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Accepting Responsibility isn’t Easy

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Accepting Responsibility isn’t Easy

Scott Miker

In life most people go through their days feeling somewhat responsible but also somewhat limited in what they control. They assume they control their own actions and thoughts more than actually do in some situations. They assume external events create their life more than they actually do in other situations.

This leaves most people feeling as though life’s problems are caused by something external but solely they create that life’s enjoyment. This is flawed and this flaw can lead us on the wrong path.

In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, the author says, “because making your life means adopting a lot of responsibility, and that takes more effort and care than living stupidly in pain and remaining arrogant, deceitful and resentful.”

Peterson makes a great point. It is incredibly easy to become arrogant, deceitful and resentful in life. If we assume everything negative in our life comes from something other than our own decisions, we quickly learn to blame everything and everyone else for our shortcomings and failures.

Challenges in life become unfair situations brought on by someone else. Pleasure is now the only thing we can quickly attain to reduce the pain and discomfort in life.

Through this process we reinforce the idea that we make perfect decisions all the time and any consequences for bad decisions come from bad luck or someone else doing something wrong.

In order to get past this mindset, we have to strive to take responsibility in life. We have to see our role accurately, even if we choose to do nothing. We have to see our role accurately, even if we did everything we could and it still wasn’t enough. This is difficult to do.

To start, learn to avoid blaming others whenever something doesn’t go right. Instead of quickly scanning for a reason for a setback, first start by looking at your own actions. Were they perfect? The answer is always no they weren’t.

There will always be positive and negatives. You will have done some things well and other elements will be lacking. Being able to split this up is the first step to taking responsibility and is probably the most difficult.

List out the positive and negatives but don’t include anything solely the responsibility of something or someone other than you. If you do this and have a long list of the positives and a very small number of negatives you are probably not being 100% honest with your self.

This process can be difficult. It can be painful and uncomfortable. That is why Peterson say’s that it takes more effort. It doesn’t usually happen automatically and requires this additional resolve to strive for honest feedback to see how you could have done better.

Then you have to take this information and use it to improve. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just start to incorporate changes that will lead towards a better decision in the future when a similar event comes up.

I have worked with several people who did great acting like they were following this process. They would usually make a mistake. When we addressed it with them they would beat themselves up. They would drag out their emotional punishment for all to see. They wanted everyone to see that they didn’t accept this lower performance and would never let it happen again.

But then they make the mistake again. They go through the process of beating themselves up all over again. Usually this was in public for all to see, especially any supervisors. This was how they would convince everyone that they were doing everything possible to improve the situation.

But they never took any real action towards improvement. They realized that the quickest way to get the negative attention off of them was to agree with the other person’s assessment and act disappointed in their decisions.

So if you are going down the path of trying to take 100% responsibility, understand that beating yourself up is never productive. It doesn’t help. Especially if you are doing this in public to show others that you are really trying.

Instead, this should all be internal. You should be able to assess the situation and make improvements in private. You can take any feedback from others into account, but it isn’t about convincing them of anything. It is about you learning how to change and improve to get better.

Learning to accept responsibility is difficult but the rewards for doing so are great. You will start to be able to chart your own course through life and avoid blaming others whenever you make a poor decision. Life will open up, but initially you have to understand that it will take effort and be uncomfortable until you start to do this over and over and start seeing improvements in your life.