How to be Successful by Taking Responsibility

by Stephen Mills on March 22, 2009


Note:  This is the second article in the series “How to be Successful by…”.  This series examines what traits successful people have in common.  Here is the first article in the series: How to be Successful by Practicing Resilience.

Circumstances?  I make them.  –Napoleon Bonaparte

You must take 100% responsibility for your own life.  This means everything in your life.  Make sure you understand this critical success factor with crystal clarity.  If you don’t then you will fail.

In Brief…

If you don’t accept that you are responsible for your current (and future) life situation, then you will not accept that you are powerful enough to change your current (and future) life situation.

Please read that again and if you don’t accept it you will fail.  If you can’t get past that, you are wasting your time here.

E + R = O

(E)vents + (R)esponse = (O)utcome.  This is a very powerful formula for taking responsibility.  Your response to the event is just as much a part of the outcome as the event itself.  Since you control your response and can change it, you can change the outcome.  This is a powerful, and for most people life-changing idea.

In Depth…

You Are Your Decisions

Your situation right now is the total accumulated result of your prior decisions and your response to events in your life.  Your decisions were yours, so your situation is yours.  Own it.  Accept it.  Move on and improve it.

Stop Blaming Others and Making Excuses

  • You bought it.
  • You married it.
  • You did it.
  • You chose it.
  • You responded to it.
  • You ate it.
  • You believed it.
  • You did nothing.

Stop With All the Complaining

I read the following tweet on Twitter the other day:

If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  —@SuccessMastery

You have limited time and energy.  You can expend them complaining or doing something about it.

Stop Letting Things Happen To You

Your failure to take positive action, is in itself, a choice to act and remain passive.  Things don’t just happen to you.  Your outcome is based upon your response to those events.  If you just sit there and let it happen, you are choosing the results.  You created the life you have now and you will create the life you will have in the future.

10 Basic Actions Towards Living Responsibly

  1. Be Mindful.  This is the most fundamental level of taking responsibility for your life.  At any time, you can choose to bring attention and focus to what you are doing or not doing.  You can choose to think or to avoid thinking.  Your level of awareness is your responsibility.  A successful person will live with a high level of awareness at all times and choose to accept responsibility by choosing to think.
  2. Be Healthy.  Every time you put food in your mouth you are choosing what you are putting there and how often you put it there.  You can eat broccoli or cookies.  Nobody takes responsibility for their weight.  “It’s my genes.”  Your genes do not eat.  They may impact how your body processes food but they cannot force you to eat crap.  Your health is fundamental to your happiness and to life itself.  You can choose to be healthy or you can blame your genes and fail.  17 Tips for Sticking to Your Diet and Getting Fit
  3. Be Happy.  My happiness and emotional health spiraled upward the day I decided that life was how I responded to events and not to the events themselves.  Be responsible for your life with the following affirmation:  I am responsible for how I respond to events; events external to my own self and events internally within my own mind and body.
  4. Learn Continuously.  Life is a process of growing.  It is not a destination, it is a journey.  The more you learn the better you are able to deal with life’s challenges and opportunities.  You cannot say you “didn’t know”, when you had the opportunity to learn.  The more you know the more likely it will be that you will choose the optimal course of action in response to the events in your life.
  5. Cultivate Positive Relationships.   The complement of this is to eliminate negative relationships.  You are responsible for the mate you chose.  You are responsible for staying with that mate.  You are responsible for choosing your friends and your social circle.  You need to take responsibility for choosing your companions and cultivate positive and healthy relationships.  You need to take responsibility for eliminating negative and toxic relationships.  If someone in your family is toxic, you must change it into a positive relationship or eliminate it.  The consequences of this decision are your responsibility.  You cannot blame your toxic friend or family member because you chose how to respond.  You cannot choose others’ behavior, but you can choose to eliminate the relationship.
  6. Do Not Enable Victims.  If your friend says “Life is really shafting me.”, you can choose to enable and encourage that attitude or you can choose to help them turn it around and accept responsibility for their situation.  If you enable their victimization, you will be sucked into the consequences of that negativity.
  7. Maintain Balance In Your Life.  For a large part of my life I was irresponsibly unbalanced.  I worked myself almost to death.  I hurt myself and others as a result.  You must be responsible for maintaining a healthy balance in your life between work, family and friends, and personal growth.
  8. Be Positive.  Do not spread negativity and victimization.  Refuse to be a part of this spreading poison.  The U.S. and much of the rest of the world is suffering an epidemic of victimization.  Being responsible in this area is difficult for me personally.  But I have chosen to be responsible and am doing something about it.  This will be the subject of a later post in this series.
  9. Create Your Vision, Purpose, and Goals.  If you don’t know where you are going you are going to have a difficult time getting anywhere.  If the ship doesn’t have a captain it is going to wander aimlessly and then end up shipwrecked.  You will probably wreck others around you in the process.  Review these articles:
    Vision, Purpose, Goals
    Find Happiness Outside the Rat Race
    What is the ONE THING in Your Life?
    Doing What Matters to You Now
  10. Give Back.  Take responsibility for your community and your world by giving something back.  You should want to make the world a better place.  I will be fulfilled at the end of my life knowing I left a little bit of me in the world and the others I left behind.  What else is there?

