Among the most important things I’ve learned is this:
The Responsibility Process works only when self-applied. (If you have heard this before, and I hope you have, it is always worth revisiting.)
What this means is that knowledge about The Responsibility Process doesn’t change me. Only applying The Responsibility Process to my life will produce results that matter.
So when and how do I apply it?
I get to apply The Responsibility Process every time something goes wrong. When things go wrong The Responsibility Process (that pattern in my mind that regulates my thoughts about taking or avoiding responsibility) gets triggered. And things go wrong every day all day…
I can’t find the mate to the sock.
I have to fill up the car before I can get where I’m going.
My teammate didn’t complete what she said she would.
I got laid off.
We can’t make the mortgage payments.
I’m given the opportunity to practice responsibility for my life many times everyday.
What does that mean? It means consciously choosing many times daily between being free, powerful, and at choice; or being trapped, powerless, and without choice.
The question is whether I recognize the opportunity to practice and take it, or do I not recognize it and miss it.
Here are some examples…
If I’m upset at someone and blame them for my unhappiness, I get to remind myself what a powerless mental place that is, and move off of it.
If I’m upset at circumstances—like the traffic, the weather, politics, or the company culture—I get to remind myself that believing this story keeps me stuck with the problem, coping with my powerlessness. Or I can stop justifying and start to see how to take ownership of this situation.
If I’m feeling guilty and ashamed of making a mistake and getting myself into trouble, I get to remember that there isn’t anything wrong with me. I’m a perfectly flawed human. And humans make mistakes. I can beat myself up, or I can get off of it so I can get the lesson and take effective action.
And if I’m feeling trapped in a burdensome situation (a stupid meeting, toxic job, stressful debt) I don’t want and don’t know how to change, I can remember that I probably had some role in setting and closing the trap on myself. That means I can also open the trap if I’m willing to.
Each time I apply The Responsibility Process throughout the day I am reminded of my power and ability to both get myself into problems AND to get myself out of them. Each time I do it, I learn and grow. I overcome something that upset me in all of my yesterdays. Because I faced it and took ownership, it may not upset me again, or maybe I’ll catch the upset earlier and earlier in the future, until I am free of it.
Because I took the opportunity to practice responsibility, I learned something and I made a new choice, so I feel better—more powerful and free.
Here’s something else worth hearing again and again:
We’re taught to think of responsibility as a character trait, i.e., being a good member of society. I assume you and I can check that box. We qualify. However for me and those who study responsibility with me, responsibility is more than a character trait. It is a practice. And we get to practice everyday all day. And every time we practice we empower ourselves.
Knowing about The Responsibility Process is sorta cool and even inspiring, but it doesn’t hold a candle to practicing.
Most people who learn about The Responsibility Process never develop a practice. They say “it’s a cool model, but I’m not very good at it” or worse: “I told my (boss, spouse, sibling) about it but they didn’t change.”
“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation” says author Ann Voskamp. Olympic athletes don’t train more than other athletes. They train differently.
The Responsibility Process is extremely hard to practice at first. Why? Because we are so conditioned to cope. We have a serious coping habit, and don’t realize it. And changing that conditioning by ourselves is a monstrous task.
The The Leadership Gift Program exists to help you train differently. You build a responsibility practice over time in a supportive community of other leaders and coaches doing the same thing. It is designed for just-in-time right-sized doses of skill-building content mixed with practice, practice, practice (and your everyday life is the practice field).
Why? So you can produce results that matter in your life and in the lives of others.
[Read about the origins of the joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?]
Christopher Avery, “The Responsibility Process guy”, 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.