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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances

Answer this truthfully…are you really living your life? Or are you pretty good at existing, flowing with, and reacting to things as they happen? Better yet, are you steering at the helm, taking personal responsibility, or are you sitting in the passenger seat, letting others decide for you?

Whatever your answer is, it’s OK. You’re human, and you’re most certainly not perfect. None of us are, but a victim mentality won’t help, so if you are playing the character that blames their circumstances instead of taking personal accountability, then here’s your wake-up call.

You have the luxury of deciding who you want to be every single day you wake up. It’s the people who have mastered the art of living happily and peacefully that have cracked this code, the ones who wake up content and taking responsibility for their actions.

Keep reading and find out how to change your perspective and start accepting personal responsibility for how your life looks.

Personal Responsibility and Self-Actualization

Humans that are content, living as the best version of themselves, and holding themselves accountable for their happiness are what psychologist Abraham Maslow calls living as “fully human.” You’ve probably seen Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs pyramid[1] somewhere in your life, because it’s a leading human behavior theory explaining the motivations behind us as humans[2].

Use Maslow's hierarchy to start taking personal responsibility.

    People have always struggled with the idea of “self-actualization” (i.e. being fully human) sitting at the top of the pyramid, making it appear like an unattainable peak that few will ever reach. However, that wasn’t Maslow’s intention; he didn’t actually create the pyramid. He wrote about a hierarchy, and someone else assumed it was a pyramid, and after all these years, we’re finding out what he really meant.

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    “In this choppy surf, a clunky pyramid is of little use. Instead, what is needed is something a bit more functional. We’ll need a sailboat.” -Scott Barry Kaufman[3]

    Humanistic psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman reworked and refreshed the pyramid based on the latest science in human behavior in his novel, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. Being fully human, Kaufman stressed, is about living in the moment, enjoying the ride, and doing what you love, because when you feel like you’re achieving your purpose, you feel aligned within yourself, and you’re able to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

    Here’s how to edge closer to that stage through personal responsibility.

    Why You Need to Take Personal Responsibility

    When you set sail, you don’t set off without a direction or destination in mind, right?

    Life is the same, though a lot of us are out there living aimless lives and consequently falling prey to the grips of anxiety and depression. This is why it’s important to have an aim or direction, a North Star to head towards, which shouldn’t be confused with materialistic goals, like getting rich or buying that house.

    If you’ve ever lived the “I’ll be happy when” life, you’ll know it’s a tough lesson to learn when you find out that you never feel genuinely happy because the goalpost keeps moving. It’s also key to make life decisions yourself because living someone else’s life is a sure-fire way to end up unhappy.

    What you need to do is find a balance between deciding what direction will lead you to be your best self and making sure that you’re enjoying all areas of your life.

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    “The hard part is really living in the moment and being able to sail through life without the end in mind. Just like it takes courage to open your sail on a sailboat and see where the winds will take you, it takes a lot of courage to become the best version of yourself.” -Scott Barry Kaufman

    What Is the Best Version of You?

    Aiming to be the best version of yourself is all about acceptance. You need to be able to accept the good with the bad, accept the shadow, and all the things that hide and cower in the dark. Uncover the darkness by giving it some light.

    If you’ve had a rough childhood or suffered trauma, if you feel aimless or lost at sea, whatever it is, you have to accept a portion of responsibility for where you are. You’re not responsible for the beliefs you hold based on things people have told you, but you are responsible for dealing with them.

    People who accept responsibility for their strengths and weaknesses and choose to spend their life developing and improving on the healthy, positive aspects are the ones who show courage. Climb up the mast of your sailboat and rise above your own personal desires and feelings. You might just see that there are billions of other boats bobbing around out there, and some might need your help.

    But you can’t help them until you’ve helped yourself.

    How to Take Personal Responsibility

    The road to learning how to take personal responsibility can be a difficult one, but start simple, and then begin to tackle the more difficult aspects. Here are two steps you need to take based on the sailing metaphor we’ve been working with.