What do you think?  Subscribe to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or to a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you aboard.

{ 2 trackbacks }

How to Be Successful by Believing in Your Dream — The Rat Race Trap
March 29, 2009 at 7:41 am
17 Ways to Achieve Heroic Goals — The Rat Race Trap
April 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Karl Staib - Work Happy Now March 22, 2009 at 11:42 am

When we take responsibility for our own lives, we stop living by other people’s rules and live by our own. I love your line, “My happiness and emotional health spiraled upward the day I decided that life was how I responded to events and not to the events themselves.”

I feel the same way you do. I stopped putting my happiness on other people’s shoulders and took the responsibility to make my life enjoyable. Now I’m actually loving life. Believe me my life isn’t perfect, but every day is a test in finding creative ways to enjoy the good and bad.


Stephen - Rat Race Trap March 22, 2009 at 2:00 pm

@Karl, if life was perfect, we would hate it. Richard Nixon said something like “It is the depth of the valley that make the height of the summit possible”.


Giovanna Garcia March 23, 2009 at 1:51 am

I couldn’t agree with you more about ‘taking responsibility’. If we want to be successful we have to take responsibility of our life and what we do in it. Anyone who play the victimization game are never going to get what they want in life.
Thank you for a great post, I stumbled it 🙂
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action


Stephen - Rat Race Trap March 23, 2009 at 5:54 am

Thank you so much Giovanna. You’re the best!


Clement @ The Way Of Money .com March 24, 2009 at 4:28 am

Lovely post. I am 100% with you on this one.

When I blame external forces for my woes, I don’t have to deal with the feeling that I’ve not met one of my standards.

Not every woe is a direct result of my actions – but as Covey says, between stimulus and response we have a choice and if I’m clever, I’ll take it!



Jay Schryer March 27, 2009 at 8:38 am

This is an awesome post! This is something that I have “known” for a long time, but only recently began to internalize. I think there are a lot of people like me in the world on this issue…we “know” it, but don’t really “accept” it. When I finally began to accept it, and live my life accordingly, things began to change rapidly (for the better). I have a saying: “Anyone can call you an idiot. If you believe it about yourself, then it hurts. If you don’t believe it, then you laugh it off.” It’s the same thing with events in our lives. What happens to us isn’t as important as how we choose to interpret those events. When we change our perceptions and reactions, we change our world.


Stephen - Rat Race Trap March 27, 2009 at 8:46 pm

@Clement, Thank you so much for the kind words. You may not be directly responsible, but as you indicate, you are responsible for your response. And that Covey quote actually comes originally from the great Victor Frankl. It’s beautiful.

@Jay, Comments like yours are what motivates me to continue the effort. Thank you. I think all of us to some extent fail to own our circumstances. The key is if you don’t own it, you won’t feel like you can do anything. Big mistake!


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