How to Take Personal Responsibility for Your Life: Bridging the Gap Between Knowing What to Do and Actually Doing It

Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility could be loosely defined as “adult-ing.” When you take personal responsibility for your life you are closing the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Have you ever felt as though you missed out on some book or class that we are all supposed to read or take that teaches us how to be an adult? Taking personal responsibility for your life can be tough and there is no special book or class to read or take. It is about taking action and ownership over your life. Taking personal responsibility is about committing to yourself, committing to your goals and committing to doing what it takes to create for yourself what you say you want.

I imagine that in many areas of your life you are actually quite good at this adult-ing thing. Maybe in these areas of your life you may not feel as though you have a choice. Whether it’s showing up to work because, well, you’d get fired if you didn’t—or waking up early to get your kids off to school because if you didn’t you’d be labeled as a bad parent. 

I am sure there are plenty of days you don’t feel like going to work or would rather stay in bed than getting up early to take care of your household responsibilities, but you do it anyway. Why? Most likely there are external forces at play that create a sense of responsibility and obligation, so you show up for those responsibilities. You push through any resistance and get yourself to work—or wake up early and take care of what needs to be taken care of in your household. This is evidence that you are indeed capable of being a responsible, maybe even a high-functioning adult. Somehow this evidence just doesn’t always translate to your own personal goals.

So here’s the big question: if you are able to push through resistance to these adult-ing tasks, why don’t you apply that same push-through motivation to your personal goals—to your health and well-being goals? Good question, right?! The truth is, you always have a choice. So why don’t you show up for yourself the same way you show up for others?

You—and only you—can successfully manage your lifestyle and your behaviors. So long as you blame any external factor on why you are not following through with your personal goals, you are distracting energy away from doing what is necessary to achieve them. Of course time is hard to come by, of course resources might be limited, but the more you focus on these external reasons of what you do or don’t do, the more powerless and out of control you will feel when trying to reach your goals.

Anytime you externalize a problem: “I don’t have enough time to cook/exercise/meditate/read/do self-care…” you increase feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, frustration and stagnancy. On the other side of the coin is taking personal responsibility, “Today I will make time to incorporate cooking/exercise/meditation/reading/doing self-care…into my schedule.” This is taking control over your life. When you take control you allow yourself to experience less stress and frustration. Now this is adult-level problem solving at its best! Taking personal responsibility for your life, your health and your well-being is rising to the occasion and showing up for yourself, no matter what. 

Excuses are always at the root of failing to take personal responsibility. And who do you think loves to make excuses? Your internal Deal Maker! Just a quick reminder, your Deal Maker is the part of yourself that always has excuses in the form of a deal: “I don’t have time right now to exercise, I’ll do it later (deal?).” When later arrives, there’s just another deal…”I have too much to do tonight, I’ll get up early and do it first thing in the morning…tomorrow, (deal?)…” You know quite well you are not going to wake up tomorrow morning if you didn’t this morning! Your Deal Maker is always prepared with another deal. This part of yourself will sabotage your goals over and over and over again. When you show up for yourself, you develop Inner Strength, so you can STOP the negotiations, STOP the excuses and just START. Start somewhere, seriously, anywhere is better than stagnancy and excuses that are getting you nowhere!

When you think about the excuses your internal Deal Maker makes that leave you feeling stuck, lazy and sinks you into frustration-giving-up-mode, what comes up for you? How can you reframe these? What comebacks can you develop for these excuses and deals? Think about the impact these excuses and deals are having on you right now. Think of how they are keeping you from seeing and taking the options that will help you feel and become in control of your life. Do you believe in your potential to do anything you set your mind to? Think about it, how much of a factor are these excuses in derailing the potential of being your best self?

Some other common excuses that are important to be aware of sound something like this: “Yes but…” and “If only…” The next time you hear these words either coming out of your mouth or running through your mind—STOP—write them down and evaluate them. Ask yourself: are these words really the truth or are they just lame-o excuses? Yes, I know I want to go take a walk but I am just too tired…” Or, If only there were more time in the day I would have time to take a walk, time to cook dinner, time to meditate, time for self-care…”

When you take time to discover, uncover and expose these excuses and deals that cause you to feel stuck, you can begin to figure out what you can do about them. Once you are no longer fooled by excuses and deals you can work on releasing them. You can begin to take personal responsibility for your time, effort and energy. You can begin to work more effectively towards self-management.

Avoiding and denying are two big-time defense mechanisms that often come into play with excuses and deals. These defenses will seriously hold you back. These defenses will keep you stuck in the space of perpetually making excuses and deals. What truly is holding you back from taking action towards your goals? Why aren’t you making the changes you say you want? Is it fear? Oh yeah…most likely it’s fear. Luckily, the most useful tool you have to deal with your fear is action. You have to practice feeling your fear and doing it anyway—over and over and over again—until it’s no longer so scary. Address these factors that are holding you back from feeling empowered when it comes to YOUR LIFE and you will begin to gain clarity. Once you understand your excuses and deals, you will want to take action. You will want to push through fears and show up for yourself. You will begin to want to take personal responsibility for all areas of your life.

For the next week, practice writing down the excuses that you hear yourself saying out loud or in your mind. Practice paying attention to, acknowledging, and preparing comebacks to the deals that your internal Deal Maker uses to sabotage your goals. Take action—and take it consistently. Believe in your ability to grow up. Be an adult and take ownership over your life—show up for YOU. One of the harsh truths about being an adult is that no one is going to do anything for you. No one can create the change in your life that you say you want. You have to do this for yourself. However, one of the benefits of being an adult is that you have the ability to ask for your needs to be met. So, if you need support, ask for it! Ask your significant other, friends and family members (or get a health coach!) to be on your team. Ask them to cheer you on. Let them know your goals and why you want to accomplish these goals. Your story just may inspire someone else to elevate their goals and increase their effort to take personal responsibility.

Practice living your priorities. Practice taking personal responsibility for how you choose to spend your time. Be ok with being “imperfect.” Perfectionists lose time excelling at tasks that could require WAY less time for an equally acceptable outcome. Reduce the time-wasters in your life. I surely know I have some favorite go-to time wasters. Assess your day and determine where you might be losing time due to these time-wasters! You don’t have to eliminate them all together, you just can’t let them take over. Consistently remind yourself that your goals are your priority.

Learn to say “no.” When you practice saying no to things you either don’t want to do or don’t have the time to do, you ultimately say yes to yourself! You say yes, this is my time, these are my goals and dreams and I can make them happen. Align with your values and dedicate time, energy and resources to yourself.

Are you ready to start taking personal responsibility for your personal goals? Let me know how you will take personal responsibility for your life today!