Careers Succeeding at Work How to Take Responsibility for Your Life When You Take Responsibility for Your Life, You Achieve Your Dreams Share PINTEREST Email Print Yukmin / Getty Images Succeeding at Work Human Resources Management Careers Job Search Resources Hiring Best Practices Glossary Employment Law Employee Motivation Employee Management Management & Leadership Employee Benefits Table of Contents Expand Who's Responsible for Your Life? If You Don't Take Responsibility? Make No Excuses Take Responsibility for Your Life Taking Responsibility or Blaming? You Matter Your Thoughts Matter By Susan M. Heathfield Susan M. Heathfield Susan Heathfield is an HR and management consultant with an MS degree. She has decades of experience writing about human resources. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 01/05/20 Who's Responsible for Your Life? You are totally responsible for your life. This is the foundational principle you must embrace if you plan for happiness and success in your life and work. For many people, everything is someone else’s fault. Every problem can be explained away with reasons why they can’t affect the situation or the outcome, especially at work where it is easy to find excuses because people are so closely intertwined—and every project has a chain of internal customers who are dependant on others in the chain. Every failure has a scapegoat that they can use to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions—failure is never the result of the choices they made. If You Don't Take Responsibility? But without taking responsibility, you're all the more likely to look at your career as a failure because you allowed any passing wind to blow you around, all the while blaming the wind for how things turned out. When you fail to responsibly guide your direction and outcomes, you set the stage for creating a miserable life—a life that fulfills none of your dreams and aspirations. Make No Excuses Excuses for failure, excuses about your choices in life, excuses about what you feel you have accomplished—and what you have not—fuel dysfunctional thinking and consequently, undesirable actions and behaviors. Making excuses instead of taking one hundred percent responsibility for your actions, your thoughts, and your goals are the hallmark of people who fail to succeed both in their professional lives and personal lives. Part of the power of taking responsibility for your actions is that you silence the negative, unhelpful voice in your head. When you spend your thinking time on success and goal accomplishment, instead of on making excuses, you free up the emotional space formerly inhabited by negativity. This is especially true as that negative voice in your head will run endless tapes of dissatisfaction and rehearse negative, unsatisfying outcomes over and over and over again—ad nauseum. The next time you catch yourself making an excuse, whether for the late project, the unmet goal, or the job you have chosen to work, gently remind yourself—no excuses. Interrupt that incessant tape that is playing in your mind and stop rehearsing that excuse-filled conversation. Spend your thought time planning your next successful venture. Appreciate what you have today, not what you sorrow over from yesterday, or are concerned about for tomorrow. Positive thinking becomes a helpful habit. Excuses for your already taken actions fuel failure. Take Responsibility for Your Life People who take complete responsibility for their lives experience joy and control of circumstances. They are able to make choices because they understand that they are responsible for their choices. Indeed, even when events that are not under your control go awry, you can at the very least determine how you will react to the event. You can make an event a disaster or you can use it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. The most important aspect of taking responsibility for your life is to acknowledge that your life is your responsibility. No one can live your life for you. You are in charge. No matter how hard you try to blame others for the events of your life, each event is the result of choices you made and are making. Want to travel? Then, travel. It is not your job, your spouse or partner, the cost, or the time that holds you back from achieving your dreams. It is you. Want to weigh a certain number of pounds? Then, eat and exercise like the person who would weigh that particular weight. Want a promotion into a management position? Then, act like, look like, and practice the actions that successful managers exhibit in your organization in that role, Make your desire known, too, as you will never realize your goal if you keep it a secret. Passed over several times? Ask what you need to do to earn a promotion. Are you still passed over? Look for a new job to continue to pursue your dream. Are You Taking Responsibility or Placing Blame? Above all else, listen to that little voice in your head. And, observe yourself talking with coworkers, family members, and friends. Do you hear yourself taking responsibility or placing blame? Eliminate blame, eliminate excuses. If the blame track or the excuse track plays repeatedly in your mind, you are shifting responsibility for your decisions and life to others. Listen to yourself when you speak. In your conversation, do you hear yourself blame others for things that don’t go exactly as you want? Do you find yourself pointing fingers at your coworkers or your upbringing, your parent’s influence, the amount of money that you make, or your spouse? Are you making excuses for goals unmet or tasks that missed their deadlines? If you can hear your blaming patterns, you can stop them. If an individual you respect supplies feedback that you make excuses and blame others for your woes, take the feedback seriously. Control your defensive reaction and explore examples and deepen your understanding of the coworker or friend. People who responsibly consider feedback attract much more feedback. You Matter Live every day as if what you do matters—because it does. Every choice you make; every action you take—matters. Your choices matter to you and create the life you live. Your choices matter at work, too. You choose the path of productivity and contribution or, you choose the path of a marginal employee. Every action you take affects organizational progress in one way or in another. You always make a difference. Let that difference move the world forward. You matter. And, your thoughts matter, too. Your Thoughts Matter “Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality." Earl Nightingale’s apt summation of the power of your thoughts is one of the most significant statements ever made. Think about it. Your thoughts are always with you. And, they tend to play themselves over and over again in your head. They either support you to think about and take positive action or the opposite. Your thoughts either criticize or support the accomplishment of your goals. Listen to the voice in your mind. You know the drill. Negative thoughts are overwhelming and they can take control of your mind for days. But, how to get even, how to replay or recast a situation that has already occurred, or how to make excuses or blame others is not powerful, positive thinking. When your thoughts are negative or unsupportive of your happiness and success, you have to change your thinking. Gently—don’t beat yourself up—redirect your thinking to thoughts that will support your success and happiness. Laugh, if you can, when you think about the time you spent obsessing over matters that are over and completed. Your thoughts govern the success of your interpersonal interactions. Your thoughts are the headlights illuminating your path in the darkness. They always precede you and your actions. Said Nightingale, “The mind moves in the direction of our currently dominant thoughts." Believe him.