Responsibility: Take It. And Please, Don't Shift It.

Have you noticed lately that people aren't taking responsibility? There seems to be a huge lack of accountability out there, and it's bugging me.

And what bugs me even more is when those same people shift all that responsibility they aren't taking onto other people. Now that really gets my goat (one of my mom's favorite expressions that I never dreamed I'd use, but I am, and that's bugging me, too).

Anyway, I'm here to suggest that we all stop making excuses, that we stop blaming and burdening others and become proponents of the Big R.  

Whaddya say? Are ya with me?

It all starts with taking responsibility for your life.

OWN IT. Not like a celebrity or politician who gets caught in flagrante by TMZ. No. You want to take true ownership for EVERYTHING in your life–the good, the bad, and the not so very attractive, and that includes the words that come out of your mouth. If you can embrace this concept, the rest of your response-abilitys will be a walk in the park.

If you can't, then Houston, we have a problem, a BIG problem. We have a life of chaos and drama. A life of coulda, woulda, shouldas, unfulfilled potential, heartbreaking disappointment, and oftentimes crippling bitterness. A life that simply does. not. work.

Does this mean that if you can't own your entire life's choices and decisions, then you will ignore basic responsibilities like paying the rent, getting to work on time, or taking out the garbage?

No. It becomes less likely, but no.

I grew up with The Responsible One. She showed up at a job five days a week–whether she felt like it or not–took care of the bills (and me), and fixed dinner, no matter how tired she was. My mom was a hard worker, responsible all right, too much so at times.

But what she couldn't take responsibility for was her own happiness, her own wants and needs, and her life choices. She was too busy dealing with her husband's bad behavior. Although he worked hard, too, he was a Shifter. He specialized in messes, and she specialized in cleaning them up, or trying to anyway. What she required in order to live her best life went right out the window when she fell for him.

Don't let Shifters shift onto you.

It can be subtle, and it can be blatant. It can be big, and it can be small. Like in my mother's situation, it can be your spouse, or it can be your brother, sister, or best friend. It can be a store employee, a waiter or waitress, or the doctor's office staff. If you're a nice person or a recovering codependent people pleaser like me, watch out for the Shifters, they're everywhere.

Ever shop at Nordstrom? Well, they never lay their responsibilities on you–it's called customer service, and they do it right.

But I've had other businesses expect me, the customer, to serve them. Rather than the customer comes first, it's more like slap on a company name tag, sister, and get to work!

Take the property management company that seemed not to understand that managing is part of property management. (Even I know that.) They didn't appear to be interested when my friend, who pays homeowners dues on a townhome of his that they were overseeing at the time, called and left messages complaining about an ongoing garbage problem.

Since he got no response, I thought I'd try:

"So there's an issue with the garbage area. There's always debris all over the ground. I think it needs to be cleaned up or...something?"

The woman on the phone responded. I slowly repeated what I thought I'd heard her say, because I didn't think that what I thought I'd heard her say could possibly be correct.

"I...I should recruit some of the neighbors and we should all go up to meet the garbage men on pickup day? At 7 AM?"

If only Nordstrom ran property management companies.

She and her coworkers were eventually fired.

My friend did voluntarily step in to try and clean up the area a bit, but that was his choice, and he was responsible for that choice. (See how this works?) In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor shift.

But he wouldn't do it today. Because he knows that if you continually let people get away with the minor, what's going to happen when they dump the major in your lap?

What's going to happen when your single mom status becomes the fallback excuse for your adult child's criminal misconduct? Or when, without your knowledge, your spouse signs your name to one of your personal checks, it bounces, and she wants you to take care of it? And how about when a consistently absent, lazy, and disrespectful team member points to your leadership as the cause for his firing?

Allowing others to constantly shift their responsibilities over to us is dysfunctional behavior, and we are–you guessed it–responsible for stopping the dysfunction.

And we don't want to do it to others, either.

Enjoying three-martini lunches? Not a good idea. Besides the fact that they're so yesterday, it's not cool to leave your coworker at the office to pick up the slack.

Did you blow your part in setting up your brother's surprise birthday party? We all know what you agreed to, so "I forgot" isn't going to cut it.

And if you're expected to fulfill an agreement or contract, verbal or written, do it. You may not like it, but do not moan and groan and make the other party the bad guy just because they expect you to honor your commitment. So they're not all warm and fuzzy. So what? They don't have to be in order for you keep your end of the bargain.

The thing is, taking responsibility doesn't always feel good. 

Until it does. Until you feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with taking care of business. Until you begin to experience the freedom that comes with making choices and decisions that empower you. Until your life begins to work in ways you never dreamed possible.

And being irresponsible can feel darn fabulous.

Until it doesn't. Until you hurt someone. Until someone hurts you. Until you hurt yourself.

I want a life I can be proud of. After all, I've only got one (that I know of). Being responsible is a challenge. It means I blame no one for what's going on in my life nor do I take false responsibility for the actions of someone else or for what's out of my control. I make my own decisions and allow my friends and family to make theirs. I keep my side of the street clean and hold others accountable for doing the same. more excuses:

It's their fault I'm cheating, they drove me to it.

I was drunk.

There was no time.


As I said earlier, it bugs me.