on track and still making progress.
Schedule an hour every Sunday, for example, to do just that. Plan, review, and track your progress.
Here are some useful tools:
- Habit Tracker 2.0 – Goal Tracker Bundle – track and visualize your habits & goals with colorful charts
- Strides App – easy-to track your goals on all desktop, phone, or tablet
- RescueTime – make sure you’re not wasting too much time with frivolous activity
- Shutupandachieve.com – useful articles to be productive and make the most of your life
A Final Word
Taking responsibility for your life and your actions creates a life where:
- Joy suffuses your days
- You interact with others better
- You receive more in return
- You feel strong and proud of yourself and the life you’ve created
- You shine as a living example of how to craft a life worth living
Whether you’re already taking responsibility and just need a little extra nudge to take it one step further or you’re just starting your journey to becoming a responsible person, remember one thing:
You got this!
It might take time and effort, but increasing your sense of personal responsibility is so worth it!
Take 1 or 2 of the tips listed above, incorporate it into your daily routine, and before you know it, those around you will huddle up and secretly whisper amongst themselves about how they wish they could take responsibility for their lives as much as you do yours.
Now repeat after me:
“I am responsible!”.
Motivate yourself to take responsibility with these 25 Powerful “Take Responsibility for Your Actions” Quotes
- Be an exemplary role model. When you mess up, admit it ASAP and make it right.
- Role-play scenarios where your child can practice taking responsibility in various situations.
- Read books together where the protagonist takes responsibility and gets rewarded in the end.
- Every time a situation arises where a friend, etc. doesn’t take responsibility, sit and discuss it with your child.
- Put your child in positions where he/she gets to practice being responsible for his actions. Praise and reward him or her when he/she does well.
- Often, it’s easier not to be responsible. Being completely responsible for yourself, your life, and your actions requires hard work a lot of times. It’s much easier to just blame someone or something else.
- Their fears are bigger than their desire to be responsible. Maybe they fear losing face, getting in trouble, enduring difficult consquences, or facing disappointment. It takes some personal growth to be able to stand tall and face what’s difficult.
Blame is usually focused on the past – which you cannot change now – and is often peppered with derogatory statements that bring you down and often make you feel helpless. For example, you might say something like, “I’m so stupid!”
Responsibility is owning your part, accepting your fallibility, and knowing you can act differently and get better results in the future.