At last “The Responsibility Process” is published

book cover 3DFor ten years people have asked when I would write the book on The Responsibility Process. It is done.

The Responsibility Process was published last Friday (Amazon).

Read advance praise from early reviewers.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction…

Everywhere I turn I see good, smart, and ambitious professionals who feel trapped in lives and jobs they don’t want and who think they can’t change. They feel powerless. They assume this is as good as it gets. These are good and generally responsible people. They are being responsible as defined by societal standards. But that doesn’t mean they are taking responsibility as we now know it’s possible for anyone to do.

It is in your best interest to recognize that there is a difference between being responsible and taking responsibility.

You Have the Freedom and Power to Choose

During the question-and-answer session following one of my talks on The Responsibility Process, I called on a woman near the back. As she stood to ask her question, I shaded my eyes from the stage lights so that I could see her face and make eye contact. She was tall, elegantly dressed for a tech industry conference, and from her question I guessed she was either Asian born and educated or a first-generation Canadian. With a polite and penetrating tone she posed her question: “Christopher, my heritage places many obligations on us toward our parents and ancestors. Are you saying I don’t have to keep those obligations?”

I knew where she was coming from. This form of question appears like clockwork after people are introduced to the difference between being a responsible person and taking 100 percent responsibility. The specific issue differs from person to person—victim of circumstance, guilt, and shame over some mistake or poor choice, feeling trapped in an unwanted situation—but the form of the question is the same: “How am I supposed to take responsibility for this problem?” Learning how responsibility works in our minds helps with that. It both inspires people to consider how powerful and free they can be, and it challenges them to examine their own responsibility—or lack thereof—for ongoing upsets and stuck points in their lives.

After acknowledging that her question was valid and that her life situation was worthy of self-examination, I answered her from the perspective of taking responsibility. “The way I see it” I said, “you have at least three choices, maybe more:

  • You can keep the traditions and despise doing so.
  • You can keep the traditions and love doing so.
  • Or you can choose to not be constrained by those traditions and negotiate a new relationship with your family.

The choice is yours.”

There was no way I could divine and pronounce the one “right” answer to that question that would free her from what I imagine are feelings of shame for not wanting to maintain tradition and feelings of obligation for keeping traditions she may not value. However, I can remind her and everyone listening intently for the answer: she has—and they all have—the freedom and power to choose even if they are unaware of it at the moment.

Being Responsible versus Taking Responsibility

A gulf of a difference exists between being a responsible person versus taking 100 percent responsibility. The difference, in terms of life experience and results, is vast—vast like an ocean, or perhaps a star system.

Being responsible is one of the most important tenets of every society I know. No matter where we are born, soon after we come into the world and start to make sense of our surroundings, our culture tells us at every turn to be responsible. Well-intentioned parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, employers, the media, politicians, and those “indulge responsibly” advertisers all consistently admonish us to be responsible.

They also tell us what it means to be responsible:

  • Be good.
  • Do what you are told.
  • Mind your teachers.
  • Get a good job.
  • Raise a family.
  • Contribute to society.

And they tell us what it means to be irresponsible:

  • Shame on you.
  • Say you’re sorry.
  • Don’t disappoint.
  • Get back in line.
  • Don’t make a scene.
  • Do it even if you don’t like it.
  • Wait your turn.

This is how we’re molded—conditioned—through millions of daily interactions toward being responsible members of society. Being responsible means being good and acceptable in the eyes of another. It means receiving approval. It means conforming to expectations.

Taking responsibility is vastly different. It means to see yourself as a powerful causal force for your experience of life. You have the ability to choose your response to situations in life. You, through your choices and action or inaction, can be seen as the primary cause for your

  • happiness or unhappiness,
  • success or lack of success,
  • performance or lack of performance,
  • limitlessness or limitation,
  • engagement or disengagement,
  • clarity or confusion,
  • fulfillment or lack of fulfillment, and
  • energy or lethargy.

Being responsible is a commitment to being good and doing right (even if you are miserable when doing so). Taking responsibility is a commitment to own your life, to self-leadership, growth, and freedom.

Though different, the two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, I see myself as a responsible person. I imagine you see yourself that way too. However since 1991 I have identified less and less with being responsible and identified more and more with taking responsibility. A commitment to taking 100 percent responsibility will provide you with a strong sense of being responsible. But a commitment to being responsible can undermine your willingness to take responsibility at every turn. Being responsible is a commitment to feelings of safety through approval, not to feelings of freedom through self-leadership and growth. By definition, being responsible relies on feelings of shame and obligation, and in having ready-made answers of denial, blame, and justification. Indeed, consider how cultural norms for being responsible will consistently thwart otherwise good people from stepping up and taking responsibility (e.g., the good sons or daughters who follow the parents’ advice to pursue a safe career as a teacher, accountant, or such, instead of thinking for themselves—then they wake up in middle age and realize they hate their career). This phenomena is rampant across societies and in company cultures.

Being responsible pales in comparison to taking responsibility. Indeed being responsible leaves many people feeling shallow or trapped, while taking 100 percent responsibility feels freeing and powerful. This book—The Responsibility Process—is about seeing that difference clearly through three tools, each uncovered over the past three decades, so that you can make a difference in your life and the lives of others.


Some people like this message and some don’t. What about you?


Get The Responsibility Process today.


Christopher Avery headshot

Christopher Avery authored Teamwork Is An Individual Skill for everyone who wants to be done with bad teams. He founded The Leadership Gift™ Program to make world-class personal leadership development accessible to individuals worldwide.


Posted in Responsibility on 09/24/2016 01:34 am
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