Last week, in conversations with two clients, the thorny issue of responsibility came up. One, working full time in a job she loves, feels guilty that she’s not fulfilling her parental responsibilities. The second wants to start a coaching practice but is afraid of the responsibilities of running a business.
All this talk about responsibility sent me down memory lane…..
There I was, innocently doodling in the back of my math book when the teachers voice came rushing back into my ears. “Hand’s up! Who’s responsible?” A wave of nausea surged through my body and into my head. My brain rocked from side to side trying to grab onto something solid. Responsible? For what? Did I do something?
I timidly raised my head. Teacher was standing, hands on hips, eyes glaring. The silence was piercing. No one raised their hand. Even though I had no idea what the issue was the thought still crossed my mind; “Should I raise my hand?” I didn’t but oddly felt I might be the culprit. I don’t remember what happened next, the entire class probably got detention.
Responsibility, from one perspective, is simply a word composed of vowels and consonants and yet it can conjure up intense feelings. What does the word responsibility stir up in you? Do you relish responsibility or shrink from it?
After a little bit of conversation I recognized that my clients were suffering from the dictionary definition.
The wrong kind of responsibility.
My clients associated responsibility with obligation and blame. They believed that whatever ‘it’ was that they felt responsible for, whether succeeding at their job or raising their children, they were on the line to make things happen and make things go well.
I surprised them when I invited them to scrap their definition in favor of something much more constructive.
A more helpful kind of responsibility.
The way I like to think of responsibility breaks down the word into its two parts.
Responsibility = the ability to respond.
This definition is much more helpful because it’s closer to the truth. The truth is that human beings are have innate wisdom and insight which comes from beyond personal thinking.
In other words, you’re built to respond to situations, people and projects in smart, innovative, creative ways.
Personal thinking such as “It’s all up to me” or “I’m afraid of trying because I don’t want to be blamed for failing” leads to paralysis or over-doing.
Whereas, grounded in your innate wisdom you’re a natural solution generator. With an incredible capacity to heal, invent and create new possibilities that far exceeds your personal belief about what you’re capable of.
Connected to your deeper wisdom you’re guided to take efficient, smart actions which are often about doing less to do rather than more.
And, that’s not all.
Best of all, it’s not your responsibility.
I don’t mean it’s OK to run rampage and you’ll avoid consequences. Or that a life well lived happens by not lifting a finger.
What I’m saying is that the moment you drop thinking that ‘I’ and ‘I’ alone am responsible for X, Y or Z, a space opens up for the infinite intelligence behind life to assist and propel you.
Like the wind that catches an unfurled sail, you get moved along by invisible and unexpected help in the form people stepping in to make things easier and solutions which ‘come from nowhere’.
So, instead of drowning in the idea that taking responsibility is a joyless heavy burden. Take your responsibilities a little less seriously and discover how the intelligence behind Life is always gently at your back making life remarkably easier.
At the end of April I’m holding my spring group retreat in Corvallis, OR. The theme of this years retreat is Innate Resilience ~ How to turn stress into strength.
We’ll explore how human beings have an innate ability bounce back after a stressful event or crisis. Making it unnecessary to avoid, manage or reduce stress, but instead allow it to grow your capacity to ‘handle’ more of what life has to offer.
To find out more about the retreat and register, click here.