Personal Responsibility: Time to look in the mirror?
We live in an era of entitlement, blame and finger pointing. Too few people are willing to take responsibility for the state of their lives, too many are happy to lay it at the feet of others (or hire a lawyer to sue the pants off them!) While there are some things in life you cannot change, what you can change is how you respond to it. That begins by taking a good hard look in the mirror and owning how your choices have shaped your reality.
Here’s the deal: You don’t see the world as it is, you see it as you are.
The funny thing is about we humans is that we have this wonderful tendency to assume that how we see things, IS THE WAY THEY ARE. And that seemingly harmless little tendency can get us into a lot of trouble and cause us, and others, a lot of needless suffering.
The other day I was speaking with a woman who felt she had been hounded out of her job by a bully boss who didn’t see how hard she worked, or how talented she was. The longer I spoke to her the more I realised she was probably a very difficult woman to work with – too quick to point aim at others, too reticent to take a look at how she may have contributed to her predicament. It came as now surprise to me when I later learnt that she’s had less than happy departures from her previous three positions.
It bought to mind a guy I coached years ago who shared with me that his boss was a ‘complete idiot’ and the sole source of his woes. And the woman who has told me her last three bosses had all been narcissists and then when I told her I could not coach her, accused me of being a narcissist too.
While these examples all might seem a little extreme, y0u probably don’t have to look too far yourself to find people lay the blame for their unhappiness or lack of success at the feet of others – who love to play ‘victim’ and are quick to caste ‘villians’ in the story of their life.
Back in 2004 when I started to write my first book Find Your Courage, I decided that the first chapter – titled “The Courage To Take Responsibility” – needed to focus on the concept of personal responsibility. For many people this concept is ‘Personal Development 101.’ But as much as it may seem obvious, it’s harder to live this truth that we’d like.
Here’s the deal – while you can’t always choose your circumstances, you can always choose how you respond do them. Likewise, if you find yourself in a situation that you don’t like (and particularly if there’s a pattern to it) then its very (VERY) likely that you are contributing to it in some way – either by your actions, or through your inaction.
From the state of your finances, to your weight and well-being, to your relationships, to your career and professional fulfillment – you have found yourself where you are today based on the choices you’ve made up to now. Often those choices seem inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. But choice-by-choice, day-by-day, you shape the reality of your world, and the shape of your life. Perhaps not intentionally, but you do.
Last year I went on a horseback ride through a company that runs ‘horseback winery tours’. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately my horse started bucking within seconds of me mounting it. After doing my best impersonation of a rodeo chick, I ended up on the ground. Half-stunned, I quickly dusted myself off and asked if they had another horse. They quickly obliged. That was just on 12 months ago and as I type this now I’m still feeling a sore butt from the experience. I’ve seen an array of chiros, physios, myotherapists and osteopaths… none have removed my pain. While I could have sued them, the truth is that riding a horse involves an element of risk (clearly more than I imagined) and so I’ve had to chalk this one up to me getting older, and my body not bouncing as easily as it did in my younger years as a barrel racing equestrian. I’m not interested in litigation though I did share my experience on Trip Advisor. Let’s face it, sometimes shit happens.
Taking responsibility for the consequences of your decisions, the shape of your life (or the size of your waistline) is often not easy. It’s far easier to blame the your boss, your partner, your parents, your genes, the glass ceiling, your kids, your personality type (yes I’ve heard that one!), the economy, politicians or anyone else (even a horse!.) But when you abdicate responsibility for the state of your life, you also give up your power to change it.
Only when you say “Enough!” to excuses, to blame, to finger pointing and find the courage to take a long hard look in the mirror, will you be able to make new (and better) choices, and make the changes needed to improve the outcomes you create and the reality you live in.