In every area of your life, you are responsible for creating the circumstances and the results you want for yourself and your people. You have no greater responsibility, and no one else can do this work for you. Fulfilling that responsibility demands radical personal accountability.
Don’t Blame Poor Results on External Factors
It’s tempting to use external factors to explain away poor results because it seems to absolve us of responsibility. Much like young children, we point fingers somewhere else—anywhere else—to prevent others from being upset or unhappy with us. But in the real world, habitually avoiding responsibility does little to convince yourself, let alone others, that your failures are purely circumstantial.
From time to time, certain factors beyond your control may impact your life and your results, requiring hard work (and perhaps a little luck) to overcome. Most of the time, however, you are the primary obstacle to the results you want in your life. The root cause of your challenges is not “out there” somewhere; it’s internal.
Everything Is Your Fault
When you do something remarkable like graduate from college, earn your MBA, win a big deal you’ve pursued for years, or earn more money than you’ve ever made in a single year, you are proud of your accomplishment. Naturally, you take credit for all the good things you create in your life.
Radical personal accountability extends that model, taking equal responsibility for all the negative outcomes and poor results in your life— without excuses, and without placing blame on someone or something external. In short, everything is your fault! If some area of your life or some result isn’t what you need it to be, you must own that result in exactly the same way you own your successes.
When it comes to work, especially, your results are your own. It doesn’t pay to believe that your performance is determined by your company, your manager, your competition, the economy, or whoever holds power in Congress or the White House. Maintaining personal accountability doesn’t mean ignoring those external factors; instead, it means taking action to produce the best possible result, despite the things that are wholly outside of your control.
It would be silly to blame your doctor, nurse, or insurance company if you get a stomachache after eating an entire gallon of ice cream. After all, you are personally responsible for taking care of yourself, even if you would rather not do all the things necessary to get or stay physically healthy. The same is true of your mental and psychological health, including your mindset. Just like you need good nutrition to be physically healthy, what you feed your mind often determines your mindset.
A steady diet of divisive politics and negativity will create a storm of negative emotions and beliefs, until you are no longer positive, optimistic, and empowered. It’s not the negative events and circumstances that change your mindset; it’s your focus on these things and the meaning you invest in them. Similarly, maintaining healthy relationships with the people in your life is also your responsibility. Whether those relationships are easy or challenging, the results you produce are your own.
Be accountable to yourself by investing proactively in these relationships, or all you’ll have left is memories and regret.
Goals and Disciplines
Recently, I came across an article suggesting that 85% of the population doesn’t even set goals, let alone write them down. But goals are just the minimum: you also need a vision for your life, as well as an action plan and a set of disciplines to ensure you have the life you want.
Goals are targets, pursued as part of radical personal accountability. Because your goals belong to you, you are responsible for bringing them to life through your thoughts and your actions—even if other people help you reach them. But what may be most important is establishing daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly disciplines that help you recognize and take necessary actions. Radical personal accountability means never needing anyone to “manage” you, both because you are responsible for your own actions and because you hold yourself to higher standards than any supervisor.
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