7 Timeless Thoughts on Taking Responsibility for Your Life

by Henrik Edberg

7 Timeless Thoughts on Taking Responsibility for Your Life
Image by Anirudh Koul (license).

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.”
Albert Einstein

“It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.”
Sophocles

“A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”
Denis Waitley

What is one of the most boring and tiresome words ever?

Like discipline, responsibility is one of those words you have probably heard so many times from authority figures that you’ve developed a bit of an allergy to it. Still, it’s one of the most important things to grow and to feel good about your life. Without it as a foundation nothing else here or in any personal development book really works.

So today I’d like to explore personal responsibility with the help from some timeless thoughts on the topic.

1. There is always a price to pay.

“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
George Bernard Shaw

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”
Unknown

Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…

2. Build your self-esteem.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the high road to pride, self-esteem and personal satisfaction.”
Brian Tracy

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
Joan Didion

Why do people often have self-esteem problems? I’d say that one of the big reasons is that they don’t take responsibility for their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered.

This damages many vital parts in your life. Stuff like relationships, ambitions and achievements.

That hurt will not stop until you wise up and take responsibility for your life. There is really no way around it.

And the difference is really remarkable. Just try it out. You feel so much better about yourself even if you only take personal responsibility for your own life for day.

This is also a way to stop relying on external validation like praise from other people to feel good about yourself. Instead you start building a stability within and a sort of inner spring that fuels your life with positive emotions no matter what other people say or do around you. Which brings us to the next reason to take personal responsibility…

3. Give yourself the permission to live the life you want.

“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.”
George O’Neil

By taking responsibility for our lives we not only gain control of what happens. It also becomes natural to feel like you deserve more in life as your self-esteem builds and as you do the right thing more consistently. You feel better about yourself.

This is critically important.

Because it’s most often you that are standing in your own way and in the way of your success. It’s you that start to self-sabotage or hold yourself back in subtle or not so subtle ways once you are on your way to the success you dream of.

To remove that inner resistance you must feel and think that you actually deserve what you want. You may be able to do a little about that by affirmations and other positive techniques. But the biggest impact by far comes from taking responsibility for yourself and your life. By doing the right thing.

4. Taking action becomes natural.

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is often said that your thoughts become your actions. But without taking responsibility for your life those thoughts often just stay on that mental stage and aren’t translated into action. Taking responsibility for your life is that extra ingredient that makes taking action more of a natural thing. You don’t get stuck in just thinking, thinking and wishing so much. You become proactive instead of passive.

5. Understand the limits of your responsibility.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”
Epictetus

Taking responsibility for your life is great. But that is also all that you have control over. You can’t control the results of your actions. You can’t control how someone reacts to what you say or what you do.

It’s important to know where your limits are. Otherwise you’ll create a lot unnecessary suffering for yourself and waste energy and focus by taking responsibility for what you can’t and never really could control.

You can read more about this liberating mindset in One Timeless Tip That Can Make Your Life a Whole Lot Easier.

6. Don’t forget to take responsibility in everyday life too.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
Helen Keller

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Abraham Lincoln

Life consists of each day. Not just the big events sometime in the future. So don’t forget to take responsibility for the little things today too. Don’t postpone it. Taking responsibility for your life can be hard and taxing on you. It’s not something you master over the weekend. So you might as well get started with the it right now.

7. Aim to be your best self.

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.”
Brian Tracy

This is of course not easy. But it’s a lot of fun and the payoff is massive.

  • You are not trying to escape from your life anymore. Instead you take control, face what’s going on and so the world and new options open up for you.
  • You start taking action not just when you feel like it. Improvement isn’t about short spurts once in a while. Consistent action is what really pays off and can help you achieve just about anything.
  • You build your self-esteem to higher levels. And may discover that many smaller problems you experience regularly such as negative thinking, self-defeating behaviour and troubled relationships with yourself and others start to correct themselves as your self-esteem improves. You gain an inner stability and can create your own positive feelings within without the help of validation from other people.

So how do you take responsibility?

Well, it’s simply choice that you have to make.

Reviewing the reasons above – and now also the awesome quotes – is for me a powerful way to keep myself in line. Though it doesn’t always work. Doing the right thing in every situation is hard to do and also hard to always keep in mind. So don’t aim for perfection. Just try to be as good a person as you can be right now.

When you know those very important reasons above it becomes a lot easier to stick with taking responsibility. And to not rationalize to yourself that you didn’t really have to take responsibility in various situations. That doesn’t mean that I beat myself up endlessly about it. I just observe that I have hurt myself and my life. And that doesn’t feel good. And so I become less prone to repeat the same mistake.

Also, two habits that I think are essential to be able to do the right and often hard thing and take personal responsibility are the ones I wrote about a few weeks ago: increasing your energy levels and learning to be present.

Without the extra energy and the presence it becomes more difficult to take action and to not create extra resistance and negativity within yourself.

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{ 25 comments }

Pete Nicely March 13, 2009 at 8:19 pm

I’m taking the responsibility to thank you for this fine post.

Matthew | Polaris Rising March 13, 2009 at 9:08 pm

You know, this has truth in it – and yet it also feels like a burden. “The price to pay”, as you say.

I like the term “ownership” better than responsibility. When you own your life, you take responsibility but you also have FUN with it. And when you have fun, your esteem is sky high. It’s not work or effort – it just flows.

Polaris Blog

Chris - Zen to Fitness March 13, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Amazing post. You just keep coming up with quality stuff, a great read to inspire me for the weekend!I think too many people don’t take life by the scruff of the neck and rather allow it to guide and lead them where it wants, which is not usually very far. When we take responsibility for our actions and push life in the direction we want then our dreams can be achieved and life can be beautiful…..

