Personal Responsibility

We normally tend to see responsibility as a burden imposed from the outside

We think of it as a kind of obligation, a duty, to others

Personal responsibility generates success
Personal responsibility leads to health, growth and success. To act responsibly at all times is a cornerstone of the 6 Healthy Habits.

Yet in truth, your biggest responsibility is toward yourself.

Once you learn the incredible truth about the benefits of leading a responsible life, and experience its astonishing power, you won't ever want to go back to old habits.

There's no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Taking personal responsibility for your own life is the first step toward personal freedom and control.

Your life is going to happen anyway. Wouldn't you rather have the major say in it?

Choosing to act responsibly at all times is one of the 6 Healthy Habits.

Personal responsibility leads the way to a life worth living - a life filled with health, growth and success.

We all know people who seem to have it all together

They attract success in virtually all aspects of their lives - their health, relationships and careers.

They're usually well connected, widely admired and do well in almost every way - financially, in sport, socially, whatever.

What makes these people so successful?

Their personality type doesn't seem to matter.

They may come across as quietly confident and self-assured, or be very extrovert in nature - the life of the party, the one who just naturally takes the lead in business or social conversations.

Taking personal responsibiliry is crucial for good health
Successful people come from all walks of life. What they have in common is taking personal responsibility for their lives.

Successful people may appear expertly knowledgeable, opinionated and inclined to express firm views.

Or they may be more comfortable asking questions, weighing up nuances and teasing out the intricacies, shades of grey and multiple perspectives present in complex situations.

Successful people come from all walks of life.

You'll find them anywhere regardless of race, nationality, gender, age or spiritual belief.

Whatever their background, successful people just somehow have what it takes to stay on top of things.

They ask a lot of life and they get what they want.

Why do some people lead productive, healthy and successful lives, while most of us just struggle?

I've long considered this to be the key question we must ask ourselves, if we're to learn how we too can be successful.

What do these people do that the rest of us don't? Can we follow their example? Will it work for us too?

I've spent years researching these questions.

After a long career serving as a corporate executive with a passion for developing the best in managers and senior professionals, I am certain beyond any doubt of this truth:

The major and essential prerequisite for success in any area of your life is an unwavering commitment to take personal responsibility for all aspects of your life.

Of all the books on self help and success that I've read over many years, NONE have contradicted that simple belief.

The 6 Healthy Habits

As an outcome of my research into why some people lead productive, healthy and successful lives while the majority of people do not, I developed the 6 Healthy Habits, a roadmap to outstanding health, personal growth and a successful life.

These are the habits followed by successful people.

These habits can empower you to achieve success in all areas of your life.

For this reason, I've made it one of the 6 Healthy Habits (Healthy Habit Number 2) to act responsibly.

When you follow this habit, you take personal responsibility for what happens in your life.

You choose to stop being pushed and pulled around by your own past conditioning, by your fears and limiting beliefs, and by the gusts and currents of your present circumstances.

You decide to take conscious control of your response to the events that happen around you and start writing your own script for your successful future.

That's the real meaning of taking personal responsibility.

Yet in our culture we often associate responsibility with ideas of obligation and duty.

The truth is however, acting with responsibility is the first step toward achieving personal freedom and regaining control of your life.

Unconscious defenses like blaming, complaining and making excuses prevent you from taking responsibility and making the most of your life.


1  Personal responsibility as a burden

Traditionally, personal responsibility has been associated with ideas of obligation and duty

We are continually reminded we should be responsible. It is expected of us; we should expect it of ourselves

Taking personal responsibiliry is crucial for good health
We tend to think of personal responsibility as an obligation to others. In fact, acting responsibly is about gaining control and success in your own life.

Generally in our culture we are bought up to view responsibilities as obligations, as duties.

We learn that we have responsibilities to our parents, to our elders, to our school, to our country, to God.

We are also told we have responsibilities to ourselves - to ensure we develop good character and social behaviors and become responsible members of society.

We have responsibilities to meet standards, and follow 'rules' imposed by our society. We are expected not to let others, or ourselves, down.

As you become an adult, you begin to acquire various roles in your life. You're still a son or daughter, brother or sister; but now you may also become a spouse, a parent, an employer or employee, a consumer, a 'professional', a member of a sporting, social, political or charitable organization, a citizen and so on.