    1. Focus on the Basics of Your Journey

    Just like the ocean, our life has many ups and downs, ebbs and flows. If you start building a solid sailboat, you can withstand the weather and hold course without capsizing or filling with water. The hull represents your basic needs: safety, self-esteem, and connection with others.

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    Check-in and ask yourself whether your basic needs are being met. Do you feel confident about who you are as a person? Do you struggle with willpower and motivation? Do you have enough connections with others?

    “No human being is exempt from the dire consequences of loneliness, and no other basic human need satisfaction can substitute for a deep connection.” -Abraham Maslow

    2. Open Your Sails and Be Willing to Fail

    Maslow was all about not focusing and stressing too much on the destination. Yes, head in the right direction, but focus on enjoying the sail by finding purpose and following that desire to explore.

    When was the last time you took the courage to really open your sails? To be vulnerable and willing to fail[4]? When was the last time you were in a flow state, in a moment where you were so engrossed in what you were doing that you forgot about your insecurities and worries, where you were just happy?

    Maslow believed we all had our own form of peak experience:

    “Whether an excellent athletic or music performance, creative experience, aesthetic perception, the love experience, sexual experience, childbirth, moments of insight and understanding, religious or mystical experience, or overcoming a profound challenge — it is any experience that comes close to perfection for that person.”

    Being fully human means that you seek out new, challenging, and uncertain events to further develop yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to raise the tide for the other boats and seize amazing opportunities? Imagine if you could just forget all about what’s negative and just focus on being in the moment.

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    3. Move Forward With Intention

    As you sail through life, are you making intentional goals and plans, or are you simply letting things happen and watching life pass by without grabbing hold of the moments?

    To start taking personal responsibility, work on goal setting. When possible, set SMART goals so that you can measure your progress as you move through them. When you know when and how you should be completing goals, it will be easier to measure your progress and take responsibility for all you have and haven’t done to achieve them.

    You can learn how to set SMART goals here.

    4. Live in the Moment

    As you’re moving through the ups and downs on the ocean of your life, are you really honing in on each present moment, or are your thoughts focused on the past and future? Do you dwell on the mistakes others made that forced you into a difficult position? Do you complain about what’s happening now?

    Stop blaming other people or situations if you really want to relish each moment in your life. Start taking personal responsibility for each thought and emotion that passes through you. Stop reacting and start analyzing.

    If you have trouble with this, try starting a mindfulness meditation practice to give your mind the space it needs to exist in the present.

    Final Thoughts

    If you don’t remember the last time you felt truly happy, if you feel uninspired or lost, if you feel like you’re on the wrong path, then start with the basics. Make sure your basic needs are being met before you move closer to self-actualization.

    Look at the mistakes you’ve made in life, learn from them, and move on to doing bigger and better things. Once you start taking personal responsibility, you’ll find your compass naturally points you in the direction of happiness and success.

    More on Taking Personal Responsibility

    Featured photo credit: Alex Blăjan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Daina Worrall

    Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

    How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances 10 Important Things to Remember for Intentional Living How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

    Trending in Success Mindset

    1 10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams 2 How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances 3 When Is It Good to Set High Expecations for Yourself (And When Is Not)? 4 12 Things High Self-Esteem People Don’t Do 5 5 Steps to Building Confidence That Is Unshakeable

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    Last Updated on November 26, 2020

    10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams

    10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams

    What are the steps to success? Many people will say that it depends on your definition of success. However, a definition is not what you’re after.

    You know what you want, and you’re interested in hearing exactly how you can bring your dreams to fruition.

    Your primary problem is time and the demands of everyday life. For every person who delays their journey to success, there are bills to pay. Your invention goes uninvented, or your book remains unwritten because you have to pay the bills right here and now.

    Once you’re done working, it’s hard finding motivation to work more on your dream; you’re tired, and you just don’t feel like it.

    There is no one key to success—there are multiple keys to multiple doors, and multiple steps, each one leading to the next. Use the following steps to success to get started on your own success journey. 

    1. Don’t Make It a Matter of Motivation

    Wait, isn’t accomplishing important goals all about personal motivation? How will you succeed if you’re not motivated in the long run?

