Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. Self-responsibility is crucial for a self-determined and fulfilled life. Why is it so hard? How can you do it anyway? And how to overcome the risks and stumbling blocks? That’s what this is all about.
Taking control of my life. Have real fun. Get something going. Experience fulfillment. And adventure. Maybe find love. Or find it again. Achieve prosperity. And freedom and self-determination.
Yes. Taking control of your life: That means, of course, that you take responsibility for yourself. And that you do something for your happiness in life.
Taking responsibility for oneself
Another description for taking your life into your own hands is: taking responsibility for yourself. And that self-responsibility is what this post here is about.
It’s about why it’s so damn hard to really take personal responsibility consistently, how you can do it anyway, the risks and stumbling blocks on the way to more self-responsibility.
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. Here it goes!
Why not just let it go?
First, the most important question is: Why is this self-responsibility story so important? Yes, many people think:
“Things aren’t actually that bad. So why not just let everything run its course? The right thing will happen. Right?”
Let’s put it this way: as long as your life is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, you can just leave everything the way it is. Then everything is just fine.
What if you want more?
But what if you are missing something important in your life. If there is an unfulfilled longing in you. If you wish for more fulfillment. A meaningful task. Or more contact with others. More closeness. Maybe more love. A little more financial security. Or even prosperity. If you’re really missing any of that, then maybe it’s time to take more control of your life.
Because the past tends to just perpetuate itself if you don’t actively counteract it.
So if you want something in your life to be different, then “just letting it go” is very likely the wrong strategy.
However, you may be saying:
“Life is just the way it is. And there’s not much you can do about it. The strings are pulled by the rich and powerful anyway.”
And isn’t self-responsibility just a hollow slogan of the neoliberals? An unspeakable slogan designed to get the worker bees to bring even more and even faster honey into the hive?”
My answer: a resounding No.
Why “self-responsibility” is not a hollow slogan
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. Self-responsibility is not a hollow buzzword. The word is sometimes misused. But it’s still important if you want something to change for you.
Taking responsibility for yourself is most likely a fundamental approach to life. It is the engine behind a fulfilling and happy life. It is what separates the followers and the victims from the doers. And the one big requirement if you want to direct your own life, and shape your destiny according to your will.
The virus of external responsibility
The opposite of self-responsibility is external responsibility. So I push the responsibility for my happiness to someone else.
External responsibility means: “It’s not my job to make sure I’m doing well. Please let others take care of that. Preferably in such a way that I have no work to do with it. After all, I can’t do anything about it myself anyway. And if I’m not doing well, it’s definitely the fault of others.”
So it’s the state’s job to make sure I’m doing well. That has to be done by politics. Or the economy. Or my family has to take care of me.
Yet another kind of external responsibility is simply faith. God didn’t want it that way. That’s just the way life is. I submit to the universe.
Typical thoughts of external responsibility sound something like this:
- “I can’t do anything about it anyway.”
- “Life is so unfair, I just don’t have many chances.”
- “Politics should finally …”
- “The world owes it to me to do well.”
- “It’s not my fault that I’m not doing well.”
- “Times are getting worse and worse.”
- “Nobody gives me a chance.”
- “I don’t change for others, I don’t want to have to bend.”
- “I’ve tried once or twice before and it didn’t work. That’s why I’m not going to try again. It just doesn’t work.”
- “I just have to take what I can get.”
- “Someone like me doesn’t stand a chance anyway.”
- “The devil always poops in the biggest pile.”
- “I can’t get out of here anyway.”
- “Why doesn’t somebody do something?”
- “If … left, I’d be better off.”
- “There just aren’t any jobs here.”
- “I just don’t have enough money.”
- “I’m just not … enough.”
- “Why isn’t anyone helping me?”
I want to make one thing clear at this point: If someone is thinking such thoughts, it is not a sign of mental laziness, stupidity, or ignorance.
Caution: risk of contagion
Such thoughts and attitudes spread rather like viruses. If your family, all your friends, or your social environment think these thoughts, such attitudes can be quickly transferred to you. There you have hardly a possibility to withdraw.
If on top of that, there are economically difficult times that actually call for even more entrepreneurial spirit and even more personal responsibility, people see themselves even more confirmed in their existing convictions.
If you have grown up with such thoughts or if everyone in your environment thinks like that, then it is really hard and really a lot of work to acquire better and more life-serving attitudes.
