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Mackay: Success begins with taking responsibility for your actions

Harvey Mackay

Minneapolis Star Tribune

We can learn a lot about responsibility from bugs.

The ant works hard in the sweltering heat all summer, building its house and loading up on supplies for winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well-fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so it dies out in the cold.

The lesson? Accept responsibility for your actions. We've had it drilled into our heads that actions have consequences. So why are people surprised when the consequences are less desirable than they anticipated?

I recently watched a program about people in prison. It was fascinating to hear so many deny responsibility for their actions. Nothing was their fault.

Others understood their sentences were justified, given their actions. They acknowledged their mistakes and learned their lessons the hard way. They were determined to change their lives. This is why taking responsibility for yourself and your actions is so important.

My buddy Denis Waitley, who writes and lectures on personal, professional and financial success, says, "You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make."

Accepting responsibility is an indication of good character.

In your work life, it is certainly also a major asset. The boss or employee who says "the buck stops here" earns the trust and respect of managers and co-workers.

Another good friend -- Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and life coach -- said, "Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you."

Responsibility is earned. It's not something you're entitled to. If someone is hesitant to give you additional responsibility, it might be because you've been nonchalant with the responsibilities you already have. Responsible people do what they said they'd do, because they said they would. Period.

So if you want to be seen as more responsible, think about the responsibilities you already have, and take them more seriously. Consider it a way to pay your dues.

The website associated with the Lance Armstrong Foundation,, lists behavior traits that need to be developed in order to accept personal responsibility:

  • Seek out and accept help for yourself.
  • Be open to new ideas or concepts about life and the human condition.
  • Refute irrational beliefs and overcome fears.
  • Affirm yourself positively.
  • Know that you choose your responses to people, actions and events in your life.
  • Let go of anger, fear, blame, mistrust and insecurity.
  • Take risks and become vulnerable to change and grow in your life.
  • Reorganize your priorities and goals.
  • Realize that you are the party in charge of the direction your life takes.

Author Charles Francis relates that in ancient Rome, when the scaffolding was removed from a completed Roman arch, the law required the Roman engineer who built the arch to stand beneath it; if it came crashing down, he would experience the responsibility firsthand. As a result, the Roman engineer knew that the quality of his work would have a direct impact on his life.

You may never have to put yourself in such physical danger, but you may have to stick your neck out when you accept responsibility for your actions. That means you are able to hold your head high!

Mackay's Moral: When you take responsibility, you take control of your life.


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