Excerpted from The Responsibility Process by Christopher Avery.
The first key to Responsibility is Intention. Specifically, it is your Intention to operate from the mental state of Responsibility when things go wrong. Operating from any other mental state means coping with the problem rather than owning and solving it. Only in Responsibility can you release yourself from that frustration or upset. An Intention to operate from Responsibility is an intention to be resourceful and to lead yourself to freedom, choice, and power.
Intention is the first of the three keys because if you don’t intend to get to the mental state of Responsibility when life presents you with your next frustration, upset, or problem, then the other two keys are irrelevant. Remember, there is a gulf of a difference between being a responsible person and taking 100 percent responsibility. Practicing Responsibility begins with the clear Intention to actually practice responsibility.
Want an example? Think of two workers, each temporarily blocked from making progress on their assignments. They each feel frustrated. The first worker has no clear Intention to operate from Responsibility. In this instance he may unconsciously (and naturally) land in the mental state of Justify, and he unconsciously (and naturally) operates from that mental state. He tells himself, There’s nothing I can do until the block clears. So nothing is exactly what he does. The second worker thinks the same thing at first (after all, he is human and always subject to The Responsibility Process), and then he catches himself. He recalls his strong Intention to operate from Responsibility. So he asks himself, How can I take ownership of this situation? Soon he realizes that he can help clear the block or he could identify and fix the root cause so the block doesn’t happen again. With this resourceful thinking, worker two moves forward with freedom, choice, and power to produce a result that matters.
Applying this first key Intention calls the question: Do you intend to operate from Responsibility when things go wrong? Or do you intend to operate from Lay Blame, Justify, Shame, Obligation, and Quit? It’s a simple and straightforward question with profound implications. If your answer is that you intend to operate from Responsibility, then I recommend you cement that Intention with a clear commitment: “I demand to get to the mental state of Responsibility as soon as possible whenever I experience upset, frustration, anxiety, and problems in my life. I will own it.” Make this feeling of ownership a deliberate Intention.
Realize this one clear Intention—to get to Responsibility—is committing to a way of being every day, day in and day out, for the rest of your life. Responsibility is not just a character trait, it’s what you practice.
Start by identifying a frustration or upset you are experiencing. Ask yourself if you are willing to address it from the mental state of Responsibility where you can resolve it and give yourself newfound freedom, choice, and power. If you answer, “Yes, I am willing,” then ask yourself if you truly intend to get to the mental state of Responsibility. Note: You may not know how to get there yet (there are other keys to apply). Knowing how isn’t necessary to create and hold the Intention. Intention is the why that precedes the how.
Christopher Avery studies, speaks, and writes about the benefits and practices of personal and shared responsibility. He founded The Leadership Gift™ Program to make world-class personal leadership development accessible to individuals worldwide. His books include The Responsibility Process and Teamwork Is An Individual Skill.
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