Looking back upon my life is something that I do quite a bit. I try to identify the habits which have led me astray or, have produced results that I had not wanted. When I first started doing this reflection, I used it as a tool to beat myself up. Is it any wonder that I struggled with depression in my younger years when I was looking for mistakes to beat myself up about? But that is not where the real benefit of reflection lies. Reflection is not about beating myself up, it is about identifying the often-subtle changes that I can make to the way I live to create more of the life I want. One of the things that I have recognised but often struggle to apply is that I might as well take responsibility because, I am responsible for my life.

Why you should take responsibility

There are two types of responsibility you can focus on when you are thinking about your life. There is proactive responsibility and passive responsibility. Proactive responsibility occurs when you identify the way you want to live your life and strive to take the necessary steps to live that way. Passive responsibility is where you are responsible for the outcomes you experience in your life. Whatever situation you are in, you are there either because of the actions you took or the actions you failed to take. Some people are upset by this latter form of responsibility because they see it as being blamed. But blame is both different and pointless. Blame, in modern society, implies that somebody deliberately / knowingly chose to do something wrong. Being responsible for a negative outcome just means that the outcome has arisen because of one or more decisions that you took; either to act or not to act. Intention is not important here.

Passive responsibility is not a negative thing. Accepting passive responsibility promotes proactive responsibility. Because when you realise that there is no escaping the fact that you are responsible for the outcome, you are motivated to take action to influence the outcome you would prefer.

Pursuing Excellence

If you want to live an excellent life, you must first take responsibility for every aspect of that life.

You can learn more about the excellence lifestye, with my FREE Pursuing Excellence Report.

Get Your FREE Copy Here

6 Key realisations about being responsible for your life

The following are 6 realisations which will help you as you strive to be more proactively responsible for the life you live.

1. You cannot control everything

When you think about taking responsibility for your life, you may mistakenly believe that this means controlling everything about your life. That belief is going to cause you a great deal of mental suffering. Life is impermanent. It is constantly in a state of change and flux. You simply cannot control life. What you can control is how you interact with life.

Taking responsibility is not a guarantee that you will get the outcomes you desire. What it does guarantee is that you can look at whatever outcome you achieve and be confident that you did your absolute best in each moment. We have been led to believe, by marketers, that life is all about the outcomes, but it is the process which will give you your greatest joy. There is something deeply satisfying about knowing that you saw the challenge you faced and gave your utmost in response.


To understand more about what it really means to take responsibility, check out my article on What it means to take responsibility.

2. You can take the wheel

As mentioned above, you cannot control everything about life but there are many things you can control and, many more you can influence. You do this by taking proactive responsibility. This means taking the wheel and attempting to steer a course for the destination of your choice. It will not be a smooth journey and you may find that you often must correct course but that is just part of the process.

Are you too fond of being a back-seat driver? You sit in the back seat barking instructions at the driver even though you do not have the best view of the road ahead. In your life, if you are in the back seat, then there is nobody in the front seat; meaning everything is left to chance. Stop leaving everything to chance; get in the front seat, improve your view, and take the wheel.

Stop leaving everything to chance; get in the front seat, improve your view, and take the wheel. Be responsible for your life! Steer your own course.

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3. Your life is your responsibility

There are two fears in life – the fear that you will not get what you want and, the fear that you will get what you do not want. I am confident that there will have been a time in your life where you have blamed everybody else for one of these fears coming true. I am confident of this because all human beings behave this way. But blame is just delusion; an attempt to distract from the fact that the person who is responsible for your unwanted outcomes is you.

Take a moment to think about that. Who else could be responsible? Even when someone tries to force you to do something, you can stop them. If you did not, then you are responsible due to your failure to do so.


I am aware that there are a small number of situations where illegal violence, force and coercion may be used but those are not the situations I am talking about here.

4. Taking responsibility is the key to growth

Michael Singer puts it very well when he says that the purpose of life is to experience life. Another way to put this is to say that your purpose is to face your challenges and grow from them. You cannot do this as a back-seat driver in your life. You must step up, take responsibility, and take the wheel.

You will make mistakes along the way, and you will experience some suffering. All this is inevitable. But you will learn, and you will grow. There is no permanent self. You will be a different person tomorrow than you are today; due to the experiences you face today. It is up to you whether the person you are tomorrow is a step forward or a step back. The choice is yours and you make that choice by stepping up and taking responsibility for how you act and, do not act today.


For a crystal clear example of how to take responsiblity, check out my article on The simple way to take responsiblity

5. The obstacle is the way

The ancient Stoics believed that the challenge that was placed before you was the way forward. You may see an obstacle before you and believe that you must find a way to avoid it. Often, the best way forward is to go straight through. Take the challenge head on and give it your best shot. You may pick up a few scars along the way, but the learning and growth will benefit you: not just in this situation but for the rest of your life. See the obstacle as a way to make progress.

Pursuing Excellence

If you want to live an excellent life, you must first take responsibility for every aspect of that life.

You can learn more about the excellence lifestye, with my FREE Pursuing Excellence Report.

Get Your FREE Copy Here

6. You do not know the full story

We tend to view the moments of our life in isolation, but nothing really happens in isolation. Life is constantly flowing, there is no pause. One moment leads to the next so that painful experience you are having right now may be the gateway to something better.

I have met the following people along the path:  

  • People who were sacked or forced to leave a job, only to find something better.
  • People who lost their job, only to start a successful business.
  • People who suffered bad break-ups and then found the love of their life.

There are countless examples that I could produce here but that would take forever. The point is that we cannot be sure why something is really happening. The painful event you are having right now may be necessary for you to be able to begin a more positive journey.

To take it even further, Stephen Bartlett points out that quitting is just as important as starting something new. Because unless we quit something, we have no room for anything new. Whether it be a job, a relationship, a hobby etc. That is why the old saying is not just ‘In with the new;’ it is ‘Out with the old and in with the new!’ So, ensure that you are taking responsibility for your life by deciding when you need to quit something and, where you get an undesired outcome, see it as a wonderful opportunity to start afresh and try something new.

Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting

Before you can achieve great goals and change, you must set effective goals which challenge and inspire you to take responsibility for your life.

For more great advice to set and pursue great goals, check out 'Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting'.


Dodging responsibility for our lives has evolved to a point where it may soon become an Olympic event. But you do not want to be medallist in that game. Taking responsibility for your life is the most empowering thing you can do. You are not perfect, nor is anyone else. You will make mistakes, you will get things wrong, and you will experience failure. Do not doubt that for one moment. Even when you attempt to dodge the responsibility for your outcomes, you are still responsible for your life. So, have the courage, step up and take responsibility. Acknowledge that you are where you are because of things you did or, did not do. But more importantly, take responsibility for picking up the pieces and getting back on track. Take the wheel!


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