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A Challenge: Taking Responsibility

“Take Responsibility.” This simple phrase has such a deep impact yet few people ever stop to ponder. Be a responsible adult, don’t go out drinking on a Wednesday night. Be a responsible citizen, don’t litter. Be a responsible employee, don’t spend all day on Facebook.
The purpose of responsibility is to really take ownership of one’s actions and decisions. Example: boredom. One of my friends loves the phrase “Bored people are boring,” but I like “Bored people are not taking responsibility for their current situation.”
Jane turns to Joe and says: “I’m bored.” Whose responsibility is it to cure Jane’s boredom? Joe’s? Jane is the person who is bored. Jane is the person who is making the decisions to be bored. Being bored is an excuse. It’s an excuse that propagates more boredom. Although the choice is generally not conscious, it is still a choice. She is choosing to not find something better to do.
For months, I have been plagued by the problem of boredom at work. I started a new position where my roles and responsibilities are incredibly vague as I am creating the position from scratch. Most people, even those with whom I work closely, do not know how I can be of use. Given little direction, I made the (unconscious) decision to slide into boredom. I used the excuse, "No one has given me a project,” to defend my boredom. I would tell my friends and family as if I had no other choice than to be bored. In reality, I was not taking responsibility for my boredom. In reality, I caused my plight and was refusing to take responsibility for my (in)actions. I made excuses instead of taking responsibility.
Responsibility is such a simple idea yet very few of us actually take responsibility in our daily lives. Responsibility extends beyond finding projects at work or filling your spare time. It extends to our spending habits. It extends into our politics. Our society makes excuses, and I challenge you. Take responsibility.

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    Apr 27 2013: Sometimes its hard to take responsibility; sometimes its very hard to take responsibility. The easiest thing to do is just to toss blames on someone else or something else. And yes; life is full of routine and its pretty burdensome if one is in for a lifetime of pursuing thrills.

    Such is life. Happiness is a choice, this has been said again and again on TED conversations. We may not be able to control the weather or other people's attitude or the routines of life. It is almost impossible to be permanently happy.

    But we should take advantage of our power to choose; and strive to choose wisely.
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      Apr 28 2013: I agree with you 100% It is very hard to take responsibility....No one wants to suffer consequences of making the wrong decision, and that's why they want to toss the blame on others, or on circumstances.

      Personally, I think the ability to take responsibility and accept consequences when you've done wrong are things that should be taught by parents....Some days I hate taking responsibility for things, and really wish I could blame my not-so-great decisions on something else, but I was raised to accept the consequences and take responsibility for my actions.

      And yes, happiness is a choice...We can choose to let our situation upset us, or we can choose to be happy and not let things get us down.
  • Apr 29 2013: Hi Linda!

    I totally get what you mean. If there's one truism about being human, it's that we are responsible for our own happiness.

    I was a victim of a car crash about ten years ago, and it took me years before I could 'take responsibility' for my own happiness, without blaming someone else for my misery. Sure, I had an actual someone to blame, but it kept me in a self-fulfilling prophecy - I was a victim Someone made me that victim, and I felt very comfortable about blaming him for as long as I could instead of confronting myself and taking that 'dive into the lake of me'.

    When not only my own health but my marriage began to suffer, I had no choice but to take responsibility. I want to stress the fact that I had no choice - continuing on the downward spiral of self-loathing caused by playing the victim for so many years was simply not an option. It took me years to climb out of that role, but I am aware every single day of the destructive patterns lingering in my psyche, that are ready to take over the moment I let my guard down.

    I realize this is more extreme than 'boredom' at work. The point I am making has to do with our overall happiness as human beings, and that there is only one individual who is responsible for that.
    • Apr 30 2013: Lizanne,

      I love it. Not the car crash part but the responsibility part. Sometimes it takes a downward spiral to help us wake up, but truly we have the decision to be complacent in our daily lives or take responsibility and take actions to make changes. It can be difficult because it requires a good amount of self reflection but don't you feel better living a conscious, responsible life knowing in which you are in control?

      Good job and keep it up!

      • Apr 30 2013: Absolutely Linda!
        Also, in knowing that I am in control of taking control, but not in control of what life may toss at me... Which helps me enjoy its little serendipities... ;)
  • Apr 28 2013: I live by the phrase: "Look in the mirror!"
    To be honest, I didn't always live by that but it has become my mantra over the last 20+ years.
    I never become bored either! If I have chores to do but my health prevents me from doing them, I do something I can, like writing or drawing, even reading a book. The chores will still be there when I am able and so will the book.
    Like it has been said: You can have all the knowledge in the world but the wisdom to use it is another thing all together.
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    Apr 26 2013: Taking responsibility in situations such as you have identified is definitely the most constructive attitude! I couldn't say that few people consider what it means to be responsible. I would think many do, though some, as you say, prefer to sit back and blame anyone and everything else, ignoring the range of motion they do have.

