Why You Need to Take Full Responsibility for Your Life (And How to Do It)

As adults, we can’t avoid taking on some responsibilities – but do you actually take full responsibility for your life? That, my friend, is a whole different concept. And, honestly, a total life-changer.

A lot of people feel like they have little control over how their lives turn out. They feel stuck, unhappy with their circumstances, powerless. What they don’t realize: It is all up to them.

Taking 100% responsibility requires stepping out of victim mentality and into your personal power. It requires commitment to integrity. Commitment to honesty. And all of that takes some courage to look yourself into the eyes first.

Taking full responsibility for your life means that you do no longer wait around for someone or something to fix your life, you do no longer make excuses, you do not longer blame your circumstances.

Look at the word itself, response-ability. Able to choose your response. Don’t hand that power over to where it doesn’t belong.

Essentially, YOU are responsible for YOUR life. It is in your power and your responsibility to move your life forward. Not anyone else’s. And that is, actually, great news.

Steps to take full responsibility for your life

Hold yourself accountable

Holding yourself accountable for your thoughts, feelings, and actions is the biggest part of taking responsibility. Self-responsibility is a concept encompassing your autonomy to be self-reflective and self-determining. It ‘designates the ability to deliberate, judge, choose, and act with regard to various courses of action’ (Robert Maier).

You are not responsible for others, but you are responsible for yourself. There is no need for self-conceit. Every action has a consequence and you are responsible for your past, present, and future actions. Hold yourself accountable first, for then you do not need to fear others doing so.

When I first encountered that concept, I found it scary. I was shying away from responsibility, thinking of it as a burden. But actually, think of how empowering and beautiful it is to know that only you are responsible for your life. It requires a lot of self-love to accept yourself that way because of course not all your actions, thoughts, and feelings will be beautiful. But it means that just as much as you are responsible for your misery, you get to own your story and craft your happiness.

In short, taking responsibility sets you free.

Control how you react to things

A big part of life is lived on auto-pilot. We react automatically to the situations around us, without thinking twice. It’s a mechanism we need, otherwise, we would be constantly overwhelmed. But if we do not realize we can choose how to react, we are doing ourselves a disfavor. By only staying in the reactive state, you hand over the power over your life to people and things outside of you.

The great thing is we can stop the cycle (to an extent, at least) and become more conscious of our own reactions.

“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 —Viktor E. Frankl 

Say, your partner does something that disappoints you, like showing up too late. A lot of people automatically go into sulk mode for the rest of the day. That’s a choice. But you could equally choose to take a moment to either honestly communicate your feelings to your partner, or decide that it’s not important enough to let it ruin your day and let go of it.

Become aware of your reactions and making conscious choices is a constant practice. Not easy at first, but when something happens, remember to just stop for a tiny moment and observe how you are about to react. Is this how you want to react? What other choices do you have? Taking a deep breath before you react gives you the time to switch out of auto-pilot and embark on a more conscious path.

Accept the consequences of your actions

As mentioned before, everything you do has consequences. It is helpful to be aware of this and consider how you want to show up in the world. Which impact do you want to leave?

Your words, actions, and behavior towards others matter. When you make an annoyed comment to someone, you should be aware of the impact you might have. And accept the responsibility that comes with it.

Even if that person offended you, if you are reacting out of an impulse and hurl an insult right back at them, you need to carry the responsibility for that. What they do and say is on them, your part is on you. (By the way, taking responsibility can also look like an apology for acting unthoughtful.)

Not all consequences of your actions can be foreseen – but do your best to be aware of your impact on the world.

Be 100% honest

Most people pride themselves to be honest. It is a commonly shared value, but equally commonly accepted is not being compleeeeetely honest here and there.

If you want to take responsibility for your life, however, you need to become radically honest. With yourself first, and equally with others.

Give yourself a reality check. If you’re planning to go for a morning run every day now, be honest with yourself. Are you trying to punish your body for something else that is out of balance? Is running really something you want to stick with? Are you ready to commit to the practice?