But hardly anyone makes the effort. Because they think they can’t change anything anyway. And people rarely see their obstructive attitudes as a problem. Rather, they see their living conditions as the problem.
What is also fatal here is that these attitudes lead to your circumstances remaining bad. Because you can’t change anything anyway, which doesn’t improve your life.
Thus your bad life circumstances supply you daily a confirmation for your hindering attitudes.
The true catastrophe of external responsibility
External responsibility is a self-reinforcing system from which there is rarely a way out. It is a vicious circle.
By the way, the external responsibility also has a spectrum of feelings matching the thoughts. Typical feelings about it are:
- Powerlessness and resignation,
- Impulses of escape and repression,
- inertia and
- a lot of anger.
And typical behaviors of external determination are:
- Whining, complaining, and lamenting about why the world is unfair.
- Looking for someone to blame for my misery (the rich, the politicians, the economy, foreigners, the EU).
- Drowning myself in entertainment (internet, series, movies, television, computer games, shopping).
- Developing addictions (alcohol, marijuana, food, gambling).
- Become cynical or even fall into depression.
- Become criminal and cheat the system, in which you can’t win anyway.
And it all stems from the ingrained idea that you’re helpless and powerless anyway and can’t change anything to make your life more fulfilling and beautiful. Which is actually not true!
This glass is more than half full
Everyone has the possibility to change things for the better. Maybe at first, it’s just little things you can change. But the more adept you become at changing things, the bigger life improvements you can make.
There are always dropouts, even from the most difficult and underprivileged environments, who manage to build a great and good life for themselves. So it is possible!
Even if it is admittedly very difficult to break out of it because of the vicious circle shown above. Because people who are responsible for others keep confirming to each other that they can’t change anything anyway.
But it is possible! As soon as you have seen through these mechanisms, found positive role models. Or get into a different environment of more self-responsible people.
The opposite pole: the self-responsible person
The opposite pole to the externally responsible person is the self-responsible type. These are the people who see it as their very own task to ensure that they are doing well.
Self-responsible people are not unrealistic. They know that the world is not perfect or fair. They see the injustices and absurdities and know that taking responsibility is exhausting.
And they also know that not everyone has the same starting conditions and opportunities in life. But they also know that each of us has the opportunity to do things better in life.
They know that the more you change and improve your life, the more you expand your possibilities and opportunities, and the more you take control of your life.
The mindset of a self-reliant person looks something like this:
- “People can make their lives better. And I get to and can improve my and/or my family’s life.”
- “If something is to change, then I must change it. The government or the economy or my family will not change for me.”
- “My happiness in life and my quality of life is my responsibility.”
- “If something doesn’t work one way, I try another way. Keep doing it until it works.”
- “No one owes me anything.”
- “My life is also the product of my conscious and unconscious choices.”
- “I have my share in the things around me. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Not blame. But I have my share.”
- “What others do is not in my control. But what I do is in my hands.”
- “The more active I am, the more opportunities I have.”
- “I can’t do everything, but if it’s important to me, I can learn it.”
- “Sometimes you also have to work on yourself, develop and change if you get stuck somewhere.”
- “If I want to get something, I have to give something.”
- “I can accomplish almost anything if I can give the right people what they want.”
- “If I fall down, I get back up and keep going.”
And as with other responsible people, for self-responsible women and men, their world of thoughts also yields a spectrum of feelings.
These are then, for example, feelings such as:
- Vitality and liveliness,
- optimism and entrepreneurial spirit,
- optimism and confidence, and
And typical behaviors of self-responsible people are:
They clarify and decide what they want, plan the way, do what needs to be done, develop ideas, solve problems, educate themselves, seek help, network and collaborate. And they consider what they can offer others to help them move forward.
When they fail, they comfort themselves and then move on. And encourage themselves and build themselves up.
Of course, all of this is just an ideal picture of a self-responsible person. The typical self-responsible person is not a superhero. He or she has just as many problems, doubts, and weak hours, and also fails with his or her projects.
What distinguishes the self-responsible person above all from the person responsible for others is that, the self-responsible person at least tries. He tackles it and sets out to shape his life.
Risks and side effects
A self-responsible approach to life is a wonderful thing that usually takes you far in life. Nevertheless, self-responsibility also carries some risks and side effects.
When the burden becomes overload
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. When you are aware that it is your duty to improve your life, it creates a certain pressure. After all, duties burden us. Some duties more, others less.
And when you feel it’s your duty to improve your life, that creates that pressure and that motivation that usually moves us into action.
