This is the third in our series of articles about The 8 Keys of Excellence, which serve as a foundation for our leading residential teen summer camp, SuperCamp. See our Intro article as well as links to previous Key articles here: The 8 Keys of Excellence: Principles to Live By.
Take responsibility for your actions! Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. “Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.
Ownership is about accountability and responsibility. When you feel a sense of ownership, you give your best effort and take pride in the results. When you take responsibility for your life, you begin to make things happen. You are in control because you stop blaming things outside yourself for your situation.
Ownership also applies to taking responsibility for your attitude. Instead of adopting whatever random mood comes your way, you can choose “upness”: enthusiasm, optimism, alertness. Although it may not be possible all day every day, with practice you can choose a positive attitude whenever you take a moment to refocus.
Taking ownership is all about accountability. It’s about taking responsibility for what you do and say and think—including your mistakes, your excuses, your failures to act, and actions that you’re not very proud of. It means you’re willing to take responsibility for all the choices you make. The bottom line is that whether things you do or say go right or wrong, you point to yourself as the cause. You’re accountable.
Accountability is a whole-life concept. You can take ownership of your education, your work, your relationships, your health, your fitness—everything that’s important to you. You can create a massive shift in your life simply by taking responsibility for everything you do and say, and everything you wish to do and say.
The buck stops with you
When you pass the buck, you volunteer for powerlessness. You make yourself a passive ingredient in the recipe of your own life. You remove yourself from the equation.
I’m sure you’ve heard, and probably used, denials of responsibility like making excuses, laying blame elsewhere, or otherwise justifying unfavorable actions: It was her idea to change it (laying blame) . . . I was late for soccer practice because of the traffic (justify) . . . I didn’t do it (deny) . . . etc. Denying responsibility doesn’t make the problem go away—it’s more likely to make you look unreliable and even dishonest. Although denial might take some of the immediate heat off you, it does little to relieve the feelings of guilt and discomfort, and even anxiety, that come when you know you should have taken responsibility for something you said or did.
And that’s the worst part of passing the buck. It erodes your relationships. It marks you as someone who can’t be counted on, can’t be trusted. To maintain the respect of others and keep your relationships solid, the buck stops with you!
Are you living above the line or below the line?
When you think about ownership it may be helpful to visualize a line and consider whether you’re living above the line or below the line.
Above the line: Responsibility ∗ Choices ∗ Power ∗ Freedom
Below the line: Blame ∗ Justify ∗ Deny ∗ Quit
When you live above the line you’re taking responsibility, you’re being accountable for your actions. You’re taking ownership. Living above the line wins you freedom, trust, and success. Above the line, you’re not a victim of circumstances because you accept responsibility for your actions.
When you live below the line, you’re blaming others for your mistakes, justifying your actions, or simply denying them. Below the line, you act as if circumstances are beyond your control—it’s not your fault, someone or something else was the cause. You live in denial, complacency, and inaction.
To understand the significance of the line in your life, think about some recent actions and decide whether your response was above the line or below the line. Were you late meeting a friend? Did you miss a deadline for an assignment? Did you take responsibility—or make excuses? When you own your actions as well as your attitude you have the power to fix mistakes, overcome failures, and repair damaged relationships—and you experience a surge of potency and a sense of pride and self-confidence.
You can create a huge shift in your life simply by taking responsibility for your actions and your attitude.
Think in ink
How much responsibility are you willing to take for your life? It’s important to see that when we don’t take responsibility for circumstances in our lives, it can leave us feeling less free, less capable, less satisfied with ourselves. Ownership is about coming from an internal point of control rather than an external point of control. You have total control when you stop blaming things outside yourself for your circumstances.
Now think about how Ownership shows up in your life and write your thoughts about the following questions.
- What was a recent situation where I took responsibility for a mistake I made? How did I feel?
- What was another situation where I justified a mistake or blamed someone or something else? What were the results? How did I feel? How might the outcome have been different if I had taken responsibility right away?
- How would others view me if I always took ownership for my actions?
- How would I feel about myself if I always took responsibility for the choices I make and the results that follow?
- What can I do every day to be sure I take responsibility for my attitude as well as for all the choices I make and the results that follow?
“The secret ingredients to true happiness? Decisive optimism and personal responsibility.”
—Amy Leigh Mercree
About the Contributor: Since 1982, SUPERCAMP, Monthly Mentor, has inspired and empowered thousands of teens to feel confident and motivated, and to excel in school and beyond. SuperCamp offers six-, seven-, and ten-day residential programs for students in middle school, high school, and first-year college. Living on a college campus is a great experience for teens and most of our grads go directly to a four-year college after high school. As teens from around the world gather at SuperCamp, they are inspired to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, and they acquire learning and life skills that empower them to thrive in all areas of their life. Read More…
(See what some recent grads have to say about SuperCamp at www.supercamp.com/student-testimonials.)