In The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield says that we should all take 100% responsibility for everything in our lives. We should take responsibility even when it seems outside of our control.
I completely agree with this. Too often in life we find external reasons to point to instead of realizing that we choose the path we are on. We find things to blame or things to point to instead of taking full responsibility even though some aspects may fall outside of our control. Yes, there are always things we can’t control, but anything less than taking 100% responsibility can quickly become a way to make excuses.
Take the stock investor who blames a loss in his or her investment as a product of bad advice from someone else or the stock changing unexpectedly. Instead of looking internally at why they made that choice and how they can avoid that mistake in the future, they can quickly and easily find a scapegoat.
I know this mindset well. When I was in college I often found others to blame or reasons why I made a mistake. I never realized what I was doing; it just seemed natural when something went wrong to look for fault outside of myself and protect my ego.
Jack Canfield mentions this in his book. He says, “In fact, most of us have been conditioned to blame something outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like.”
That is interesting and very true. I’m less concerned with how we were conditioned to point the figure at others and not accept responsibility and more focused on how we can improve this. I personally don’t care if it is because we gave out participation trophies to kids, which just reinforced the sense of entitlement or because our educational system focuses too much on individual achievement and not on teamwork. For me it doesn’t really matter because the choice to take 100% responsibility has to always start with the individual.
Being a part of a team might help, since most teams have a common goal and many individuals who must do their job in order to succeed. But even in those scenarios I’ve seen players spend more time blaming their teammates than taking responsibility. And focusing on trophies for the winners only doesn’t mean each person suddenly takes full responsibility for their life.
So what do you do if you find yourself in this mindset and want to change? For me it is all about systematic improvement. It is actually quite difficult to change this mindset overnight. We have habitual ways of reacting to situations and assuming we can read an article and change is naïve.
The reality is that this has to be something that we look to change slowly and consistently over time. We have to change our systems and habits.
The first step for me was to start to take ownership. It still felt difficult to say that a failure was my entire fault, when there was likely other factors that played into it and only a few that fell within my control. So I shifted my mindset to one of taking ownership.
Taking ownership of a situation gets away from the blame game and focuses more on what you have to do in order to correct this and move forward. By owning a situation you can start to see the levels of interaction. Basically you start to see the full system at play, instead of just seeing the ways that justify why it wasn’t my fault.
By taking ownership we can put a plan in to improve. If we do this over and over again and turn to it whenever we have a misstep, we can start to see things more objectively. We start to see that the bruised ego that accompanies a failure isn’t that bad as long as we push forward and correct any issues.
This completely changes how we handle setbacks. We stop immediately looking for someone to blame and instead focus on what we can do to improve.
If we make this subtler shift towards taking ownership and working through problems, it then becomes much easier to admit when we make a mistake and see our responsibility in a failure. Over time we can start to take 100% responsibility for everything in our lives, regardless of the various systems elements that may play a part.
So if you are struggling in an area where you have failed, take ownership of the situation and make the decision to make the necessary changes to avoid the same failure in the future. Taking ownership makes you a better leader because you now own the situation rather than looking to blame someone else. It also makes you a better person because you start to improve, rather than constantly justifying mistakes that you make by pointing to others involvement in the process.