But when we take on too much. When we put too many obligations on ourselves. Or if we don’t say no in the right place. Then the natural burden can become an overload.
And if this continues for too long, it can also end in burnout. That’s why it’s important as a self-responsible person to always pay attention to your own energy level. And then specifically plan for relaxation and recuperation. Or to say “no” to yourself or to others at the right point.
Because the risk of overload and burnout is particularly high among self-responsible people.
Are these really my goals?
Another risk: Self-responsible people are easily manipulated through their sense of responsibility and because of their willingness to perform.
If my supervisor comes along and imposes yet another task on me, even though I’m already well utilized. And if my superior then appeals to my sense of self-responsibility, then self-responsible people often fall for it.
Or when inhumane working hours or regulations are introduced in the name of self-responsibility.
This is precisely where the bad reputation that the word “self-responsibility” as today comes from. Because unfair and inhumane working conditions have often been brought into companies in the name of self-responsibility.
That’s why: When an appeal is made from the outside to your self-responsibility, it is always important to be careful and to critically question the wish or demand of your counterpart.
And to always ask yourself:
“What do I want here? What is my situation, and my need?”
You can’t achieve everything
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. It’s often said: “You can achieve anything if you just really want to.”
When you combine that idea with the idea of personal responsibility, it leads to a dangerous mix.
Because, of course, you can’t achieve everything. You can usually achieve significantly more than you give yourself credit for at the moment. Especially if you work on something for a long time and don’t give up.
But not everything is possible: I’m very unlikely to become a ballerina again. Nor will I become an astronaut. And winning a Nobel Prize probably won’t happen either.
I don’t want to say it’s completely impossible, but it’s pretty unlikely. No matter how much I set my mind to it.
So as self-responsible people, we have to be careful that we don’t succumb to the mania for feasibility. And that we don’t set ourselves goals that are too big and ultimately only frustrate us.
The best use of self-responsibility is when you apply it to the incremental improvement of your life. Here, it’s best to think first in increments of 5% or 10% improvement in a year. That way, over longer periods of time, through small, steady changes, you can transform your life into a very wonderful place.
And when you take small steps, bigger life improvements often happen unplanned and automatically. Because when you start taking charge of your life, things often take on an amazing, and unpredictable momentum.
Bad things happen – even to self-responsible people. Here in this post, you might think that self-responsibility is the solution to all problems. It isn’t, of course.
Many problems cannot be solved even with as much self-responsibility as possible. At this point, the self-responsible approach helps you, of course. But it does not save one from strokes of faith.
That is just for clarification. Because it is also important to remain realistic.
Man is not an island.
One last risk of living self-responsibility: if I work a lot on my goals and my good life, it can lead me in a somewhat egocentric direction. A direction where I think too much about myself and too little about others and my relationships with them.
Too much self-responsibility lived out can make you lonely if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to think about my own happiness as well as the happiness of my family and friends when it comes to self-responsibility.
Cooperative Self-Responsibility (Or: We-Responsibility)
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. As I said before, too much self-responsibility can make you lonely. That’s when I have everything I want. Except for other people with whom I can share the good stuff.
Because if I’m always doing my thing and if I refuse to compromise, then that’s not conducive to good relationships and friendships.
That’s why there’s another approach here:
Instead of always thinking about what I want and what I desire, I can look for common goals, dreams, and desires with my family or friends.
Or I can look for other people who have the same dreams or ideals. In order to then jointly take responsibility for their fulfillment.
This is then the step from self-responsibility to we-responsibility. Because in this case, you don’t just take responsibility for your happiness. Or for achieving a common goal.
At that point, you also have to take responsibility for the success of the relationship with your fellow participants. And so do the others.
Because a common goal can only be achieved if everyone cooperates and communicates skillfully. If everyone works together and not against each other. Because most joint projects fail not because of the goal, but because of the ego of the comrades-in-arms, pointless conflicts, and bad cooperation.
In order to achieve the goal together, the relationship and the togetherness must also be cultivated. And that, in turn, only works in the long term if everyone takes responsibility for the success of the togetherness. Hence the term “we-responsibility”.
The path to more personal responsibility
Self-responsibility: how to take control of your life. Nothing is more imperative to progress than the capacity to set, oversee, and accomplish individual objectives. Personal Responsibility puts the accentuation where it should be, on the individual. It puts the attention on the capacity to set clear, feasible objectives and afterward to oversee oneself to the effective completion of these objectives.
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” ~ John C. Maxwell