Accepting Responsibility is Powerful!

Food for Thought: We are powerless to change behaviors we don’t take responsibility for. When we shift blame or make excuses we give away our personal power – the power to make a difference.

It’s very important for self growth to be open to suggestion, criticism and change. This is a given. Getting to the point of seeking change requires that we first accept that we and we alone are responsible for our own situation. We are where we are now in our lives because of our past and present behavior.

Psychologists tell us that people who don’t take personal responsibility for their behavior run the risk of being:

1. Overly dependent on others for recognition, approval, affirmation, and acceptance.
2. Chronically hostile, angry, or depressed over how unfairly you have been or are being treated.
3. Fearful about ever taking a risk or making a decision. Overwhelmed by disabling fears.
4. Unsuccessful at the enterprises you take on in life. Unsuccessful in personal relationships.
5. Emotionally or physically unhealthy.
6. Addicted to unhealthy substances, such as the abuse of alcohol, drugs, food, or unhealthy behavior such as excessive gambling, shopping, sex, smoking, work, etc.
7. Over responsible and guilt ridden in your need to rescue and enable others in your life.
8. Unable to develop trust or to feel secure with others.
9. Resistant to vulnerability. (

In other words, blaming others or our personal situation for our choices and behaviors leads to all kinds of problems!

Have you heard marriage and relationship counselors say to “behave like you are in love with your spouse and you will be”? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But, think about the opposite. When someone behaves as if they don’t like you, it’s pretty easy to associate negative feelings with this person. What do you do? Decide you don’t like them? Avoid them? Positive behaviors generate positive feelings. Negative generates negative.

For example: John and Jane Anyman have been married for 15 years and have a small child. They are both 40 years old and have good careers. Their relationship is good, but having a child adds some conflict. John, however, decides that he isn’t happy in his life and begins to behave like he doesn’t have a family. He has an affair.

What happens next is predictable. He decides that his marriage was never good and that he is in love with his affair partner. He blames his marriage and Jane for his choices and behaviors. If his happiness means lying, cheating and neglecting his loved ones… he feels entitled to do this. Although Jane doesn’t know about the affair, she does feel John’s behavior is resentful, angry, selfish and overly critical towards her and their child.

Eventually, John tells Jane about the affair and apologizes. He says that he still wants to be with her BUT doesn’t change his behavior. He continues to stay away from home and lie to Jane.

What do you think Jane does? What would you do if you were Jane? Tough question! Jane eventually divorces John. Why? By shifting the blame to “a bad marriage” and “Jane” as the reason for his behavior; John let Jane know that he felt entitled rather than responsible. Worse, John’s hurtful BEHAVIOR shows her his true feelings much more than his words. In modern society, behavior is more important than motive or feelings. For example, does it really matter that the businessman who gives large amounts of money to charity is motivated by publicity rather than just doing a good deed? Is it important that a Nobel Prize is the true motive for the scientist who discovers a vaccine for malaria? The end result is the same. People have been helped. The world is better off. The scientist and businessman feel good about their success and contribution.

Now let’s apply this idea to smaller issues. Do you know someone who cannot be depended on to help when needed? Whenever asked, there’s a series of boring excuses about why they “can’t” do the favor. It’s easy to see that they are CHOOSING not to do it for you, isn’t it? How does it make you feel? Their behavior, not their words, is showing their true intentions towards you.

As a fitness instructor, I use this idea a lot to get a feel for how serious a client is. Someone who has decided to take responsibility for identifying and changing habits that are deleterious to their health and well-being don’t make excessive excuses. They accept that past behavior hasn’t worked and are willing to learn new behaviors that will lead to success.

Even though we teach our kids these lessons, true growth and success at any age requires a person to:

Take responsibility for their behavior. Admit mistakes, without blaming other people or situations. Change the behavior until they are successful.

This success brings positive feelings, self esteem, self respect … and PERSONAL POWER!

Copyright (c) 2007 Ainsley Laing