We can learn a lot about responsibility from bugs.

The ant works hard in the sweltering heat all summer long, building its house and
loading up on supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.  Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.  The grasshopper has no food or shelter,
so it dies out in the cold.

The lesson?  Accept responsibility for your actions.  We’ve had it drilled into our heads that actions have consequences.  So why are people surprised when the consequences are less desirable than they anticipated?

Take it from Albert Einstein: “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility.”

When people fail to take responsibility for their own actions, the blame game begins.  There’s always a scapegoat nearby, but that strategy doesn’t take long to unravel.

I recently watched a program about people in prison.  It was fascinating to hear so many deny responsibility for their actions.  Nothing was their fault, especially the incidents that landed each of them in jail.   They expected others to be responsible for them.

Others understood that their sentences were justified, given their actions.  They acknowledged their mistakes and learned their lessons the hard way.  They were determined to change their lives.  This is why taking responsibility for yourself and your actions is so powerfully important.

My buddy Denis Waitley, who writes and lectures on personal, professional and financial success, says, “A sign of wisdom and maturity is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences.  You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make.”

Responsibility – like discipline – is one of those words that has been pounded into our heads so many times from authority figures that we often turn a deaf ear.  That’s a big mistake.  Accepting responsibility is an indication of good character.

In your work life, it is certainly also a major asset.  The boss or employee who says “The buck stops here” earns the trust and respect of managers and co-workers.

Another good friend Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and life coach, said, “Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.”

Understand that responsibility is earned.  It’s not something you’re entitled to.  If someone is hesitant to give you additional responsibility, it might be because you’ve been nonchalant with the responsibilities you already have.  A responsible person does what they said they’d do, because they said they would.  Period.

So if you want to be seen as more responsible, think about the responsibilities you already have, and take them more seriously, no matter how pointless they might seem.  Consider it a way to pay your dues.

LIVESTRONG.COM, the website associated with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, lists the behavior traits that need to be developed in order to accept personal responsibility:

  • Seek out and accept help for yourself.
  • Be open to new ideas or concepts about life and the human condition.
  • Refute irrational beliefs and overcome fears.
  • Affirm yourself positively.
  • Recognize that you choose your responses to the people, actions and events in your life.
  • Let go of anger, fear, blame, mistrust and insecurity.
  • Take risks and become vulnerable to change and grow in your life.
  • Reorganize your priorities and goals.
  • Realize that you are the party in charge of the direction your life takes.

In ancient Rome, when the scaffolding was removed from a completed Roman arch, the law read that the Roman engineer who built the arch had to stand beneath it.  The point was, if the arch came crashing down, he would experience the responsibility first hand.  As a result, the Roman engineer knew that the quality of his work was crucial and would have a direct personal impact on his life.

You may never have to place yourself in such physical danger, but you may have to stick your neck out when you accept responsibility for your actions.  That means you are able to hold your head high!


Mackay’s Moral:  When you take responsibility you take control of your life.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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