If You Don’t Assume Responsibility, Who Will?

If you don’t take responsibility for your life who will? Here are three tips to help you start taking responsibility in your life on a regular basis.

I have never been able to understand those people who always want to shirk the blame for a situation and claim it is someone else’s fault. Sure, it gets them “out of trouble,” but for myself, if I’m going to have a problem, I would rather that I was the cause of the problem.

That may sound pretty stupid on my part. I’d rather be the one at fault than have someone else be to blame. You’re probably wondering if I also carry around a baseball bat and offer people five dollars to hit me over the head with it.
Well, no.

The reason I want to be responsible if there is a problem comes down to what I think “responsible” means, in addition to the idea of “blame.” First off, it means I have the responsibility for the situation. So, yes, if there’s a problem, I’m responsible for that problem. But I don’t like to think in terms of fault or blame. I’m responsible. It’s my problem.


And that’s where this approach really gets interesting. Because responsibility is also “response-ability.” Honestly, I don’t remember where I read that first, but I love the whole idea of it. If I’m responsible, if it’s my problem, then I can fix it. I am able to respond to the problem and make it no longer a problem.

But if you’re responsible, I’m not able to respond. I can’t fix it, because it’s not my problem to fix.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say I’m working with a partner on a business proposal. My partner is supposed to get some final numbers for the business plan. He hasn’t done that yet, and the bank is calling me with questions about our cash flow projections. I have to tell the bank I don’t know when the numbers will be ready. Then I have to call my partner and try to nudge him into getting those numbers out today.

But if I’m supposed to be doing the numbers, and I didn’t, it’s completely different. Sure, I still don’t have the numbers, and I still don’t show in the best light to the bank. But here’s the difference. I’m able to do the numbers and get them to the bank. When my banker calls I can say, “I’m responsible for that oversight, and I will get you those numbers within the hour.”

That’s a much more empowering situation than having to respond to someone else’s problem, where I can’t really do anything except ask them to fix it.

So I’d always rather be responsible. In fact, when there’s an opportunity to pass up responsibility or seize it, I’m right there grabbing for the responsibility because I want to be the one who can fix the problems if they happen. I want the control to be in my hands.

How can you start taking responsibility in your life on a regular basis?

  1. Identify situations in which you are not responsible.
  2. Find a way to assume some responsibility.
  3. If you are offered responsibility, take it.

Thanks to Mabel and Harry for including this post in the Carnival of Leadership Development, to Golden Practices for featuring this post in the Carnival of Trust,m and to Today is that Day for inclusion in the Doing It Differently Blog Carnival.

5 Comments on “If You Don’t Assume Responsibility, Who Will?”

  • Good post David. I think that personal responsibly is something that many Americans tend to avoid. I’ve heard of people carrying milk out of the grocery store, drop it and then return to the store to request another one. There was even a case where a mayor tripped on the sidewalk in his own town and then turned around and sued that town.

    I really like what you said: “I’m right there grabbing for the responsibility because I want to be the one who can fix the problems if they happen. I want the control to be in my hands.” I completely agree. It’s no fun when accepting responsibility for something means that we’re also the person getting the blame. But rather than seeing the glass half-empty, I believe that taking responsibility and stepping up to help resolve it shows true character, honor, and leadership.

  • Steve,

    Great comments. Thanks for weighing in.

    You’ve reminded me of a time several years back in Chicago when a bus got into an accident and people were jumping on the bus claiming t5hat they were injured.


  • Carnival of Trust…

    There’s something pretty cool about hosting this carnival on Mardi Gras…the concluding day of perhaps the most well-known carnival of all! And it is remarkable that Mardi Gras goes on despite the destruction unleashed from Hurricane Katrina. I’d li…

  • David,

    Congratulations on the selection of your excellent post for inclusion in the February Carnival of Trust by Michelle Golden in Golden Practices (as noted in your link above).

    I happen to think the linkage between responsibility and blame is a very interesting one too, and for that reason alone I think it’s a great selection. I think Michelle’s question on delegation is also an interesting one, and I’d love to hear your response to it.

    Meanwhile, congratulations on the inclusion in the Carnival. It’s good material like this that makes for a great collection.

  • Boredom…

    I’ve been thinking a lot about personal responsibility because of David Bohl’s great post that I picked up in my recent Carnival of Trust post. This morning, my daughter and I were having an interesting conversation. She’s a couple weeks away from t…

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