So many times, we say things we don’t mean 100% that way. Which only results in disappointment – so why not be radically honest in the first place?

No more excuses

If you practice 100% honesty, it automatically means excuses will come to an end. Do not make excuses for what you did or didn’t do, own it.

If you do not want to go hang out with a person, don’t seek excuses. Honestly set boundaries (you can still be polite while doing that). If you don’t feel like doing the yoga practice you committed to, be honest with yourself about your inner resistance. Stop disappointing yourself, stop forcing ways of being that are not you, and also, stop stopping yourself from the things you want to be doing.

By saying goodbye to excuses, you are already becoming a better person. One who can be trusted, who is honest and full of integrity.

Stop playing the blame game

“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”

– Dalai Lama

Us little humans, we LOVE blaming others for what is going wrong in our life. It is an easy defense mechanism, but ultimately, it does not serve you. Other people are not responsible for how you are feeling, nor for your successes and failures, nor for your actions and reactions.

If you want to turn your life around, you need to step away from the victim mentality. Yes, some people are born into unfortunate circumstances and there are many, many unfair things happening in this world. But by blaming those circumstances or others, you are not changing anything. You are only wasting your energy. 

Ask yourself. What can I do about the situation? Which part of it do I hold power over?

Caution, there also might be a tendency to blame yourself when you try to take responsibility for your past actions. But that is the wrong way to go. Responsibility also means acceptance of what you cannot change anymore. Acknowledging your mistakes is responsibility. And for the future, commit to doing better. There is no need to waste time and energy blaming yourself.

Stick to your word

Time to get real. Your intentions and words mean little if you do not follow through. Sticking to your word does not only encompass taking responsibility for your words to others, but also to yourself.

Take what you say seriously. Treat every intention you send out into this world as seriously as a written contract. And if you at some point realize you cannot make it, your standpoint or your intention has changed, be upright about it.

Too many times people notice they will fail their word and consequently, try to hide it. Try to make it forgotten. Hope no one notices. But even if no one else does, you will. And I guess I do not have to explain to you how that feels.

So, taking full responsibility, you honor your original intention. If you misjudged a situation, say so. There is no shame in admitting you were wrong. The important part is that you have done your best and you communicate your intentions honestly.

Stop complaining

Complaining is a little bit like the love baby of victim mentality and blame game. If you think other people or your circumstances are responsible for your dissatisfaction, complaining is very easy.

While it may feel good for a second to vent, in the long run, it does not help you. Complaining does not empower you, it does not give you options, it gets your perspective stuck in the negative. To take responsibility for your life, you need to stop complaining.

Life is hard? Yes, it is! But whether you see that as a burden or a challenge or a gift is what makes the difference.

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.”

 —Eckhart Tolle
A young woman walking towards the beach.

Take action

Good intentions are nice, action is better. A responsible person aligns their actions with their intentions. Do you want more kindness in your life? Good, start with yourself and be kind. Do you want that promotion? Work towards it. Don’t just wait for good things to happen to you. You need to act to make room for all those good things to come to you.

Stepping into action is the most powerful way of moving your life forward. You can’t hide from life anyways, so you might as well take an active role in shaping it the way you want it.

Learn how to live up to your full potential here (taking action is a great start!).

Always do your best (and at least try to take full responsibility for your life)

A lot of spiritual concepts set the bar pretty high. And that can feel overwhelming. But remember, taking responsibility for your life does not mean you need to be a perfect human being all the time. It simply requires you to do your best.

Maybe you don’t sometimes – and that is okay. With a responsible mindset, you will accept the consequences of your actions and slowly learn to choose a little bit wiser. Just as much as you will forgive yourself for not being at your best sometimes.

Remember you are the master of your life

Taking responsibility for your life basically is the realization that you are the one sitting in the driver’s seat of your life.

So live with intention. Make the best out of your time here on this planet. Some things are out of your control, but there are more that are in your control.

It all comes down to one thing: You are the one who creates your life. And that is incredibly powerful.

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