“You’ll have to help yourself.”
“It may be the wrong decision, but fuck it, it’s mine.”
Mark Z. Danielewski
“More than anything, to me, he was dad. And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.
Justin Trudeau at his father’s funeral
Personal responsibility is hard. Much much harder than conceptually it sounds like it should be.
I do not have any research today to show how people who have a strong sense of personal responsibility attained that character trait <although if you google it there are gobs of people with an opinion on it>.
For everyone who had great parents who taught them I can give you a dozen examples of people with crappy parents who have a strong sense of personal responsibility.
For every victim mentality person I can show different contextual situations that got them into that state of mind and, just as well, the path to a strong sense of personal responsibility is numerous and rarely a straight path.
But, even without research I will suggest a couple of things:
1. Personal acceptance.
To have personal responsibility you almost have to have a strong foundation of personal acceptance.
I imagine I could suggest that if it doesn’t than you are simply ‘posing’ in an attempt to look like you are responsible <and that rarely can stand the test of time>.
Regardless. Somehow, someway people with a strong sense of personal responsibility have developed a strong sense of self. Not necessarily confidence, just self. They recognize ‘they is what they is’ and accept the flaws <and try to improve in some way> and accept their strengths <but never take them for granted>.
In their personal acceptance we, around them, see ‘solid.’ We love these people on our business teams and friend teams, as peers or as leaders, because regardless of their IQ or leadership skills or professional skills … they are lighthouse people in their own right.
These people can also be baffling to the perfectionists in the world because part of ‘personal acceptance’ is understanding, if not embracing, imperfections.
2. Lucky to be here but many others are just as deserving.
Let me suggest that people with an incredibly strong sense of personal responsibility will also most likely be the people who suggest they had a little luck along the way – lucky in life situations, lucky with mentors, lucky in opportunities – and, even though they had worked hard with integrity, they had done nothing to actually deserve the luck.
As a corollary to this thinking they would also believe, as part of the luck aspect, that there are many others just as deserving. This attitude creates a sense of responsibility for actions, behavior and attitudes. Mistakes are owned and successes are shared.
Some people may suggest that personal responsibility and accountability is a reflection of integrity or humility.
It may be.
But I rather believe it is more a sense of understanding that successes are more often than not a reflection of just hard work but also circumstances. And, to that point, inherently someone with a strong sense of accountability balances success with the understanding that a portion of success is luck – luck of circumstance & luck of being the one where many were just as deserving if provided the opportunity.
Like I said in the beginning. This is not based on research and you can toss this into your ‘Bruce bullshit bin’ if you want. But I do not need research to state that personal responsibility and personal acceptance takes work. Lots of work and lots of fortitude.
It is the kind of thing you spend your entire life working hard to not only ‘be’ but to live up to the character standard you have set for yourself. A standard which you will never measure others against because, well, it is personal. You are accountable to your own standard and responsible to meet it. And everyone not only has the ability to set their own but they also have an unequivocal right to do so without anyone else telling them “how to be accountable.”
“It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.”
Personal responsibility is actually one of Life’s lightest burdens if you choose to accept it. That is why I am so often surprised by how many people actually do not accept this burden.
But, in the end, personal responsibility is a personal choice. No one can convince you to do it or be that way. You have to help yourself on this one because no one else can.