    Here’s the problem with motivation:

    It’s subject to whims and feelings. If the only thing motivating you is an internal desire to achieve results, you won’t achieve results when desire is not there. Then, there will be times when your desire is strong, but you’re caught up in some other task. 

    Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForm, recommends relying on “systems” instead of intrinsic motivation[1]. Intrinsic motivation is self-motivation to take action, and Tank points out that “there are probably moments when you don’t want to take action.”

    Instead of merely relying on desire, set up a system and follow it, no matter how you feel. Here’s a quick synopsis of how Tank runs his system:

    • Identify two or three things you want to focus on. These things should all have something to do with your primary goal in life.
    • Establish a time each day for productive focus.
    • Say no to any activity that doesn’t fit into your focus areas.
    • Give yourself a certain amount of flexibility. If you have absolutely no motivation to sit down and start writing, read a book to help inform your writing, or spend time cataloging your surroundings.

    For many of us, the hard part is saying “no” to those inevitable and attractive distractions. Tank recommends concentrating on what you love about your dream. Why are you doing this to begin with? Practice concentrating on what makes your goals great.

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    2. Emulate Others

    Not learning from successful people is the same as ignoring directions from locals in a city you’re visiting for the first time. It makes no sense.

    Regardless of how adventurous you are and how much of a rebel you want to be, you must have mentors. Learn how they did it, start with the basics, and then find ways to differentiate yourself.

    According to Ohio University, some of the most successful self-made business people share common traits including[2]:

    • Simple purposes and plans.
    • Tendency to work with and rely on people who will help achieve goals, and to dismiss those who won’t.
    • Grit and determination.
    • Tendency to prioritize and streamline important, transparent communications.
    • Tendency to save money when possible.
    • Decision-making ability that incorporates a mix of facts and people’s stories and emotions.

    If you’re having trouble deciding who to emulate, the above traits are good ones to cultivate.

    You can learn more on how to cultivate grit and passion in this TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth:

    3. Network the Right Way

    There’s no doubt you need other people to help you succeed. That said, there’s a right way to build your network through the steps to success.

    If you approach networking the wrong way, you’ll walk away frustrated, even hurt. Never underestimate the emotional gamble you’re undertaking when building a network[3].

    It sounds daunting, but effective networking is easier when you have a set of guidelines. Keep the following in mind when you begin your networking journey:

    • Be helpful: Follow the Golden Rule of networking—help others, be kind, and do favors. Then, keep in touch with those you help.
    • Be steady: Dependability, consistency, grit—show people you can be steady and cultivate an image that reflects your implacable commitment to your passion.
    • Be authentic: Don’t connect because the person will benefit you. Make connections based on your honest interest in who that person is and what they’re doing.
    • Be candid: Sugarcoating your words doesn’t work. Honesty, sincerity, and forthright communication are the hallmarks of a great communicator.
    • Be attentive: Pay careful and close attention to what others say, and don’t waste words. The more you talk about yourself, the less perspective you gain from the other person. 

    Be mindful of the moments, pay attention to what people say and do, and build relationships with the people who are passionate and full of purpose.

    4. Practice Right

    You know you need to practice to excel at anything—your teachers, parents, and coaches drove this into you while you were growing up. But chances are they didn’t give you an accurate picture of right practice.

    After all, this is a discussion on how to actually achieve your dreams. Your dream isn’t to be mediocre or proficient; your dream is to really nail something to the wall with excellence, finality, and precision.

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    Practice doing it the right way, and practice it that way again and again.

    In Doug Lemov’s book Practice Perfect (co-authored with Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi), the author points out that how you practice is more important than how much you practice. He provides some valuable tips on training yourself to succeed[4]:

    • Determine the correct way and practice it repeatedly
    • Practice the most important, effective things most. The 80/20 rule says 20 percent of right practice yields 80 percent of results.
    • Through repetition, engrain the activity so deep that you barely have to think about it later.
    • Repeat until you are able to think creatively while performing rote tasks.
    • Each time you practice, set an objective first — to make it “manageable and measurable.”
    • Concentrate on what you’re already good at and keep practicing it.
    • If you do something wrong, correct it by going back and doing the right way repeatedly.

