Responsibility has been at the forefront of my mind and embedded deeply in my heart recently.
As the parent of a nearly 14-year-old who has been struggling with maintaining respectful behavior at school, we've had many discussions about responsibility as a family.
Through these often challenging conversations, I've realized that my perception and understanding of the value of responsibility have shifted greatly from when I first identified responsibility as one of my top core values.
What does it really mean to be "responsible"?
From a very young age, I've always been a rule follower with a bit of a rebellious streak. For the most part, I followed rules, fulfilled obligations, and kept my word when I made promises. Simply put, I believed that responsibility was about doing the “right” thing, often to please others or to avoid getting into trouble.
Curious? I explored misplaced responsibility to others in a past blog post. Click to read: Feel Guilty Trying to Balance Work and Home?
Deep in a discussion with my son after getting a third email home from the same teacher about disrespectful behavior in class, these words came out of my mouth:
“Here’s the good news; you are responsible for your behavior, and you have the power to make changes.”
I could see the confusion on his face, and he asked, “ How is that good news?” I was then able to share that when you have control over something, you get to choose how to act, how to react, or what action to take when presented with a challenge.
I'm not sure that my son has fully embraced this as good news, but he's beginning to understand that by accepting responsibility for his behavior, he has the ability to change it, and therein lays his true inner power.
Responsibility is all about that inner power.
What I realized at that moment, like I never had before, was that responsibility is not about doing the right thing or not getting into trouble.
It's about choice and embracing your inner power and authentic self.
As Barack Obama said, “Being responsible is an enormous privilege... It’s what marks anyone as a fully grown human.”
As we grow into adults, we gain more privileges and are presented with opportunities to choose our actions, thoughts, and behaviors. But the shift from childhood to becoming a “fully grown human” is a process that I'm not sure is ever actually complete.
It takes time and practice and involves making mistakes that can bring on unrelenting self-judgment.
When we make mistakes, we tend to be hard on ourselves, our inner critic comes out in full force with judgment and negativity.
The reality? Mistakes and blunders are part of life.
What if we saw our mistakes as errors rather than failures? Accepting responsibility when things don't go as planned doesn't mean that we have to embrace harsh self-criticism. Instead, we can pause and try these three Intentional Living practices before reacting. (A true Pause|Nourish|Grow moment!)
Three practices to turn your mistake into an opportunity:
Extend self-compassion rather than criticism.
Practice openness and curiosity.
Seek opportunities for your own growth
Accepting responsibility for ourselves allows us to choose our response at any given moment and experience ourselves as powerful human beings.
Next time you find yourself in a sticky situation when you know you slipped up, rather than giving up and throwing in the towel, take responsibility as a way to embody your own power.
These errors could become opportunities to make shifts that could lead us on unexpected paths and provide new discoveries about ourselves and the world around us.
At this point in my life, I'm honoring my value of responsibility.
My next step is to take my own advice and extend self-compassion rather than criticism, practice openness and curiosity, and seek opportunities for my own growth while I embrace the responsibility of supporting my son as he embarks on the journey to adulthood.
I know by the ache in my heart and unexpected tears in my eyes that if I show my son that I accept responsibility instead of merely telling him, he too will see this as good news.