How to be responsible

Understand that responsibility is earned.

It’s not something you’re entitled to. If someone is hesitant to give you additional responsibility, it’s probably because you’ve been nonchalant with the responsibilities you already have. You might think, “But the responsibilities I have now are so petty/boring/stupid/etc., and if I’m given more of a challenge, I will take it more seriously,” but that’s a characteristic of irresponsible people; they do things as long as they’re challenging, fun, and new, and when that fades, they lose interest.

Stop making excuses.

In any situation, there are always some factors we can’t control. Irresponsible people tend to shift the blame onto those factors, and vocalize them as excuses. Anytime you make an excuse, it’s like saying “I am not responsible for this because…” and what you’re really saying is “I am not responsible.” Pay attention to how you think and talk: do you find yourself making excuses? Excuses come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common is “I would/would’ve, but…”

  • The next time you catch yourself in the middle of an excuse, change your words. Instead, admit whyyou really didn’t get that thing done. Were you too lazy, too tired, or just feeling like doing something more fun? It’s okay to admit it. In fact, it’s best to admit your real reasons for not doing something before you move on.

Admit your mistakes.

Making the most of a mistake is a double-whammy of responsibility. Not only does this transform time that was otherwise wasted into a valuable, course-altering experience, but it keeps you from wasting future time by ensuring that you don’t repeat yourself. One of the key parts of accepting responsibility is being able to say, “I really messed up here. I won’t do it again.”

  • The next time you find yourself in a similar situation, remind yourself about what you did wrong the last time, and make sure you don’t go down that path again.

Stop blaming other people for your problems.

Another way to accept responsibility is to stop putting the blame on everyone around you. Keep telling yourself that you failed your math test because you didn’t study, not because your teacher hates you; you cheated on your boyfriend because you chose to do so, not because he wasn’t giving you enough attention; you were late to work because you didn’t get out of the house early enough, not because of the horrible traffic. Sure, life isn’t fair, and unfortunately, some people have it rougher than others. You can blame your parents for not loving you enough and leading you down a dark path to an extent, but you won’t be able to change the course of your life until you own up to your actions and try to change them.

Stop playing the victim.

The world is not out to get you. If you want to start being responsible, then stop thinking that everyone is out to make you fail or look bad. The police officer didn’t give you that speeding ticket because he or she was determined to punish you; he or she did it because you were breaking the law. Your boss didn’t decline to give you a raise because he or she wanted to see you fail; he or she did it because your performance didn’t merit one, or because the company simply couldn’t pay up.

Accept what you cannot control.

Think it’s important to accept responsibility for your actions, it’s equally important to understand that there are some things in life that are simply out of your control. You can’t be responsible for your best friend’s drinking problem; you can’t be responsible for the failure of your entire company unless it’s single-handedly your fault; you can’t be responsible for your irresponsible roommate’s failure to pay the rent in a timely fashion. Focus on the things that you can control, and don’t try to fix all of the problems in the world, or you’ll just be headed for a headache.

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