One of the more helpful habits I've developed is taking responsibility for everything in my life. This is a strong contrast to the average victim / "things happen to me" mentality that a lot of people have.
Basically I assume that anything "bad" that happens in my life is a direct result of actions I took. If I lose money in the stock market I don't think, "Oh man... I'm so unlucky... the stocks went down."
Instead I think, "I bought those stocks and I lost money because of a decision I made."
I even take responsibility for other people's actions as they affect me. If a girl I'm dating goes nuts and does something stupid I tend to assume that it was actions I took that caused her to do that.
That doesn't mean that she couldn't have taken responsibility for my bad actions and reacted better, but it does mean that I recognize my part in everything and assume that even if I'm only 10% responsible, there was probably something I could have done to get the outcome I wanted.
If I approach a girl and it goes badly, it's because my approach wasn't good enough, not because of some problem with her.
I do this because I want to constantly critically think about decisions I've made and actions I've taken and learn from them. It also promotes taking an active role in one's life. My failures are my responsibility as are my successes. My future is in my hands alone.
I'm a strong believer that everyone gets what they deserve, at least in the first world where we have mechanisms for upwards mobility. You reap what you sow.
It doesn't work in EVERY single case because of variance, but the people that take more responsibility and action tend to get what they're going for. The people that think everything HAPPENS to them tend to never get what they want.
Not always, of course, but 90+% of the time.
At the same time, I never feel bad about decisions I've made. There's no point. The best thing that can be done is to analyze the mistake and use that info for future decision making.
Life is actually easier when you take responsibility because it helps make the right course of action clear.
"My site isn't popular enough. What can I do to make it more popular?"
is a lot more empowering than:
"WTF? My site is awesome. Why aren't people visiting?"
I don't actually think I'm doing this topic justice. It's hard to articulate.
I stumbled upon this post and was instantly hit by that brief flash of annoyance you get when you realize you're not really that original after all. Gotta love that.
But yeah, this is pretty much how I live, and I totally agree with you. I'm not sure when I started thinking like this, but it's done nothing but good things for me thus far. Like you, I'm having trouble doing it justice, but you really touched on the core of it with the "At the same time, I never feel bad about decisions IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve made" point. Full responsibility, no regrets. It just...makes sense. Hats off.
Amen! If only more people would adopt this mindset, I think we'd have a much better country. I've been on this kick for a good many years now. I make decisions, and I have to live with the results they bring, good or bad. Good: do it again. Bad: rethink and try something else. So very simple, yet so impossible to convince others who are mired in the victim mentality.
I really loved this post. This philosophy of Personal Responsibility for EVERYTHING is very empowering and causes a lot of desire for growth!
Sometimes, for sure, it is weird to take responsibility for things like a girl having a boyfriend... but really you're taking responsibility for YOUR actions up to that point which CAUSED her to TELL YOU she had a boyfriend. This last point has happened a few times recently in my life, and I've begun applying the strategies from your book to deal with it.
Not sure if you've read it, but Steve Pavlina's post about this, he calls it Subjective Reality. It aligns very well with this, and he takes it a step further: you are 100% responsible for EVERYTHING in your life. Including stories you see on the news. WTF?
This philosophy is right on. All too often, people get caught up in blaming other people or events for their problems rather than owning up for their own decision making. Taking "full responsibility" for yourself, as well as learning from any reprocussions from your decisions, I think, directly correlates to a happier overall life-outlook!
This is similar to a Tony Robbins approach that he calls "asking empowering questions". People tend to ask disempowering questions and get appropriate results.
Also reminds me of the difference between problem solvers and problem sympathizers. Did you ever see the "White Men Can't Jump"? There was a scene between Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez where she says she's thirsty and he gets her a glass of water. She gets upset at him because she just wanted sympathy and he wanted to solve her thirst.
Here's the transcript. Scroll down to "thirsty"
Interesting approach. I haven't fully assimilated the idea of taking complete responsibility for other people's actions yet myself. You might not have intended it, but that's a very subjective reality perspective. It does seem like a very empowering approach.
"At the same time, I never feel bad about decisions IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve made. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no point. The best thing that can be done is to analyze the mistake and use that info for future decision making."
I logically get that, and try to do it, but sometimes it's hard for me not to beat myself up for bad decisions I've made.
In poker you often win not by playing your cards, but by playing your opponents cards. My good friend and sometimes poker mentor once told me that to become a winning poker player, you must learn to win the pots that no one has a legitimate claim to. If you have an excellent hand, you'll probably win. If he has an excellent hand, he'll probably win. But if neither of you has a particularly good hand, the pot is up for grabs. It's in situations like these that rather than playing your hand, you focus on your opponents weakness.
In real life, too, I find a lot of value in working from other people's weaknesses, especially societal weaknesses. As urbanization continues along with population growth, standing out from the crowd becomes more and more difficult. Even if you are exceptional, your impression can drown amongst the sea of other people everyone is meeting. The solution, or part of it anyway, is to identify what society at large is bad at, and excel at it. By doing so, you become even more distinct as the field increases.
Here are some examples of ways I try to distance myself from the crowd.
1. Always be on time. Being late has become the standard. I never expect anyone to show up to anything on time, and I'm usually not surprised. Most people won't be terribly late, but five or ten minutes of tardiness is the norm. For the past few months I've made a point of always being on time for everything. A week or two ago I was half an hour late making a phone call, and I still remember it today because it was such an egregious violation of this standard.
We humans are a strange bunch. Being equipped with the miracle of verbal and written communication, we get a 'pass' on something the rest of the animal kingdom relies on for survival: Speaking and listening in actions, not words.
It's taken me a long time to realize how poorly my action-related communication syncs to my verbal communication. I grew up believing it was OK to say one thing, but to do another. Many of us do. It's easy to fabricate worlds where we say one thing but do something completely contrary, and as a society few people call us out on the disparity. I'm not sure why this is. The best reason I've come up with is that few of us are tuned into "listening to actions, not words" enough to notice it.
As I've slowly become aware of the disparity, the main reason I've often failed to achieve parity between my spoken commitments and my actions is that it's a really, really hard skill to master. It takes meaningful, consistent effort to 'say as you do, and do as you say'. Life is full of small opportunities to massage the effect of one's actions with a stream of words that cover up the true meaning of the underlying actions. Our spoken (and written -- but mainly spoken, since it's more extemporaneous) communication acts as a type of elbow grease that makes interactions between humans run more smoothly -- or so we think.
Examples are plentiful and commonplace: