“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
This isn’t a post about fatalism and the futility of making plans. I’m well aware that there is only so much that is within our control. I have control over the flow of information into my mind (if I am willing to take responsibility for it). I have a say over where I live and how I live… That said, life is pretty good at throwing curveballs. While I don’t always get a choice in the curveball that is thrown my way, I do get to choose how I respond to it.
It’s an inside job
That distinction makes all the difference in the world. Let me explain a little further. Responsibility is often called respond-ability which is a play on words to point in the direction that it IS how you respond that is the key here. While that is part of it, I prefer a deeper cut on the word responsibility. At responsibility’s heart is the Latin root Sponda which means to pledge or to answer.
Responsibility: “The ability or willingness to be answerable to or for someone or something, again and again. In other words, it is not something you do once. It is something you assume or take on willingly. Above all, it is a choice rather than a burden, or something you have to do.”
The change to the meaning of the word is subtle and profound. It turns it from being something “out there” to something that is over here where I am. It requires that you are willing, no-one can MAKE you take responsibility. Moreover, it is something that you do again and again and again, rather than a choice you make once and forget about. No wonder people don’t like it! It sounds like hard work: Tantamount to Responsibility Ground Hog Day… Or does it?
Theory versus practice
Here is the kicker about this stuff. You really have no idea about how responsible you are until you step up to the plate and the curveball is coming at you. Even if you are aware that a curveball is coming it is still a theory until it happens. When it does happen and the pressure is on, the default “kicks in” and a reaction is initiated. Sometimes that reaction becomes a chain reaction and things spiral out of control.
Responsibility: it’s hiding in the gap
If you look and reflect on your life with awareness you will be able to identify a key moment. That moment is a moment of choice and it looks like a gap. Sometimes that gap is not more than a slither. Perhaps a nano-second in time where you have a choice to Re-act (which means act and behave in a way that you have before) OR choose how to respond to your circumstances whatever they may be. The choice then comes down to how you “show up”. How do you take control over the gap? Firstly, it takes bringing your awareness to every moment. In other words, it takes being present. When it comes to responsibility you are either taking responsibility which looks like ownership OR you are laying blame or making excuses.
The power of questions in the responsibility equation
Secondly, when the pressure is on ask yourself two simple questions. First question: “Who am I looking to blame?” Second question: “What excuses am I making or how am I looking to justify (fill in the blank)?” This is where you plant yourself firmly in the Victim camp with no power and most of your energy going in your self proclaimed victim-hood status. This keeps you stuck in a story about what happened, continually dragging the past back into the present and projecting it forward creating an unwanted future. If you are not doing either of those chances are you are taking responsibility and from there you can plot a course forward which is a much wiser use of your energy. It is a choice between being at the effect of your circumstances like a cork bobbing up and down on the waves or being firmly anchored and charting your own course.
In a former incarnation, I owned and ran a business. I left that life behind 15 years ago and I still have ties to the establishment through the freehold. What kept me in that business way past my used by date was the fear that I would sell the business and be dragged back into years later and have to take it back on. Two years ago I got the sense that all was not as well as it “should be” and it seems that vacant possession is on the cards and it looks to be happening soon. It is not the desired outcome and certainly stacks up as a curveball in my book.
My plans certainly differ to the reality coming down the line and I am grateful for my training and for the awareness that I have cultivated over time. I have identified my gap and I am working for the best outcome for all parties concerned. At almost 50 I think I have finally understood what it means to be responsible insofar as I choose how I show up. Not all the time, I am still a Work In Progress. That is freedom for me. Freedom is what all the fuss is about.