Quality Magazine

Jim's Gems: Accept Responsibility

July 2, 2012


It would be a safe bet that most everyone would agree that being responsible is a good thing. However, I would also bet that not everyone would agree about what being responsible actually means. How many of us have actually thought much about it? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Am I a responsible person? What does it mean to me to be responsible? Does being responsible mean doing what is expected of me? Does being responsible just mean keeping my promises? Does it mean being a good provider for my family?

All the above questions will give us insight, but they don’t go far enough to address what responsibility means. In addition to the obvious answers to the above questions, it is my belief that we are responsible for everything in our lives. Of course, we accept responsibility for all the successes we experience. However, I’ll wager most of us are reluctant to accept responsibility for all our failures as well.

If we don't accept responsibility for what happens in our life, we are likely to shrug off our failures thinking we have nothing to learn from them. But, I’m sure you’ve heard before, we learn more from failures than we do from our successes. If we don't take full responsibility for what happens in our life, we will never be truly happy, because no one can make us happy but ourselves.

You might wonder, then, if we're responsible for illness and adversity, too. Well, let’s think about this for a moment. We are certainly not responsible for natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes (we’ll ignore our responsibility for being adequately prepared, and following evacuation directions, because that’s beyond my point). We are also not responsible for the drunk driver who runs a stop sign and sideswipes our cars. However, we are, without a doubt, responsible for how we respond to these things-and whether we choose to use them as experiences from which to learn and grow.

Taking responsibility for your life gives you the freedom to take risks and make mistakes, and that's a great feeling. Of course, it also means you need to be prepared to take the consequences of your risks and mistakes as well as the rewards. It is my belief that you can't grow very much unless you are willing to do these things.

If you are willing to accept full responsibility, there is absolutely no limit to how far you can go.

Tim Robbins, the author and motivational speaker, said “Whatever happens, take responsibility.” We must take personal responsibility. We may not be able to change the seasons or the wind, but we can put on a coat or adjust our sails-we can transform ourselves. Our willingness to accept responsibility for our own life is the source from which self-respect springs.