Taking Back Personal Responsibility in 2011

Being a human being means you are endowed with unalienable rights of, life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue your own happiness. Your liberty as a human being extends as far as you can imagine as long as it doesn’t impinge on the human rights of another. Being alive entitles you to nothing material, not a job, not a home, not a living wage, and certainly not health care. You are free to choose to educate yourself or not, free to choose to dwell on your problems, or focus on the solutions to problems.

Acknowledging your own personal responsibility for your own life is at once frightening and liberating. I live every day of my life expecting nothing from anyone, unless I have a contractual relationship with them that stipulates certain duties to be performed, i.e. I am an employer and I have employees. This contract means I have certain responsibilities to run my company appropriately and pay my employees for their work, and my employees have responsibilities to do their work and produce in an effective and efficient manner, without wasting time or resources. I don’t expect the government to give me money. I earn my living. I don’t expect someone to save me when something bad happens, as I am the only one to save myself. I use my talents to solve my own problems, or enlist the assistance of people who can assist me in a solution when it is in their self-interest (i.e., hire a plumber when my water heater explodes).

I see so many people who live their lives as if they are owed some entitlement from their family, friends, employer, their co-workers, and especially the government. Entitlements created by government foster a dependency, and people who take personal responsibility are not dependent on anyone or any entity. Personal responsibility means if you make a mistake, you accept your responsibility for it, apologize for the mistake, and figure out how to be sure it won’t happen again. You don’t blame your circumstances, co-workers, the expectations of your employer, or anything else for your personal failures.  You screwed it up, you suck it up. When you resolve never to blame others, or your circumstances, you will experience an intensity of freedom, you have never known before.

The enemy of personal responsibility is the reactive mindset. I am in a predicament because of: my parents, my income, my education, my friends, my co-workers, my boss, or any host of things you can point a finger at. Reactive means you believe that you are what you are because of your environment, rather than your own conscious choices. Are you unhappy? Is it because you don’t like where you live, or your girlfriend left you, or your boss is riding your ass hard? Or is it because you allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself, instead of consciously choosing to improve your circumstances? Don’t like where you live? Move. Boss an ass? Quit and get another job. Or maybe you need to appreciate the good things about where you live. It’s a small town, and you know a lot of people, and don’t feel lonely like you might in a big city. Is your boss an ass, or is he trying to get you to be more efficient, effective, and better at your job?  I am amazed at how many people think moving to another place is going to solve their problems, when in fact if you are a reactive person, your problems will suddenly reappear no matter where you lay your head, because your problems are caused from within, not without.


Part of the riddle of life is mastering the self. Living with a sense of personal responsibility, and a code of ethics and a sense of morality is the key to being happy. Once you realize you are your own best cheerleader, or your own worst enemy, you can take personal responsibility for every aspect of your life. Wake up each day with the only expectation being your own personal life and liberty, and get on with the pursuit of your happiness. Take a personal inventory about what you would like to do to improve your life, write it down, and then take the steps needed to do it. Only you can act in your own self-interest to make your life better. Small actions toward your goals, no matter how small, can start a momentum. If you fail, acknowledge it, and begin again in the right direction. There is no fulfillment in feeling sorry for a failure. Everyone fails. I have seen people lie to cover up the minutest failure, and it is the saddest thing to witness. That a valuable human being can have so little self-esteem as to think that a mistake at work or a forgotten responsibility is cause to become a liar (a way bigger human failure) is very sad. Admit your mistakes, and feel the exhilaration and freedom of it. If you aren’t wrong, you don’t have to admit a mistake. Personal responsibility also means that you stand your ground in the face of criticism, and you believe in yourself. But acknowledge the possibility to yourself, and don’t defend a position that is untenable in the face of evidence to the contrary. That is equally sad.

Personal responsibility demands that you pick yourself up after a failure, and move forward. If you find yourself dwelling on negativity, such as “why did this happen to me,” or “I don’t deserve this,” recognize it as human nature, acknowledge you gave in to it, and then formulate a plan to get back on track.  You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be at everything you undertake: Anything less than that is a disservice to yourself and your human potential. This is what it means to lead a life of quality. Undertake your life, your career, and your human interactions with a sense of personal responsibility and therefore quality. When you catch yourself being reactive, reset yourself, and begin again.

Imagine you woke up one morning, went outside, and on your porch you found groceries for the week, two large cans of gasoline, and a few hundred dollars. You would feel lucky. Suppose this happened every Monday morning, for weeks, and continues for months. It seems like a stable occurrence. You decide to quit your job as your needs are met by the good luck. You start to expect it. Then one day, the luck runs out, and no more Monday mornings of groceries, gasoline, and money.  Who is to blame for this awful turn of events? If you live a life of personal responsibility, you would never have quit your job, and never expected the good luck to last forever. You would prefer to be at your own mercy then the mercy of some unknown entity. This includes family, friends, the government, your employer, or anyone you can create the expectation of entitlement from.

Taking personal responsibility means…..

Expect nothing to be given to you for free. Nothing, from anyone.

Be proactive, not reactive.

When in a team environment, expect to be the one to do all the work.

Take the lead, rather than follow.

If you don’t know something, find it out for yourself.

Don’t wait to be told what to do, ask what you need to do.

Don’t expect others to be personally responsible until they show it through their actions.

Be honest in your relationships with others.

Have a consistent moral code you can explain to others.

Be compassionate, but do not expect compassion.

Live up to your agreements, and hold others to their agreements with you.

Strive to educate yourself in any way possible. Never be the least informed in the room.

Be the best you can be every day, and when you aren’t, resolve to do better, and then act in a way to be better.