Responsibility. Young woman standing outside on a balcony


If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.

~Les Brown

We all have the responsibility for our own lives. That may seem obvious, but there’s a big difference between acknowledging that fact and actually incorporating it into how we live our lives. If we truly embrace our responsibility for our lives, we live our lives according to what gives our lives meaning and what makes us happy.

It’s up to you

It’s extremely easy to live a reactive life, bouncing around based on what’s happening to you and using external cause and effect as the foundation for where your life is going. But the fact is, the direction our lives take is totally and completely up to us. It may not seem like that sometimes—we all have elements of our lives that seem totally out of our control—but if we take a closer look, we might find that many of those elements are in our lives by choice. We could choose to drop them if it came down to it (see Choice). We also might find that we’re letting those things dictate the direction of our lives when we could be taking more control of some of those “out-of-our-control” elements.

The distinction between day-to-day control over our lives and the overall direction our lives are heading is also important. There are certainly many elements of our lives we appear to not have much choice over. It’s important that we take care of our kids, take care of our house, and make a living, for example. But if those are the only things we give our time and energy to, then we’re letting external circumstances dictate the direction of our lives. However, if we incorporate some of the elements that are a vital part of where WE want our lives to go, then we can both take care of business and work on those visionary or life-directing elements in our lives. Examples of these kinds of activities include learning a musical instrument, training for a marathon, working on the next great novel, or working on new skills that can land us our dream job. Saving some of our time and energy for the things that will take us down our desired life path is one way we can take responsibility for where our lives will go.

The blame game

When you’re in a rut, it can all too easy to blame your circumstances on external factors.
“My job takes up all of my time.”
“Everything I earn goes toward paying my mortgage.”
“My girlfriend is making me miserable.”
It’s easy to fixate on the reasons why your life is not what you want it to be instead of focusing your energy on making it what you want it to be and taking action toward that end.

Deciding what affects you

We all move through the world and are exposed to a wide range of experiences and interactions. Some people allow almost all of these experiences and interactions to impact their outlook and emotions. You have a flat tire, and it throws you into a bad mood. Your significant other is irritable, and it makes you feel frustrated and ill-treated. You have too much on your plate at work, and it makes you feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. We all have experiences like these, but it’s up to us how much they impact us. It all comes down to developing a level of detachment from the day-to-day turmoil we experience. That doesn’t mean we won’t have emotional reactions but rather that we reserve our emotional reactions for the things that are important or meaningful to us. It means taking responsibility for our mood and outlook.


When something very bad happens to us—something that significantly impacts our lives—it’s only natural to always point to that event and use it as a reason why our lives are going down a certain path. But it’s still our responsibility to take stock of where those events leave us and make our lives everything they can be despite the emotional, physical, or situational realities resulting from the tragedy. We are still responsible for our lives today. We are still responsible for the happiness and meaning in our lives. No one can take that away from us.

Responsibility gives you a sense of freedom!

“What? How does that make sense?!”
It’s true. When you realize that you don’t have to rely on anyone else for the path your life takes, it gives you the freedom to take bold actions, to think about your life in a visionary way, and to move toward your vision with your whole heart and mind. This doesn’t mean we should disregard what others think or not live up to our commitments in our lives but rather that we can’t ascribe responsibility to those people or commitments. The responsibility for your happiness and meaning in your life is yours and yours alone. Even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, you are free to pursue the life you want, and it is your responsibility to do so.

Your life is yours. Take responsibility and make it the best it can be.

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