We are often told that we should take personal responsibility for our lives. What does this mean? Frank Thomas says “personal responsibility is defined as a person’s “response-ability,” that is, the ability of a person to maturely respond to the various challenges and circumstances of life.” I think it is more. The first obvious meaning is to admit our mistakes and be willing to accept the consequences.
the second aspect is taking ownership for who we are and what happens in our lives. It means being responsible for the results of our efforts, our responses and relationships. Being responsible for our results is pretty straightforward. You have a presentation to a client and it goes well or doesn’t. If you didn’t prepare as well as you could then you have to own that you could have done better. What if you did everything right and it didn’t go well…you still need to own the results. This is the hard part of personal responsibility.
The next aspect personal responsibility is owning our reactions and responses. Rather than get upset and blame the client or our coworkers personal responsibility is looking at the situation from additional perspectives to see what can be learned. Taking the perspective that there are many viewpoints that can be explored. Perhaps the client was having a bad day because his wife is leaving him, or he just lost a huge deal, had an argument with an important client, the school just called and his child is misbehaving. The effort is in assessing what you have control over and then choosing to learn from the experience.
Harry Palmer, author of the Avatar Path: The Way We Came says, “When my goal is to remedy some situation: unhappiness, loneliness, failure, exhaustion, or despair; the place to start is with MY manageable actions that are contributing, or have contributed, to that situation.”