In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to take responsibility for your life.
What to do.
What not to do.
(And most important of all) how to empower yourself to live a rewarding, productive and fulfilling life.
Before I get started, I want to tell you about a new online personal responsibility workshop I’ve contributed to. We give you a unique framework for finding your best self and achieving powerful things. Check it out here. I know that life isn’t always kind or fair. But courage, perseverance, honesty — and above all else taking responsibility — are the only ways to overcome the challenges that life throws at us. If you want to seize control of your life, then this is the online resource you need.
1) Stop blaming other people
The most important step to taking responsibility for your life is to stop blaming others.
Because if you’re not taking responsibility for your life, it’s almost certain that you’re blaming other people or situations for your misfortunes.
Whether it’s negative relationships, a bad childhood, socio-economic disadvantages, or other hardships that inevitably come with life, it’s always something other than yourself that’s at fault.
Now don’t get me wrong: Life is unfair. Some people have it worse than others. And in some cases, you are the victim.
But even if that’s true, what does blaming get you?
The victim card? An illusory advantage of preaching victimhood? Justification for life’s unsatisfactory conditions?
In reality, blaming only results in bitterness, resentment, and powerlessness.
The people who you target with blame probably don’t care about how you feel, or they have no idea anyway.
The bottom line is this:
Those feelings and thoughts may be justified, but it won’t help you become successful or happy.
Letting go of blame doesn’t justify other people’s unfair actions. It doesn’t ignore life’s hardships.
But the truth is this:
Your life is not about them. It’s about you.
You need to stop blaming so you can reclaim your freedom and power that is yours.
No one can take away your ability to take action and make a better life for yourself.
It’s easy and convenient to blame others, but it does nothing to improve your life in the long run.
All it does is cost you the authority of being in charge of your own life.
“An important decision I made was to resist playing the Blame Game. The day I realized that I am in charge of how I will approach problems in my life, that things will turn out better or worse because of me and nobody else, that was the day I knew I would be a happier and healthier person. And that was the day I knew I could truly build a life that matters.” – Steve Goodier
2) Stop making excuses
Making excuses for your choices in life, or excuses about what you feel you have achieved – and what you have not – fuels cognitive bias.
When you make excuses, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
After all, no failure or mishap is your fault. It’s always something else.
When there’s no personal accountability, there’s no way to grow. You’ll be stuck in the same place complaining and dwelling on negativity without ever moving forward.
When you take responsibility for your life and stop making excuses, you silence the negativity.
You realize that what happens outside yourself doesn’t matter.
There’s only one thing that matters, and that’s your actions.
“One day I realized that everything that I get out of life, is exclusively a result of my actions. That is the day I became a man.” – Nav-Vii
(If you’d like to learn how to stop making excuses in life and start taking responsibility, check out Ideapod’s free salon: The hidden trap of “improving yourself”, and what to do instead. It breaks down how to stop making excuses so you can start taking action.)
3) Ask yourself how other people impact you
If you feel like the victim in your own life, you need to stop and think about how you let other people impact your outlook on life.
For example, if someone makes a snide remark about you, logic would dictate that it’s a reflection of their own self-worth.
But in many cases, we think illogically about these things and feel like we are being attacked.
In fact, research by a Wake Forest University psychology professor found that what you say about others says a lot about you.
“Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality”, says Dustin Wood, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study.
“A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively”.
So if you take these results to heart, there is literally no point in taking things personally.
What people say about you clearly says more about themselves than anything to do with you.
Spiritual guru Osho says that it’s crucial to start looking inside yourself, rather than being disturbed about anything anybody says about you.
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking at what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself…”
4) Love yourself
If you’re struggling to take responsibility for yourself and your actions, then I’m willing to bet that you don’t value yourself, either.
Because people who have self-esteem problems generally don’t take responsibility for their lives.
Instead, other people are blamed, and a victim mentality is created. Self-esteem won’t be boosted until you wise up and take responsibility.
Responsibility empowers you to take action to improve yourself and help others.
And self-esteem goes both ways. If you’re relying on external validation like praise from other people to fuel your self-esteem, then you’re giving away power to others.
Instead, start building stability within. Value yourself and who you are.
When you love yourself, there’s no other option but to take responsibility.
After all, it’s your reality, and the only way to make the most of it is to take responsibility for your actions.
(If you’re looking more specific and in-depth information on how to practice self-love, check our guide to loving yourself here)
5) What does your day look like?
A crucial way to take responsibility for your life is with your daily habits.
Are you improving your life? Are you growing?
If you don’t look after yourself and your daily you, then it’s likely that you’re not.
Are you taking care of your body, your mind, and your needs?
