As I continue to review and discuss the topics of my upcoming book “Success with Goals – Designing your Life with Purpose”, one of the topics that was brought up was the idea of 100% Responsibility. The verbiage I use here is from my Canfield Methodologies training, but I can assure you that every Self-Help Guru uses a similar concept.
You see, there can be no growth or development without the acceptance of 100% Responsibility by the student. It is the main over-arching principle that Jack Canfield starts with in his book “The Success Principles”, and similarly all personal development coaches offer this as a basis or a key principle in their coaching. Without ownership of 100% responsibility, none of the rest of the 67 Principles can work.
So, let’s first start with what does this concept even mean? Well, the Principle of 100% Responsibility implies is that you MUST accept 100% responsibility in your life. That means everything in your life. To most people on the surface at a conceptional level, that makes sense logically. You might say “Sure, I must accept responsibility for everything in my life, except when someone cuts me off in traffic, right? Or, when someone takes advantage of me and steals money from me? Or, how about when something like a flood, earthquake, fire, happens, then that’s out of my hands and not my responsibility, right?”
No, I mean, every time, without exception. Is that a bit harder to swallow now? I thought so…That’s ok, I have been there and I get it. I remember the first time I was introduced to this concept. It was a Tony Robbins 30-day program, I was on like day 2 or 3 when he introduced this concept. As I sat there and listened to the CD in my Honda Passport on my hour-long drive to work. There I was, being told that my life experiences were all my responsibility, good and bad, either I caused them proactively, or I allowed them to happen to me. I was like “WHAT?!?!?!”, because WTH was not popular back then.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, Tony is telling me that the fact that this person stole from me, or that person cheated on me, or that these bad experiences were somehow my fault. The logic was, either I caused them, or the series of decisions that I made that put me in that circumstance to be taken advantage of was my fault…I was flabbergasted! I got so pissed just listening to this idea, that I pulled it out of the CD player and flipped it into the back of my Passport. It hit the back window of the hatch and fell in between some stuff I had in the back. I let out a string of expletives that would embarrassed a sailor and said this guy is an idiot, he doesn’t know me or what I have been through, this is BS!
About a month later, I was getting gas and opened the back to find something, and as I did I found the CD. I was still stewing about the episode a month before but I paid like $200 for this program and thought I should at least finish it and see if there was anything of value. So, I put it back into the player that day and tried to fight through the message. At the exact same part, I got all fired up again, but this time I fought through, and listened more intently. Although that was the message, there was an added message that said, regardless of the situation, what I always have control over, is how I let these situations in my life affect me.
That is when it hit me. Yes, the circumstances may have been unfortunate, but if I really thought about it, I could have made better choices and probably not ended up in that bad situation. But ultimately, I could choose to let that circumstance define me, or I could change how I responded to the circumstance. And that is when it became far more clear to me, I could control my life, if I made conscious decisions to do so. Who I am is not necessarily what happens to me, and what happens to me does not define who I am. And, one thing that I will always have control over, is how I respond to a certain circumstance, this is what defines me.
If I made a conscious decision to take responsibility for everything in my life, I would certainly make better decisions. Additionally, by proactively making better decisions, fewer bad things happened to me. I left less to circumstance and typically, mostly all good things happened to me. No longer did I seem to have “Bad Luck”, I had an occasional bad situation happen, but not “bad luck” and things really began to click in a positive way for me.
Here is an example of how I began to think. When I bought my first home in North Phoenix, AZ, when the weather was bad in August with the Monsoons, it was almost inevitable that the power would go out at least 2 or 3 times each year. I remember the first time, I was so pissed, it was like 98 degrees in the house, it was storming, and we had been without power for 6 hours or more, and there had been no updates from the power company. I realized that my attitude wasn’t doing anything to fix the situation, so I decided to consider other options as I laid in bed sweating trying to get some sleep at 11pm.
After I stopped being mad and constructively thinking about solutions, I considered, getting in the pool, that would help us cool off, but not too practical for sleeping, and not ideal with the storm still going. Then, I thought about the distance to the transformer we were on, it probably didn’t extend to the area South of us and remembered the local resort just 15 minutes away was advertising summer rates at just $99 per night. I got everyone up, and we headed over to the resort checked in and got a decent night’s sleep. As a matter of fact, we stayed for 2 nights while they got the power back on and it was a nice little stay-cation for the family.
After the second time in a matter of weeks of the power going out for an extended amount of time, I began to think even more constructively. How else could I overcome this challenge in the future, my thoughts went to having a generator onsite or some other reserve power source. The idea here is to recognize that, I could easily have been irritated with the power company and blamed everything on them, but in the end, that didn’t change anything. I found ways to deal with the circumstance and even came up with ulterior solutions in case it happened again.
That’s when I developed this concept of “When you stop asking WHY something is happening, or IF you can achieve a result, and start asking HOW you could change or improve the situation”. Using this logic dramatically changed the way I looked at things and challenged me to find the solution in every problem, not just the easy ones. Even if no one was asking for a solution, the process of thinking through a solution was empowering and useful, particularly when employed as a leadership skill.
The final perspective that I have gained with Jack’s coaching has been that, you can’t improve on where you are unless you take responsibility for where you are. Otherwise, any setback or failure, will be excused away onto someone else. “It’s not my fault the business failed, it was the bad economy in 2007”, in reality, it was your series of poor choices or unwillingness to do everything to turn it around that allowed your company to fail.
Making this change in how you evaluate your circumstances is critical in being able to change where you are. Remember if it’s not your fault, how can you be responsible to fix it, right? But by accepting responsibility for everything in your life, you can now make the necessary changes to improve your circumstances and improve your life. Now you can learn and grow from setbacks and make better more intelligent decisions next time.
Hope you found value in the concept of 100% Responsibility, good luck in adapting it into your life!
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