In each of these roles you acquire additional responsibilities, that is, more duties and obligations begin to define the way you should act in the world.

The word should, in fact, gains an enormous hold on your beliefs and behavior. As a mature and responsible person you should have certain attitudes, loyalties and priorities. As a responsible person, you are told you should be able to determine what's right or wrong, what's good or bad and what's within your control. But the underlying assumption is that you should make these choices within a cultural framework that reflects consensus, compromise and 'common sense.'

In this context, personal responsibility comes to mean meeting the expectations of others, as well as those you should have of yourself. We should do things because, by consensus, they're the right thing to do. This is despite any personal feelings or beliefs you may have developed to the contrary. In fact, it is easier to keep these aberrant thoughts pretty much to yourself, because to think or behave differently from the norm is irresponsible. Indeed, is it not your responsibility to act as a role model for others? Thinking or behaving 'differently' can lead to feelings of guilt; to step out of line risks disapproval and loss of acceptance and respect.

It is no wonder if many of us come to see personal responsibility as a burden, a weight we must carry if we are to be accepted and respected. And because we see personal responsibility so negatively, we unconsciously resist it. The main ways in which we push back on taking personal responsibility are through blaming, complaining and making excuses.


2  Resisting personal responsibility

Resisting responsibility is a defense mechanism to protect our self-image

It shows up as an impulse to blame others, complain and make excuses. We achieve personal growth through resisting these impulses

Evolution has provided you with impulses and mechanisms for seeking safety and survival. This includes protecting and preserving your self-image, that is, your set of beliefs about who you are. Think of this as protecting your 'sanity,' your integrity as a psychological entity, as 'you.'

When you believe you're 'right' about something you're inclined to defend your belief. To accept that you're 'wrong' chips away a little at your self-image. A weakened self-image has negative survival value, and your unconscious mind is programmed to defend your position, thereby preserving the integrity of your self-image. This is a natural survival mechanism.

But it doesn't always serve us well. As John C. Maxwell, the American author and leadership expert has said, 'A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.' To learn and grow, you must be open to new ideas, and to the possibility that your existing beliefs are wrong.

Nonetheless, too often our first impulse is failure to accept responsibility for our actions. We blame someone else, or our circumstances.

And blaming, inspired by our unconscious defense mechanism, becomes a habit we don't even consciously think about.


The truth is that most times when we blame others, it's actually our own actions, or failure to act, that have caused our predicament, or at least significantly contributed to it.

When you blame someone else, you are effectively shifting some of your responsibility onto them, and judging them as having 'failed in their responsibility.' But is this fair? Who are we to judge another? You can never really enter the mind, heart, and body of another person, so you can't be aware of the reasons for their 'failure.' You don't know what pain or fear, difficulties or distractions they may be experiencing. You know nothing of their purpose, priorities or opinions, nor where they are at in terms of personal growth.

To shift responsibility to someone else is to give up control. It is like saying, "I don't have control of this situation, he has." When you blame, you reject an opportunity to build courage, character and personal growth.

Worse, if you choose blame over personal responsibility, you cannot grow, because you have adopted the wrong focus. You risk getting bogged down in resentment rather than channeling your energy into your own goals. Forgive, forget and change your focus. It doesn't matter what someone else has done or what has transpired in the past. Your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth are more important. Your future depends on where you channel your energy today. Blaming others simply consumes that energy for no worthwhile result.

When you're in an 'irresponsible' (blaming) state you're subject to all sorts of negative emotions, like anger, hostility, fear, resentment and doubt. But most of our problems exist only because we're 'able' to blame someone or something for them. As soon as you stop blaming, and take personal responsibility for finding a way to resolve your problems, your negative emotions will begin disappearing.


Blaming others is a form of complaining. And complaining becomes a habit; the more you complain the easier it is to opt out of taking personal responsibility and just keep on complaining.

Chronic complaining is one of the most self-destructive and toxic habits you can ever fall into. A complainer ends up focusing on what's wrong. This always makes things look worse than they are. There may be much in your life to be grateful for, but you just see the bad stuff - problems, annoyances, irritations. This drags you down and saps your energy.