Daily Jump Start Guy March 14, 2009 at 12:09 am

Great topic, and well said. The upside to taking responsibility for your state in life is that the sooner you realize this is how it works, the more effectively you can take that extra moment and make the right decision at a critical moment…and this can only come from experience.

Thanks for the post.

DJSG

Sean Ferguson March 14, 2009 at 5:42 am

Just what I needed to hear right now. I especially love the quotes. Some of my favorites!

Peter Levin March 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Great post Henrik,

Energy is huge I agree. Without right quality and quantity if energy it is hard to stay present, be committed and develop yourself to the fullest.

Brittany March 15, 2009 at 12:29 am

Lovely collection of quotes. I have a feeling I’ll be keeping a little post-it around with me with some of the advice you’ve given written on it. :] I need to be more responsible!

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com March 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Great post Henrik!

“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” – George Washington Carver

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you.” – Wayne Dyer

“The one who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.” – Lou Holtz

Blame, complain, and making excuses are what will make us lose control over our own life and destiny. To take back control, we must stop blaming, complaining and making excuses and assume 100% responsibility for everything we experience in our lives.

Cheers~

Mark

Polly March 16, 2009 at 6:11 am

What a great post! I tell my grandchildren all the time we must take responsibility for our actions. So refreshing to read such words as yours. It is a shame that some go through life never realizing we make choices daily and that our thoughts become our reality. Keep up the good work. I will be back to read more.

Karen March 17, 2009 at 1:58 am

Excellent. Took the time to print. Will be stashing in my journal. Great contribution to us all.

Chad Bordeaux March 17, 2009 at 4:29 am

This is an interesting one:

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Abraham Lincoln

It seems that we are doing just that by passing the bill for our financial troubles to our great great grandchildren.

It is time we all stand up and take personal responsibility – not blaming everything and everyone else.

Ann Evanston March 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Great post and blog! Question is: How do we get it into the hands of the people who really need it! HA! I guess that is #5! As a speaker and trainer, I remember the DAY I realized that I could not change others in my classes. What a freeing moment!

Ann Evanston
http://www.Warrior-Preneur.com
the Warrior is Within You

Henrik Edberg March 17, 2009 at 10:36 pm

@ Pete Nicely: Thanks man! :)

@ Matthew: That’s a good way to think about it, thanks for sharing.

@ Chris: Yup, I think so too, it really holds people back. Thanks a lot and keep up the great work on Zen to Fitness.

@ Daily Jump Start Guy: Thanks! And that’s a good point.

@ Sean: Glad to hear that!

@ Peter: Yeah, without enough energy it will be a lot more difficult.

@ Brittany: That sounds like a good plan, post-its can be really helpful as reminders.

@ Mark Foo: Awesome quotes, thanks for sharing them.

@ Polly: Yeah, that’s kinda sad how people can go through their whole lives that way.

@ Karen: I’m glad to hear you found it that helpful. Cool!

@ Chad: Yes, blaming things on everyone else won’t help anyone out.

@ Ann: Well, you can always email it to friends and co-workers by using the Email This link below the article. :)

Dani March 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Great post! I especially like how you use quotes in a lot of your posts. These often make me think about a variety of different topics and they often illustrate how timeless your advice is. Thanks!

Joaquin Allisandro March 19, 2009 at 6:53 am

I find your blog entries in very light reading without losing sense. In fact, your deep motivational thoughts, being explained in a very simple manner makes the blog all the more effective in helping others live with a purpose.

Having a plan allows me to stay on track and complete my tasks easily without undue stress. With each step, I feel achievement as part of my plan is completed.

My plans remind me of the action steps I need to take at each point. Always knowing what to do enables me to push extraneous concerns aside and achieve success.

:-)

Brian Bartes March 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Henrik,

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.

Thanks,
Brian

Kasia March 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm

What a wonderful post, thank you for such amazing insight. Taking responsibility is really what it’s all about. Great blog!

MushPanjwani April 20, 2009 at 3:29 pm

very nice! i liked #6.
i am amazed at people who say ‘i am late because of traffic’.
these people can never be on time, because they don’t take responsibility.
great post!

Yinka Oladeji July 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm

“To become successful we must forget the past (our mistakes) not dwelling in the present (present challenges) but looking forward to tomorrow with a great enthusiasm and most importantly a positive mental attitude”… Yinka OLadeji.

Amanda@choosing-life-my-way.com November 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

A great post with some insightful points. A good read for empowerment and motivation :)

RagsToRich January 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

This is a great post, but for two things…

1) Too many quotes!

2) 5. Understand the limits of your responsibility….

I don’t agree with this one. There is no limit to the things you can accept responsibility for in your life.

This does not mean “taking the blame” for certain things at all…

But instead it means accepting that there are things which you had and have little control over, but that are happening and are affecting you.

It means that you accept these things as part of your life, and the ammount which you allow them to affect you and how they affect you is entirely unto your own control.

Other than that, great! I’ll bookmark your site to check some more recent articles.

Gwyneth January 19, 2010 at 3:45 am

Thank you so much for this! As educators, we have the honor to teach the next generation of servant leaders….it is our job and privilege to instill in them the passion to effect change and the empathy to think outside themselves. All educators….indeed, all school staff….must work together to teach teens that taking responsibility for our lives gives us total power in creating the kind of life we want for ourselves. Yup….taking personal responsibility and thinking of the community…..and you know what? After seeing my Middle school kids last week rally around raising funds for Haiti Relief?…I think we’re doing pretty darn good! But we can always do better! Cheers!

limcharmaine April 1, 2010 at 8:34 am

My “love of wisdom”.

Adrian April 15, 2010 at 5:02 am

Great , encouraging stuff!!!

Majorshadow September 5, 2010 at 12:43 am

Words of encouragement> to hear click or visit URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFmhEJB1_QA

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