The French-American essayist Anais Nin (1903–77) wrote in her diary (from Diary of Anais Nin Vol. 5,) “We cannot always place responsibility outside of ourselves, on parents, nations, the world, society, race, religion. Long ago it was the gods. If we accepted a part of this responsibility we would simultaneously discover our strength.”
Self-responsibility is recognizing that you are responsible for your life—that you are the sole master of yourself. Responsible people take charge of themselves, their conduct, and the consequences. Here’s how to live self-responsibility and approach work and life proactively:
- Accept that no matter what happens, you’re not a victim. Never feel sorry for yourself or engage in self-pity. What’s important in life is not what happens to you but how you react to what happens to you.
- If something bad happens in your life, don’t let it define who you are. Don’t make it your excuse for not moving ahead. Don’t brood over it without end. Understand it, learn from it, and get on with life. Make it be a part of you without letting it being who you are.
- Don’t look back too often. Dwelling on the past deprives the present of its joy and prevents you from enjoying each day to the fullest. Open yourself up to today’s new opportunities. The ability to rebound quickly from failures and disappointments is one of the key differentiators between successful and unsuccessful people.
- Life is what you make of it. You are solely responsible for the choices in your life. You cannot blame others for the choices you have made. You alone are responsible for what you choose to think, feel, and act.
- Don’t engage in wishful thinking. Face reality and make the right choices based on that reality. Learn to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Anticipate and plan—the best time to change is when you want to, not when you have to.
- Be willing to let go of the life you’ve been hoping for. Challenge your beliefs about what you can and can’t do. Life the life that is waiting for you.
- Don’t operate life on the assumption that the world ought to be fair, just, and objective. You are neither entitled nor not entitled to good treatment. American comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “I tend to accept life as it is. … I’m not one of these ‘Life isn’t fair’ people. I tend to accept whatever the limits are, whatever the rules are.”
- You do not have as much control in life as you would like to have. You cannot influence or affect people and events. You have power over only your life and the choice of your attitudes and actions.
- Care less for what other people think. Listen to your friends and loved ones, but don’t become dependent on what they think of you.
- You are your best cheerleader. Surround yourself with kind people who love you and encourage you. However, do not depend on others to make you feel good about yourself. Protect and nurture your physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.
- Take an honest inventory of your strengths, abilities, talents, virtues, and positive points. Pursuing your strengths is the key to becoming productive and happy. Identify the limits of your abilities and your time and say ‘no’ to things you know you can’t do well.
- When stuck, be grateful for everything that life has offered you. Turn your focus from something you don’t want to something you do want. Take a baby step forward—consistently acting in small ways toward your goals will give you a sense of possibility, power, and accomplishment.
Idea for Impact: Inefficacious People Can’t or Choose to Not Own Responsibility for the Choices They Make
In the words of the American martial artist Bruce Lee (1940–73) (from the essay “The Passionate State of Mind” in the compendium Bruce Lee: Artist of Life,) “We can see through others only when we see through ourselves. … There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others and thus free ourselves from the responsibility for acts that are prompted by our own questionable inclinations and impulses.”
Despite everything you have to do in life to fulfill your obligations and discharge your responsibilities, anything and everything you do is your choice.
Notwithstanding pervasive external constraints and impositions, you are free to choose your action and carry out your ends.
You are the only one in control of your life. Take responsibility for yourself. This is a very powerful idea.