The worst thing is that constant complaining will eventually cause you see practically everything in a negative light. Your unconscious mind, doing its job of protecting your self-image, tries to make new observations fit with what you already know. What you already believe influences your perception of everything around you. So when you continuously focus on problems, your unconscious mind will tend to search for and interpret new information in a way that confirms your preconceptions, and will actually avoid information and interpretations that contradict your beliefs. You will stop seeing positive aspects of your situation, not because they don't exist, but because you have trained your unconscious mind not to look for them.

Making Excuses

Making excuses is another destructive habit that tends to arise from consistent evasion of personal responsibility for what happens in your life.

The habit of making excuses will severely prejudice your chance of success in almost anything you do. When you set goals, you will tend to automatically create a 'provisional excuse' - one that you hold in reserve just in case the accomplishment of the goal is too difficult. Perhaps achieving the goal will turn out to require more effort, self-discipline and persistence than you are able to produce. When things start to go off the rails, you have a ready-made excuse you can trot out to let yourself off the hook.

This state of mind will lead you to set cautious, conservative goals and to limit your vision of who you can be and what you can achieve. It will also lead you to set lower standards for yourself. Failure will become acceptable, even expected.


3  On being a victim

Habitual blaming, complaining and making excuses can lead you to develop a 'victim mentality.'

Being a victim is the opposite to taking personal responsibility. It's an abdication of control over your own life

People who are acting like a victim have pretty much 'given up' on trying to control their own lives.

Rather than taking personal responsibility, they have come to believe they have little influence over what happens to them, so there is no use trying.

They see themselves as being at the mercy of others, and of external forces.

It is not uncommon for people to feel like a victim at times. It becomes serious when it becomes habitual and chronic. People who see themselves as a victim are burdened with thoughts like the following:

"Life is so unfair and I'm always so unlucky. Dreadful things always happen to me. No one wants to help me.

"It's not my fault that I'm like this. Life's just an endless struggle filled with burdens and problems. My parents/spouse/friends/co-workers/boss/health/the weather/the political situation make me depressed/angry/frustrated.

"Ifeel overwhelmed and helpless. Some people get all the breaks but I'm just unfortunate.

"There's nothing I can do, this is just the way the world is. I can't be successful because of the corrupt government, greedy corporations and back-stabbing co-workers. I'm disadvantaged because of age/sex discrimination/jealousy/hatred/stupidity.

"I'd be able to succeed if it weren't for the idiots holding me back. I've tried self-help books, positive thinking, and getting advice but nothing can help me, this is just the way it is.

Someone who typically thinks like this may suffer from a condition called learned helplessness, a feeling that you can't control the events and circumstances of your life.

You believe your actions are largely futile, and you've little real power to change your situation. Learned helplessness will hold you back from achieving your goals. In this state of mind, it is difficult to take personal responsibility for your life.

Like stress, learned helplessness is characterized by poor coping skills. Awareness of the causes of your condition is the first step towards managing it.


4  Set yourself free

Habitual blaming, complaining and making excuses may seem like the easy path

The opposite is true. Only by taking personal responsibility can you free yourself from the tyranny of circumstances

Whether you realize it or not, you ARE responsible for your life. Everything you are or ever will be is the result of your choices and actions. Everything that exists in your life is there because of you - your beliefs, your attitudes, your words and actions.

It's true that your external circumstances, your upbringing and your unique strengths and weaknesses have shaped your environment and created the opportunities, boundaries and limitations within which you must proceed with your life. But what you do with your life (and what you have done so far) is up to you.

Every time you choose the path of blaming, complaining and making excuses, you are creating your character and forging your future just as surely as if you had taken the path of personal responsibility. The only difference is in the quality of the outcome.

You do have freedom of choice and you have chosen how to respond to each and every circumstance of your life. Your choices have made you what you are and created your successes and failures.

Of course, if your choice is to hand over control to your conditioned beliefs and habits, you effectively abdicate use of your free will. That's the reason why so many people lead mediocre lives and manage to achieve so little with them. Your unconscious mind, which 'controls' your conditioned beliefs and habits, is very conservative and will not take risks. It will protect your current state of physical and mental safety, maintain you in your comfort zone and protect your ego. That's its job, written down by evolution on its genetic duty statement. It's YOU who must stretch out if you are to reach for growth.

Sometimes it can seem that dominating individuals, overwhelming forces or crushing circumstances in our lives control us. They can drain your energy, reinforce your limiting beliefs or throw up barriers that block your way.

