A while ago I read something written by Mentor and Coach Darren Hardy. Essentially Hardy argued that whenever things aren’t going as planned, its time for an individual to take responsibility for their role in the situation at hand.
As a person who likes to feel in charge of how my life is unfolding in any given moment, I initially liked this sentiment. After all, it essentially agreed with and affirmed my outlook in life.
However, as I thought about this argument further, I found myself questioning Hardy’s assertion. My issue with his argument was the observation that too often many of us – myself included – take responsibility for things that are beyond our control (e.g. the actions, opinions, and behaviors of others).
Making note of this tendency, I began to ask myself: How often does this happen? That is, when do I tend to assume accountability? Does this sense of responsibility come from an authentic place or am I merely attempting to manage my own levels of discomfort around a particular issue? And more importantly, how do I know the difference?
As I have been watching myself in action, I have noticed that often I will take responsibility for a situation (read another person’s actions or experience) because I do not fully trust the individual to take care of him/herself. Likewise, it often feels like it is my job to take responsibility for another in a given situation.
The example that best comes to mind involves a recent experience I had with my mother. Specifically, the two of us went to take a public yoga class. Instead of treating the experience like a normal class I would take, I found myself attempting to serve as a personal coach for my mom throughout the session. At some point I even told the instructor, “Oh don’t worry about her. I’ll look after her.” Embedded in the comment was an apparent lack of faith in my mother’s ability to take care of herself or in the instructor’s willingness and ability to provide my mother with the necessary assistance or support to be able to remain safe within the class.
What I found surprising, and what motivated this talk, was that through my attempts to control the situation, and take “responsibility” for something that was not mine to take, I ended up neglecting the one person to whom I am always responsible – ME! For in trying to make sure my mother had a good first experience in a public yoga class, my own practice was a total disaster. So much so that I was still frustrated and upset three or four hours later. All because I had attempted to assume a level of accountability for another that wasn’t mine to take in the first place.
With those thoughts in mind, the questions I have for you are: When do you tend to take responsibility for a situation unnecessarily? What thoughts or beliefs might be motivating your actions? And what cost does this pattern of behavior have on you and the life you are striving to create?