12 habits of people who’ve learned to embrace self-responsibility

“We seem to be getting closer and closer to a situation where nobody is responsible for what they did but we are all responsible for what somebody else did.” – Thomas Sowell

In today’s world, self-responsibility is almost a superpower.

We’re all programmed to believe that we are the product of our environment. And to a large extent, that’s true.

You can’t choose your genes, after all. You can’t choose your height, the level of wealth you’re born into, the place and time you’re born, and so many other things about your life.

What you can choose, however, is your reactions to the circumstances you find yourself in.

We can all blame others for what is less-than-perfect in our lives, from the billionaires racing one another into space to the failings of our parents.

But accepting responsibility for your own life is one of the most fundamental steps you can take toward changing it.

The habits you cultivate can go a long way to helping you gain greater control over both your life and the way you feel about it.

Here are some habits that show you a person who has learned how to take responsibility for themselves.

1) Holding themselves accountable

Being responsible means holding yourself accountable.

That means acknowledging your own mistakes and admitting when you are wrong.

It doesn’t mean beating yourself up about failure. But it does mean acknowledging that no one is perfect, including you.

Psychologist Will Joel Friedman writes that self-responsibility and self-accountability, not age, are what defines an adult. Holding yourself accountable means asking yourself tough questions about your behavior and answering honestly to become a better person.

2) Refusing to blame others

Holding yourself accountable means you don’t play the blame game.

Children and immature adults are always looking for somewhere to point fingers when something goes wrong.

The dog ate their homework. The rich people priced them out of the housing market. Their boss is a jerk.

But people who embrace self-responsibility refuse to do that.

Now, it’s true that the world is not under your control. Lots of things will happen to you that you didn’t deserve and can’t do much about.

But you have complete control over how you react to misfortune.

Understanding that is the key to being responsible for yourself.

3) Honoring commitments

Sometimes, a person’s character shows up in the small things.

People who embrace self-responsibility understand that making a commitment, whether large or small, is a serious matter.

That means they don’t make promises to other people lightly.

And when they do, they do everything in their power to make sure they honor those commitments.

That means returning the bag you borrowed on time. 

It means attending the meeting you said you would. 

It means showing up for a friend’s baby shower. I

t means moving in with a romantic partner when you said you would.

People who embrace self-responsibility are some of the most reliable people you will ever meet because they hold themselves accountable and make themselves do what they said they would.

4) Showing up on time

People with self-responsibility are rarely late.

It’s not because they use different public transit systems from the rest of us, or because their cars never break down.

It’s because they prize keeping the commitments they have made to others, and will take the extra steps to ensure they show up when they said they would.

They will leave home earlier so that if anything goes wrong, they still have time to get to where they are going. They will maintain their car so it doesn’t break down, or get to the bus stop or train station early.

It’s a small thing, but it’s a habit that speaks volumes about a person’s self-responsibility.

5) Supporting themselves financially

I don’t believe in judging people by what they do for a living. I’ve had my share of unglamorous jobs that still paid the bills and allowed me to support myself.

And I don’t look down on those who can’t. I have friends who are too disabled to work, for example.

But if you are able to, it’s important for your own self-esteem and personal freedom to support yourself financially and not rely on anyone else.

You see, being financially independent means that you rely only on yourself. You don’t have to change how you behave to suit someone who has power over you because they support you.

You may not enjoy going to work in the morning, but remember, it’s a sacrifice that gives you greater personal freedom and self-responsibility.

6) Maintaining long-term relationships

pic1401 12 habits of people who’ve learned to embrace self-responsibility

I’m not saying you need to be married to be self-responsible. I’m not even saying that you need to be in a romantic relationship.

However, it’s not hard to notice that people who embrace self-responsibility are very capable of maintaining long-term relationships, whether it’s romantic relationships, friendships that last years, or other types of relationship.

There are lots of reasons for this.

One of them is that people who embrace self-responsibility are so reliable. That means people can count on them when they need to, which makes them excellent friends and partners.

Another is that people with a good level of self-responsibility usually have good emotional control, which makes them easy to be around.

7) Avoiding procrastination

Putting things off until tomorrow is one of the worst habits you can have if you want to be successful.

And procrastination often comes from a sense of fear and a lack of self-worth.

But because they hold themselves accountable, people with high levels of self-responsibility are well able to avoid procrastination and do what needs to be done, even if they don’t particularly want to.

That’s because they understand that a bit of work now can lead to a better future.

8) Being organized

You don’t have to be the most organized person in the world to be self-responsible. I mean, you should see the state of my desk right now.

On the other hand, people who embrace self-responsibility also embrace the organizational skills it takes to keep things running in perfect order.

They don’t forget important dates and deadlines. They plan things out months or even years in advance.

Behaviorist Jennifer Verdolin writes that being orderly and organized helps your brain to work better. And people with self-responsibility know that keeping things organized is key to performing at a high level.

9) Controlling their emotions

Being responsible to yourself means being responsible for everything you do. And since so much of what we do is prompted by the way we feel, people with a high level of personal responsibility have mastered the art of emotional control.

Author and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

If he could say that after surviving some of the most extreme and horrendous conditions humans have ever had to live through, you can adopt the same attitude after a bad day at work or a fight with your partner.

People who accept self-responsibility also accept that while they cannot control external events, or even their own feelings, they can control how they react to those feelings.

Just because you feel angry doesn’t mean you have to lash out at others. Just because you feel sad doesn’t mean you have to neglect self-care.

Being responsible for yourself means being responsible for your actions no matter how you feel inside.

10) Never complaining

There is always something to complain about. But people who embrace self-responsibility know that 90% of the time, complaining only makes things worse.

You may feel like venting will make you feel better. But as researcher and author Ethan Kross points out, venting can actually stop us from addressing the real problem. Instead of focusing on solutions, we focus on the problem itself.

Being responsible to yourself means accepting that only you have the power to improve your life. Often, that means spending the time others waste complaining on actually fixing what’s wrong.

11) Being consistent

One of the most obvious traits of people with a high level of self-responsibility is their reliability.

Not only will they show up when they say they will, but their high level of emotional control means you can usually predict how they will react in any given situation.

That makes responsible people very easy to be around, as you don’t have to worry about them having temper tantrums or being in a gloomy mood.

12) Being tough with themselves

Often, success is a question of how disciplined you can be.

And people who accept responsibility for themselves know that no one will make them do what they need to do to succeed except themselves.

Whether that means climbing the slippery ladder of their career or making sure they get to the gym to keep themselves healthy, people with a high level of self-responsibility will be tough with themselves and make themselves do things they don’t want to do in the moment when they know there is a future award for their behavior.

If you know someone with exceptional levels of discipline, they probably also embrace self-responsibility.

And so should you.

Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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