When I say the word ‘responsibility’ to you, what does it mean? Do you experience negative or positive emotions when you hear this word?
For many people, responsibility is considered to have negative connotations. It means burden, routine, monotony along with a ‘heaviness’ and even a feeling of being trapped for some. I myself used to struggle with ‘responsibility’. I thought it clashed with my personal values – one of which is ‘fun & adventure’. I didn’t comprehend that responsibility could ever be fun or lead to empowerment.
Let’s break it down for a minute. If you take the word responsibility – it’s actually made up of two separate words:
It literally means ‘your ability to respond’. If you break this down even further, it means choice. By having the ‘ability’ to ‘respond’ you have choices available to you – it’s how you choose to deal with those choices that makes the difference.
If you think about the language we use around the word responsibility, you’ll notice that people talk about ‘taking’ responsibility – they generally are not ‘given’ it. So the very context in which we use the word evokes choice.
For me, once I understood that responsibility in-fact represented choices, I started to find it very empowering. And I think it often helps to remember this:
The world is made up of some 6 billion people and only some of us are lucky enough to have the luxury of choice.
I believe, in the western world, we have a responsibility to make empowered decisions – simply because we are lucky enough to live a life that offers choice. Many people aren’t so lucky – think of those born into countries of famine and war. They don’t have the luxury of choice.
Whether it’s about how we spend our days, our lives or even the way we choose to act towards others – these are all choices that we have the power to make.
And if you go back and look at historical icons from the past, anyone who has achieved anything truly great in the world understands that responsibility really does lead to empowerment:
“The price of greatness is responsibility.” Winston Churchill
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. “
John F. Kennedy
“If you take responsibility for yourself you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.” Les Brown
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” George Bernard Shaw
“In dreams, begins responsibility” William Butler Yeats
Oprah Winfrey once said something very insightful in her last ever TV show. This is what she said:
“Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.”
In-fact this was a lesson from neuro scientist Jill Bolte Taylor (an incredible woman who lost half of her brain and decided to take responsibility for her own recovery – I recently wrote a detailed post about her life).
This is a very powerful statement – and one that you can take away with you to use immediately.
We all have a choice for how we behave and the energy we choose to bring to each and every day – so perhaps next time you find yourself bringing negative energy you can remember Jill’s advice and choose to only bring positive energy to everything that you do.
Simple Life Strategy: How responsibility can empower you today
1. From today start to view the word ‘responsibility’ as ‘positive choice’.
2. Consider how many choices you have available to you and how lucky you are to have the opportunity to ‘choose’ how you live your life.
3. Make a conscious decision to use your power of choice wisely and to do some good in the world.
4. Notice an opportunity to take responsibility and TAKE it today. GRAB it by the horns and commit to it. It doesn’t have to be a goal – you can simple decide to ‘take responsibility for the energy you bring to your day’ by choosing a positive attitude instead of a negative one. Either way choose to embrace your ability to respond.
5. Reflect at the end of your day with the knowledge and satisfaction that today – you didn’t waste your luxury of choice.
If you were to make a positive choice today, what would it be?
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