Is responsibility a burden or empowering?

13/8/2013 |

Sharing some more brilliant thoughts from productivity ninja Grace Marshall. How do you feel about responsibility?

Remember those days when you actually wanted responsibility? Perhaps as a child, wanting your parents to trust you with responsibility, or in those hungry ambitious early-career days, wanting more responsibility at work.

Maybe you wanted more autonomy or authority. Maybe you wanted to be in charge, to make things happen, to feel in control, make a difference.

Yet the reality of responsibility can feel like anything but.

Donkey Work by Anthony Plumb, Flickr

The responsibility of being a parent – the burden of everything that needs to be done, all the decisions you make, that you might get wrong, and all the guilt that comes with that.

The responsibility of being a business owner – that the buck stops with you. That the only way anyone gets paid is if you keep bringing in the business. As the annoying saying goes, “if it is to be, it’s up to me.”

But what does it really mean to be responsible?

When we feel overwhelmed and burdened by responsibility, unable to take action or make a difference, are we taking responsibility?

Perhaps it’s more helpful to think about it as response-ability. If you’re carrying a burden so heavy you can’t move, you don’t have the ability respond.

If you’re feeling trapped by your commitments and unable to make a choice about what you actually spend time on, you’re not responding.

Being response-able means making choices about how you respond, and owning that choice. Not automatically saying yes to everyone else and no to yourself. That’s abdicating responsibility.

It’s about YOUR response

Take Katie for example. Who was always cancelling her own business plans when she was called upon in her school governor role because she felt responsible. And yet if they had called on one of her employed working days, she knows she would have said no.

Instead of just feeling responsible, she took responsibility and made a choice. She chose to give an hour of her time rather than let them take a day. And that worked out fine for both parties.

It’s your choice to define the way you do business or parent your kids. That’s the only way you’ll be happy with it. Your choice how you show up in all your different roles, and who you show up for. Your choice what you say yes to and what you say no to.

It’s about your ABILITY to respond

If you’re always putting yourself last and running on empty, how does that affect your ability to respond?

If you never take time to work on your business, how does that affect your ability to respond within your business?

If you’re over-committed and things are already falling off your plate, how does that affect your ability to respond to an emergency, curve ball, or a dream opportunity that comes out of the blue?

I don’t know about you, but if I’m tired, my ability to respond to spilt milk or moody tantrums is much much much reduced.

That’s why I’m taking August off. 

Because my kids have end-of-term-itis and I think it might be contagious.

Because this is the last summer before both kids are at school full time *cue hyperventilation*

Because I’m tired. Yes, I’m human, and happy to admit, I need a break!

Because my husband’s been amazing at holding the fort when I’m on my ninja travels, and I want to respond well to him.

Because my house needs de-cluttering and that affects my ability to respond.

Because I love my work, and I know I’ll have so much more to give when I recharge and renew my ability to respond.

Because I want to show up as my best self. In all my roles.

So I’m taking responsibility this summer and taking August off.

How about you? Where in your life do you feel overwhelmed or burdened by responsibility? How are you going to take responsibility?


More Grace on the blog:

Two and a half words that will improve your productivity 

What is your definition of success?



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