Why it’s all your fault – and that’s a good thing!

Of all the attributes that contribute to someone's success, if you had to pick just ONE - what would it be?

Some might say ambition; others might say vision or passion. Some put emphasis on interpersonal skills or high levels of intelligence.

But after studying highly successful people for the past few years, there is one trait that strikes me as more important than any other. What is it?

Responsibility! The willingness to take 100% responsibility for one's results.

Especially in times like these, when blame is at an all-time high, self responsibility is at an all time low. It's the economy, the government, the credit card companies, the weather, your spouse, your boss, on and on the list goes.

I understand why people want to shirk responsibility, I do. For a short time, it makes us feel better to point the finger and absolve ourselves of blame when things aren't working out. Some people seems to be quite content being the victim of so many bad circumstances.

The problem with this victim-mentality is that if you have no control over your situation, you also have no power to change it. You will always be at the mercy of whatever you are blaming for your problem.

Take this one woman Kristy who has been struggling in her relationship with her manager. According to Kristy, she was unkind and grumpy and she was taking it personally. It was having a negative impact on her morale, her competence and her personal life.

When I spoke with her, I gently pointed out her part in the situation. As she took her manager's comments personally, she gave her words the power to affect her mood and her self-esteem.

I explained the E + R = O model. "The Event plus our Response equals our Outcome. The event never causes the outcome. It is always our response that gives us the outcome."

The event may be a harsh email from your manager. If your response is to deal with it head on and ask her if she meant to be harsh, she might tell you she is sorry and that she was just frustrated, not to be taken personally. Your response then is business as usual.

However if the event is the harsh email and you go into a tailspin and sulk all day or avoid her, she may get even more frustrated and you certainly will be less effective.

After a negative event or circumstance has occurred, the biggest indicator of how this situation will turn out for you is where your thoughts go. Do you think negatively and paint the "worst case scenario"? Is your mind focused on revenge, guilt or worry?

While she contemplated this, she said, "Well, I'm willing to admit I do take her comments personally. I'm willing to accept 50% responsibility for my part in this. But she has to take 50% responsibility too."

As much as I would have liked to let her off the hook with that - I really wanted to help her. So I told her 50% wasn't good enough. If you only accept 50% responsibility for your reaction to your manager, then you are still giving her power over you and you will always be a victim of her moods and words, etc.

Bottom line is...we can't change other people. All we can do is control our reactions to them.

This can be a very empowering discovery for people. As you accept 100% responsibility for your reactions and results in life, accept that it's all up to you, then you take back control. Not of the event, mind you, but of the ultimate outcome.

As I was working with Kristy, I was also working with her manager. As you can imagine, I've encouraged the manager to take 100% responsibility for the relationship and to control her reactions to Kristy.

With both of them taking 100% responsibility for the relationship, the manager reported to me last week that they are in very "Kumbaya" place.

There is no situation in life that we can't improve by accepting responsibility for it.



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