Here are all the ways that you could be taking responsibility for your mind and body:
- Sleeping properly
- Eating healthy
- Giving yourself time and space to understand your spirituality
- Exercising regularly
- Thanking yourself and those around you
- Playing when you need it
- Avoiding vices and toxic influences
- Reflecting and meditating
Taking responsibility and loving yourself is more than just a state of mind – it’s about actions and habits that you do every single day.
You have to take responsibility for yourself, from the beginning of your day to the end.
6) Accepting negative emotions as part of life
This is tough for most people to accept.
After all, no one wants to experience negative emotions.
But if you want to start taking responsibility for yourself, you need to take responsibility for your emotions as well.
And the truth is this:
Nobody can be positive all the time. We all have a dark side. Even Buddha said, “suffering is inevitable”.
If you ignore the darker part of life, then it will come back to bite you even harder later on.
Taking responsibility means accepting your emotions. It’s about being honest with you are.
“Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.”
7) Stop chasing happiness with outside attachments
This is something that isn’t easy to realize.
After all, many of us may think that happiness means obtaining a shiny new iPhone or getting a higher promotion at work for more money. It’s what society tells us every day! Advertising is everywhere.
But we need to realize that happiness only exists inside ourselves.
Outside attachments give us temporary joy – but when the feeling of excitement and joy is over, we go back to the cycle of wanting that high again.
An extreme example highlighting the problems with this is a drug addict. They’re happy when they’re taking drugs, but miserable and angry when they’re not. It’s a cycle that no one wants to be lost in.
True happiness can only come from within.
It’s time to take power back and realize that we create happiness and inner peace inside ourselves.
“Don’t let society fool you into believing that if you don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend then you’re destined for a life of misery. The Dalai Lama has been single for the last 80 years and he is one of the happiest people on earth. Stop searching for happiness in places outside of yourself, and start finding it where it has always been: within you.” – Miya Yamanouchi
8) Do what you’ll say you’ll do
There couldn’t be a better phrase for taking responsibility for your life than to do what you’ll say you’ll do.
Part of getting your act together and taking responsibility for your life means being trustworthy and living your life with integrity.
I mean, how do you feel when someone says they’ll do something and they fail to do it? In my eyes, they lose instant credibility.
Don’t do the same and lose credibility with yourself.
The bottom line is this: You can’t take responsibility if you won’t even do what you’ll say you’ll do.
So, the question is: How can you make sure to follow up with actions on what you say:
Follow these four principles:
1) Never agree to or promise anything unless you are 100% sure you can do it. Treat “yes” as a contract.
2) Have a schedule: Every time you say “yes” to someone, or even yourself, put it in a calendar.
3) Don’t make excuses: Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. If you’re forced to break a commitment, don’t make excuses. Own it, and try to make things right in the future.
4) Be honest: The truth isn’t always easy to say, but if you’re not rude about it, it will help everyone out in the long run. Be impeccable with your word means you’re honest with yourself and with others. You’ll become that guy or girl that people can rely on.
(To dive deep into wisdom and techniques to help you live a better life, check out Hack Spirit’s no-nonsense guide to taking responsibility for your life here)
9) Stop complaining
Nobody enjoys hanging around a complainer.
And by complaining, you lack the ability to accept the present moment and take action.
Your wasting precious energy on complaining about a situation when you could be taking action.
If you can’t take action, what’s the point in complaining?
Taking responsibility is all about taking action for your own life. Complaining is the antithesis of that.
“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” – Eckhart Tolle
(To learn more about meditation techniques and Buddhist wisdom, check out my eBook on the no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism and eastern philosophy for a better life here)
10) Focus on taking action
This is probably the most critical part of taking responsibility for your life.
We all have goals and ambitions, but without action, they won’t be achieved.
And what good is someone who talks about doing things but never does it?
Without taking action, it’s impossible to take responsibility.
Even if it’s small steps, as long as you’re doing the work and moving forward, your life will improve.
Remember, taking action starts with your habits. Taking little steps every day results in a big step over an extended period.
“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” ―Arnold Glasow
11) Hang out with people who don’t bring you down
A huge part of who you become is who you spend most of your time with.
Here’s a great quote from Tim Ferriss:
“But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
It’s your responsibility to choose people that will add to your life. People that encourage you to grow.
If you continually hang around toxic people who are always complaining and blaming, you’ll eventually do the same.
Choose to spend time with people who are mature, responsible and want to live a productive life.
Not only is hanging out with the right people crucial for your mindset, but it may also be a massive predictor for your happiness as well.
According to a 75-year Harvard study, our closest relationships could be the number one influence on our overall happiness in life.
Taking responsibility for your life is crucial if you want to get your act together.
The good news is, we’re all capable of taking responsibility and living the best life we possibly can.
The trick is to stop blaming other people and to focus on what we can control: our actions.
Once you start focusing on your daily habits and you do what you’ll say you’ll do, you’ll be well on your way to living the life you’ve always dreamed of.