    To me this is very much about whether you are a passive receiver of what life offers or whether you see yourself as an active agent in making your life and taking advantage of opportunities.
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    Apr 30 2013: Those who are bored take the most for granted... Number one thing being a privileged enough mind to not worry about basic needs like shelter and food... They are taking their mind for granted, what your mind can provide for you is everything and anything as far as bettering yourself as an individual. As far as wanting to be someone famous, well, if that is the goal, you will always be bored.

    Perhaps some of this discussion can carry over to recent bombings and shootings in America?
    • Apr 30 2013: To me the conversation carries over into financial decisions and politics. If we can take responsibility over our choices as consumers or voters, our country would not be in its current shape.

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        May 1 2013: "If we can take responsibility over our choices as consumers or voters, our country would not be in its current shape"

        This is a debatable point. Mostly because many times as consumers and voters, the general public is misled and lied to. Many times choices are made due to manipulation of facts.

        A store used to run an ad on tv when I was young. It said "An educated consumer is our best customer".

        Today, sadly, many people trust what they hear, read and see.

        There is alot to discuss on this.....
        • May 1 2013: Hi Mary,

          I would debate whether consumers are lied to or whether they are simply apathetic. Not to argue semantics, but by saying companies mislead and lie to consumers, you are placing the blame on companies. We as consumers should take responsibility for our actions and our choices and choose to not shop or support companies that lie or mislead us. By taking the responsibility upon ourselves, we can vote with our dollars for companies that are transparent and support causes we believe in.

          Your semantics imply that consumers are powerless to businesses and corporations but that is because it is easier to blame the companies than realize that we have a choice and a responsibility to hold companies accountable. Companies don't make money unless we give it to them.

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        May 2 2013: Linda, of course you are correct.

        But...... many times consumers are oblivious to the goings on of companies. A good number of people don't really understand, or frankly cares, why they get to purchase cheap items at one store, when the same item costs more somewhere else.

        Some of us listen to a variety of news reports, and read, and are online, and so are somewhat educated, but I don't think that is the case with everyone.

        It has made me sick to hear, for example, what is happening in Bangladesh.
        I have made a conscious decision based on the knowledge I have....thus far.
        But trust me, I am aware that I do not have the whole story.

        To think that any consumer fully knows everything, is in my opinion, naive.
        That is what my experience has shown me.

        I try to be an educated, and responsible todays economy, I think for alot of people it is a matter of stretching their dollar. It's a shame, but it is the truth.

        Thanks for reading my thoughts Linda. :)
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    Apr 27 2013: Taking responsibility of something you don't know about is usually not a good idea. If you are new to the job you need to find out what is needed. Typically in this situation people assume they know. The first thing to know is that you don't know.
    • Apr 30 2013: Pat,

      Taking responsibility requires recognizing what one knows and does not know. In my example, while I still do not know exactly what is required of me, it is my responsibility to find these things out, not the responsibility of my manager to tell them to me. By taking that responsibility upon myself, I can make sure that I succeed because no one else will.

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    Apr 27 2013: QUOTE: "Responsibility is the thing people dread most of all. Yet it is the only thing in the world that develops us, gives us manhood or womanhood fibre."--Frank Crane. Also, about boredom, have you noticed that we tend to tolerate people who bore us more than we do people who are bored by us? OK. That's all I have. I have a responsibility to not bore anyone! Good luck with the new job (try rocking the boat. That usually cures workplace boredom).
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    Apr 27 2013: so responsibility could be defined as taking upon oneself the temporal and spiritual needs of another person. we are in 100% control of our choices. we cant choose consequences but we can choose. we relinquish are power over our selves by blaming, running away, murmuring, not forgiving ourselves or others, justification, rationalizing, entitlement, vanity, enabling... im sure theres much more you can add to this list. this is the looser list. this is where losers go.
    • Apr 30 2013: Michael,

      I think you're on the right track, but I would say that taking responsibility should be defined as taking upon oneself the temporal and spiritual needs of oneself. We are in complete control of our choices and too often we run away instead of consciously making the decision to take responsibility and then take action accordingly.

      You're right though, it is the loser list. And no one wants to be a loser.

  • Apr 27 2013: On some things we should take responsibility, but there are others where the environment makes things impossible. Reread Dr. Zhvago.. Okay, I just saw the two movies.