But life presents challenges to everyone. People who have been the most successful in their lives have often overcome far greater difficulties than we can imagine: poverty, prejudice and personal handicaps figure often in the inspirational stories of great achievers.

The truth is, although you are not responsible for all that happens to you, you ARE responsible for how you think, feel, and act when it happens.

And no matter how hopeless things may seem, only you can hold yourself back from facing up to your problems with absolute determination to find the solutions you need.

Only you can stand in your own way. Only you have the power to choose how you will respond to events in your life.

Only you can take personal responsibility for your life.

Only you can transform yourself from a being victim of circumstances to becoming a healthy, successful achiever. Only you can make the decision to stop acting like a victim, ease your path and start taking charge of your life.


5  Responsibility as a blessing

Our unconscious rebellion against responsibility is due to our ingrained belief that responsibility is a burden

This is a conditioned belief and it's wrong. The truth is, personal responsibility is not a burden, it's a blessing

Many people associate personal responsibility with duty and obligations, which are thought of as burdens. But that's not the truth about personal responsibility. It's just what we've been conditioned to believe.

Most of your basic conditioning occurred when you were a child. Your parents and others took decisions on your behalf, for our own good and safety. You weren't mature and experienced enough to look after yourself. To some degree, you came to see the world as a place where others, and sometimes circumstances, dictated decisions for you.

In many areas of your life it remains appropriate, even as an adult, to follow the advice or instructions of others. It's often best to do so in your own interest and that of the wider community. These interests may coincide, or they may not. Sometimes it's best to deny yourself for the greater good, and sometimes it's not.

Who decides?

The answer is, you decide.

Even if you choose to just go along with whatever the situation, or controlling individual, seems to demand, that is still your decision. You have decided your response to the situation.

But you don't have to always follow the dictates of the situation, or of others. You have a choice. Always you have a choice.

You don't have to do anything. You can always choose to say "No," and accept the consequences. People do so, every day. Otherwise change would never happen. We'd still be living in a cave.

That's not quite true of course. There are two things in life that you do have to do: take up space and, ultimately, die. You don't even have to pay taxes - you can choose not to, and accept the consequences.

Every choice comes with consequences.

And this is exactly why personal responsibility is such a blessing. Personal responsibility is what empowers you to choose how you will respond to each and every new situation you face in your life. Personal Responsibility is your freedom to create your own life. It is the greatest gift you possess.

If you are not perfectly happy with the way things are in your life at this time, and you wish things were better, it is personal responsibility that will empower you to change. If you continue to choose as you have done in the past, things will remain the same. Nothing will change until you do.


Personal responsibility and the 6 healthy habits

Taking personal responsibility for your life and your growth is the first of the 6 healthy habits.

And for good reason

Once you decide to choose growth over stagnation, strength over weakness, health over illness and success over mediocrity, you automatically reinforce your ability to stick with all the other habits.

More on The 6 Healthy Habits

Discover the 6 Healthy Habits that will bring you extraordinary physical, mental and spiritual health.

These habits are your keys to well-being, prosperity, inner peace, and purpose. For more on each of the 6 Healthy Habits, go to:

      Healthy Habit 2  live consciously
      Healthy Habit 1  act responsibly
      Healthy Habit 3  grow authentically
      Healthy Habit 4  Nourish Your Body
      Healthy Habit 5  Nourish Your mind
      Healthy Habit 6  Nourish Your Soul

Soar through life with the 6 Healthy Habits

  1. Live Consciously
  2. Act Responsibly
  3. Grow Authentically
  4. Nourish your Body
  5. Nourish your Mind
  6. Nourish your Soul

Achieve Lasting Change NOW.

  • outstanding physical, mental and spiritual health
  • well-being, prosperity, inner peace and life purpose.

"Take charge of your health."

"Take control of your life."

"Do it Now."

About this page

In our culture we often associate responsibility with ideas of obligation and duty.

Personal responsibility leads to freedom

Yet taking responsibility for your life is the first step toward achieving personal freedom and regaining control of your life.

Unconscious defenses like blaming, complaining and making excuses prevent you from taking responsibility and making the most of your life.


Responsibility as a burden
Resisting responsibility
On being a victim
Set yourself free
Responsibility as a blessing

See Also

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A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

Ambrose Bierce (1842 ~ 1914) The Devil's Dictionary.