And How to Get Started
PART 2 OF 2
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In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the importance of accepting responsibility as well as the consequences that can result if we fail to do so. In Part 2, we’re going to look at how one accepts responsibility for their actions and the rewards that can result from doing so.
As you know from Part 1, there are two kinds of responsibility: personal and indirectresponsibility. Personal responsibility is being responsible for one’s own conduct, and indirect responsibility is taking responsibility for those around you or within your school/community. Let’s take a look at how to accept responsibility in each of these two areas.
Accepting Personal Responsibility
…When You Have Done Something Wrong
With respect to personal responsibility, when you’ve done something wrong, you can accept responsibility by following these steps:
- Own It…take ownership of your own behavior and admit your misconduct or failure-to-act when you should have done so;
- Apologize for It…offer a sincere apology to those you’ve wronged;
- Make Things Right…make amends or do what is needed, if possible, to correct what you have done;
- Take Your Medicine…accept whatever punishment is handed out for the poor choice that you made;
As simple as these steps may sound, they’re difficult steps to take. But accepting responsibility is part of growing up, and there are two significant advantages of doing so.
First, taking the steps outlined above will build character. If you step up to the plate in this way you’ll become a better person as a result, and you’ll learn how to make much better choices in the future. Second, the more readily you admit and take responsibility for a mistake, the less severe the consequences (most likely) will be.
For example, let’s say that you’ve cheated on a math test or failed to do your household chores. Your natural instinct may be to not admit you cheated and to make excuses for not completing your chores on a timely basis.
“Even when we know what is right, too often we fail to act. More often we grab greedily for the day, letting tomorrow bring what it will, putting off the unpleasant and unpopular.”
Bernard M. Baruch
But, we have to learn that our default settings are poor choices. By readily admitting to cheating, your teacher will respect your honesty in admitting your mistake, and will take this into consideration when determining a proper consequence. On the other hand, you can rest assured the harshest punishment will come if the teacher has to discover on his/her own that you’ve cheated.
Regarding the chores, don’t wait to be asked why they weren’t completed on time. Simply admit the honest reasons you didn’t do them – it might be plain old laziness, the fact that you ran out of time or that you simply forgot to do them. Whatever the reason, just be honest. Again, the more upfront you are about misdeeds, the less severe your punishment will likely be.
…When You Are Working To Do Things Right
You could probably sit down right now and make a list of all of your primary responsibilities. It wouldn’t take you but a few minutes and you would have a list of at least eight to ten of these – homework, proper conduct at school, cleaning up your room, saying “yes sir” and “no sir” and more. However, knowing what’s on your “responsibility list” and accepting responsibility for doing them are two different things. Just because you have knowledge of something that you’re expected to do isn’t an indication that you will do them and that other people around you have confidence in you that these things will get done. That only happens when you show that you know what you’re supposed to do and do it over and over again and for an extended period of time.
Here are a few things that you can do to fully accept responsibility for doing the right things:
- Make a Responsibility List…Identify and list all of the primary responsibilities that you have;
- Review this List Daily…Remind yourself of the things that you need to do today in order to remain on time and on schedule;
- Discuss the List with Others…Show your mom, dad or guardian the list of what you’re working to accomplish;
- Update Your List…This list will change, things will get completed, and new responsibilities will develop so keep your list current at all times, and
- Save Your Old Lists…As you update your list and make a new or revised one, save your old lists and go back and review them from time to time. This will help you understand the benefits of this responsibility list process and gain a sense of accomplishment for what you’ve done.
Accepting Indirect Responsibility…For Other People/Things
With respect to indirect responsibility – like looking out for those around you or within your school/community – taking responsibility here can involve many different things.
For example, you can pick up trash around your neighborhood, assist a teacher who needs an additional hand or you can report to authority figures the license plate number of the car that always speeds through the neighborhood. You can help an elderly neighbor or participate in a community group that is trying to improve your city. You can make an effort to become a friend to someone who doesn’t seem to have many friends. There are dozens of needs right around you…it’s up to you (choices remember) which one(s) you would like to help improve or make better.
When you take accepting responsibility to this indirect level, reaching beyond your own personal responsibilities, you become aware of those in need. You also develop a better understanding of the needs of your school and community and you become a more mature citizen. You gain self-respect as well as the respect of others from having personal and indirect responsibility. And, as an added bonus, your actions may encourage others to start being more responsible as well.
“This is the final test of a person;
their respect for those who can be of no possible service to them.”
William Lyon Phelps
The Rewards of Accepting Responsibility
As mentioned above, there are a number of rewards for accepting responsibility, ones that will pay dividends for you in the future. Let’s recap those:
Gaining Self-Respect…The first reward for accepting responsibility is gaining self-respect. You’ll develop a good feeling about yourself as you, week in and week out, take care of all the things that you’re responsible for doing.
Gaining the Respect of Others…As you follow your list and take care of the activities you’ve placed on it, other people will take notice. Your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends and classmates, even some people you don’t know will take note of the fact that you are taking care of business.
You Will Get More Done…By working your list and keeping it up-to-date, you’ll get more done every week and every month. It’s easy to waste time, but not quite as easy if you have your responsibility list in your pocket or purse.
Gain the Power to Change…Accepting responsibility will give you the power to make positive changes with your life. You can identify things that you want or need to do and place them on your list. Identifying needed better behavior items and placing them on your list will help you accomplish specific changes that you want to make in your life.
With accepting responsibility, there are always choices and they’re almost always YOUR choices to make. Good choices generally bring about good lives, and poor choices bring about the opposite. Owning and accepting responsibility for your own actions will ultimately determine the type of person you turn out to be.
Written by Shawn Jackson