Updated: May 20, 2020
The topic of responsibility can be loaded. For some, it conjures a way of being that feels heavy, tired or pressured. I prefer to think of responsibility as ‘the ability to respond’. This implies self-awareness, choice, acknowledgment, accountability and action.
Responsibility requires a level of detachment which creates a buffer between incoming information and our response to it. Without this buffer, we tend to react unconsciously instead of responding from our choice. Being responsible is tied to the ability to respond from personal choice and being aligned with who we are.
Responsibility as discussed here simply means you can admit being the cause or the source of something. It does not mean you admit being at blame for something or that you are the one at fault. For example:
“I can take responsibility for my financial debt. I knew I was running low on money but I kept spending it.”
“I can take responsibility for not discussing the issue with my spouse. Our lines of communication are open but I withheld how I felt.”
“I can take responsibility for being 5-minutes late for everything. I know it’s upsetting to friends and colleagues but I kept doing it.”
Being aware of how you are the cause or the source of something unlocks a real choice point. You can stop reacting and start responding by your conscious choice.
If you are not seeing or taking responsibility for what is your responsibility, you are left with blame, acting out and problems that recreate themselves and persist in endlessly recreated forms. If you want to stop this cycle, a level of self-awareness and acknowledging how you are the cause or source is necessary.
We are creative beings. We create and co-create all of our experiences. We do this with our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and the states of being we are in. For example, if you’re having a bad day while walking down the street, avoiding eye contact, and grimacing along the way, it influences how others respond or react to your state, “I’m having a bad day”. The opposite is true. If you are joyful while walking down the street, others notice and are influenced to respond or react to your state, “I’m joyful.”
We also create and co-create all of our experiences by our conscious and unconscious choices, behaviors, action and inaction. For example, if you knowingly or unknowingly hurt a loved one’s feelings and admit you are at cause or the source of that hurt, you are better equipped to restore the relationship.
In any area of life where you experience a problem persisting, it’s because there is some aspect where you are not taking responsibility in the sense of our meaning here. This failure places you always in the victim role of a situation, unable to confront it effectively. This victim position has enormous, negative consequences for living.
For example, if you experience a persistent problem with money, consider aspects of your relationship with money where you are not taking responsibility. It could be related to your beliefs about money, i.e. “I’ll never have enough” or “people with money are egomaniacs”. Or, the problem could relate to behavior like not budgeting, overspending or not saving.
A central focus of my work with clients cultivates self-awareness and personal responsibility. As a result, they settle more and more into being the source of how their life goes. They can take more responsibility and they are no longer a victim of the problem but rather, they can respond from personal choice. Life goes better according to their estimation.