    To practice to perfection, it helps a great deal to have someone providing feedback. If you don’t have a mentor or coach, consult the information readily available in libraries and online.

    Try deliberate practice too, it will help you pick up something quickly: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    5. Treat Failure as a Part of the Process

    If you expect to do nothing but succeed, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In fact, people who avoid failure are often among the most unsuccessful people.

    Anything worth doing is difficult, and failure is a part of the process. Failure grants you valuable insight on what not to do as you make your way through the steps to success.

    Even if you can’t figure out what you did wrong, there are probably external/environmental factors that contributed to your failure.

    Now’s your chance to analyze what those factors might be. When people fail, they need to analyze the following:

    • What were the external/environmental/societal factors that tripped me up?
    • How can I respond differently next time?
    • Were there any problems I created regardless of external factors? Why did I create them?
    • Who can I go to for help this time around?

    Analysis and learning aren’t necessarily easy, which is why you should be prepared to fail multiple times.

    Failure will become less frequent the more you practice each part of your process with the correct method in mind.

    6. Set Realistic Goals

    Realistic goals and objectives are the checkpoints you can meet on your way to success. If your goal is to be a rock star or a celebrity, that’s not something you can immediately realize. 

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    Without realistic goals that bring you ever closer to your dream, it won’t become reality.

    One study found that people experience higher levels of depression and anxiety due to goal conflicts and ambivalence about goals[5].

    In other words, you might have a dream of success, but your immediate, small goals may conflict with each other, and when that happens, your mental health suffers.

    Additionally, you may be ambivalent about your current goals because they don’t align with what you truly value. Evaluate your goals and ask yourself what you truly want out of life. 

    7. Figure out What’s Causing Conflicts in Your Life

    You could be facing issues in certain areas of your life, which may cause your dreams and the steps to success to fade into the background.

    About 18 percent of people suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life, but only 37 percent seek help[6]. Anxiety and other common disorders, such as depression, can affect your ability to perform at work, and can hurt your home-life. In turn, your focus fails as your disorder looms in the foreground[7].

    Anxiety can hurt your steps towards success. Learn to identify it!

      Often, those who suffer from anxiety are thinking about the future too much. The path to achieving your dreams will not open until you focus on your immediate goals and objectives. Start goal setting with immediate steps to make things faster and easier—e.g. I will write 500 hundred words a day from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.—and concentrate on the action in front of you.

      Additionally, consider mindfulness meditation to help alleviate anxiety.

      8. Eliminate Distractions

      Distractions are a big part of goal conflict. Strangely enough, you find yourself scrolling your Facebook news feed when you’re at work. You decide to go drinking when there’s an important conference the next morning.

      Sadly, Facebook and drinking have nothing to do with advancing your career, but improving your work has everything to do with your dream.

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      Eliminating distractions can be as simple as loading a productivity app on your phone or tablet. Or, you may need to physically remove distractions from your workspace—whatever it takes to concentrate.

      9. Give Yourself Downtime

      You need to eliminate distractions while you’re focusing on objectives, but you also need to give yourself time to refresh as you’re going through the steps towards success.

      The best type of downtime helps rejuvenate your brain. Take walks in nature, play a game with friends, exercise, read a book—anything you enjoy doing that’s not unhealthy for you[8].

      Practice self-care to improve your steps to success.

        10. Compartmentalize Your Activities

        When you’re working on objectives or networking, that’s all you’re doing. When you’re taking time to relax, you’re not responding to work emails.

        Compartmentalization enables you to achieve maximum focus and heightens your passion.

        Final Thoughts

        The binding thread of these steps to success is focus.

        Determine simple objectives that will bring you closer to what seems like a fantastic dream. As you work on each objective, practice complete focus.

        Repetition is the key to focus. Each small step will eventually add up to something huge.

        More Tips for Achieving Success

        Featured photo credit: Ruffa Jane Reyes via unsplash.com

        Reference

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