Small Steps #11 – Own Your Decisions – Accept Responsibility

women walking toward a sidewalk intersection

Everything is not out of your control.

Yes, things may have been extremely tough. You were robbed, abandoned, injured, unjustly fired, lied on, manipulated. You may have lost your home, reputation, everything you worked to gain. You’re not starting from Square #1; you’re starting in the negative. I hear what you’re saying. Now, I have one question for you: What are you going to do about it?

You may have been prevented from doing something. I get that you may have more limitations or restrictions now that you’ve experienced setbacks. We can’t change what happened. We may be able to get justice for the incidents, if needed, but we still have to move forward.

It’s easy to get into a “woe is me” funk, blame our situations on the person(s) who wronged us, and hope the world takes pity on us. However, pity is short-lived (people get tired of hearing sob stories), and ruminating over your misfortune doesn’t improve your situation. In fact, it could be making it worse. Whoever hurt you isn’t thinking about changing his behavior because you might be sitting at home, curled up in a ball, and clutching your pillow. He’s living his life, and your bills still need to be paid.

Own your decisions.

By this, I mean take responsibility for the good, bad, and the stuff you don’t want anyone to know. Consider the mistakes you made that contributed to you being in the predicament you’re in. Learn from them. Were there red flags you chose to ignore? Did you receive warnings from others who offered you advice from an objective standpoint that you discarded because you were too emotionally involved to think clearly? Were you impulsive and irrational? Accept that you made poor choices so that you can avoid them in the future.

You must be willing to claim your wrong choices. Otherwise, you leave everything that happens to you in the hands of those around you. It makes you vulnerable to “fate.” If everyone, but you, controls your life, then you don’t get to take credit when good things happen to you either. The fact remains: you are the one aware of what you need and where you want to be. People may help you on your journey, but it is up to you to decide if you’re going to do what is necessary to get there.

Responsibility – noun.

  1. the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.

Let’s look at an oversimplified example. We’re going to be kid-adults on a playground.

Big Johnny (age 40) pushes Suzi (age 38) to the ground so that he can get to the slide first. Everyone around Suzi can see that Johnny cut the line and injured her. She’s crying, and we give Johnny mean looks, point, and tell him that it wasn’t nice to push Suzi. We insist that he apologize to her. Johnny doesn’t, and he leaves the park. Suzi keeps crying.

Ten minutes later, a girl named Debbie comes to the playground and asks Suzi what’s wrong. Suzi explains what happened, and Debbie agrees that Johnny was “mean.” Debbie asks Suzi if she wants to play, but Suzi says, “I’m too sad.”

Thirty minutes later, kids have come and gone, invited her to play, and gone around her to slide. Suzi stretches out in the grass to continue sulking and talking about “Mean Johnny.” She looks up and sees Johnny has come back to the playground and is playing on the swings. She cries again. Johnny apologizes, but it’s “too late.” Suzie talks about how her feelings are hurt, her butt hurts, and her dress has grass stains. She continues to refuse to have a turn on the slide because it’s not the turn she was supposed to have earlier. The other kids stop asking her to play with them, and Suzi’s feelings are more hurt because she’s been “left out” of the fun.

Let’s say she wasn’t pushed down. What if she tripped over a stick because she has poor coordination? What if she tripped because someone’s truck got away during playtime? What if the ground had a small tremor?

Why Suzi was on the ground no longer matters after a while. The fact remains that she made the choice not to get up. Nobody sat on her or held her in place. Others acknowledged that she did nothing wrong (that was observed). She was invited to participate in play. The problem was no longer the fall. After it was acknowledged, the problem was Suzi’s refusal to do what was in her power: get up.

Suzi wanted to slide. Yes, she missed her “special” turn. Yes, she was hurt and embarrassed. However, continuing to whine on the ground did three things:

  1. Kept her from achieving her goal of sliding
  2. Increased the opportunity to not slide that day (have to go home) or ever again (may never visit a park with a slide)
  3. Alienated her from others who wanted to help or play with her

In this example, we would likely be like the other kids and stop playing with Suzi. She’s not happy, is not good company, and won’t stand on her own even though she’s capable. We could imagine all kinds of reasons as to why she won’t stand (not unable), but we can display this behavior. But…after we’ve gotten people to pity us and cried about our hurt, nothing worthwhile has happened for our progress. The things we want to happen or achieve need action from us, and that involves making the decision to acknowledge the incident, dust ourselves off, and choose what to do next. That usually involves changing the way we look at things and how we view ourselves.

If I make a decision to walk 10 paces to the right, whatever is to my left is 10 paces farther away. I got to that location because of my choice. If I skip nutritious meals and eat marshmallows until I get sick, my health condition is consequence of my choice. If I want my shape to improve, it’s not going to happen because I wish I had a body like a fitness trainer. If I want a promotion, I must do things that prepare me for the next position. At some point, we have to stop waiting for things to happen “to” us and make things happen “for” ourselves.


Imagine living your life as if you never had any control over the things that happened to you. Now, imagine living your life knowing that your future can be changed as soon as you make the decision to steer it in the direction you’d like to go. It’s your life: What are you going to do with it?



Additional Resource:

Harris, Thomas R. “Why You Need to Take Personal Responsibility For Your Life.” The Exceptional Skills. October 1, 2018. link

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