Accept responsibility for your life

choicesYears ago, a man came to me for counseling. To begin the first session I asked him why he had come. He told a sad story of how his employer had taken advantage of him and then fired him. As he told the details of the struggle, he became very emotional – flushed face, moist eyes, quivering lips. About ten minutes into the session I asked, “When did this happen?” Recently, I assumed. He answered, “seventeen years ago.”

Oh my…

While I was willing to acknowledge and empathize with the alleged employer abuse, I was shocked that he had allowed this one incident to deeply influence his life. He was blaming others for his derailed life.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey develops this terrific thought: “In between stimulus and response is a space, and in that space we make a choice; while we can’t control the stimulus we can control our response by the choice we make.” The “space” Covey talks about is time. When we are impacted by a stimulus, we have time (space) to think about it, and then we choose how we will react.

Though my client had been mistreated and unfairly terminated (stimulus) he had a choice regarding his response; he chose unwisely.

Some people blame their grandparents for their problems; psychologists call this the “nature issue” – DNA stuff. Some people blame their parents for their problems; psychologists call this the “nurture issue” – family of origin stuff. I understand these influences count, but it is our choices that primarily shape our lives. 

Years ago I was puzzled by Jesus’ question to the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?” The question seemed insensitive and unnecessary – after all who doesn’t want to be healed? But it was a good question then and it’s a good question today because some people don’t; they prefer to wallow in their pain and find solace in their self-designated identity: victim.

I’ll conclude with another wise thought from Covey: “Until a person can deeply and honestly say, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday’ that person cannot say ‘I choose otherwise.’”

Take responsibility for your life and make good choices.


What? – Accept responsibility for your life; ultimately, your choices determine who you are and where you are in life.
So what? – If you have a victim mentality it will stymie your growth and potential, and you’ll be difficult to live with.
Now what? – Evaluate your past responses to life-stimuli. Did you respond wisely? Stop blaming others for your misfortunes and start making wise choices.

Leaders – Develop in your organization and among your team members an emphasis on making wise choices and the willingness to accept responsibility for them.

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For a humorous take on this issue, watch this video from the Bob Newhart show.  [youtube id=”Ow0lr63y4Mw”]

2 Replies to “Accept responsibility for your life”

  1. This is an important post, because so many people are blaming others for their current reality. The fact, we are all responsible for where we are in life. It starts with the choices we make about how we live our lives.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy, for sharing your thoughts. You’re right; so much of life comes down to the choices we make. Don

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