I'm a fan of good quotes. They inspire me. But I usually keep them to myself so I'm not an annoying quote person. Today though, I have one that is perfect for this article. Theodore Roosevelt said, "If you could kick a person in the pants who is responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."
I recently reviewed all of my past articles to make sure I wasn't being repetitive and to think a little more about what I might want to write about in the future. During my review, I noticed a common theme woven into many of the articles. Although I never came out and said it directly, the idea that there is value in greater personal responsibility is clearly present in many of my articles.
That doesn't surprise me. Personal responsibility is an interesting topic to me. It is something I value immensely. But over the past several years, I believe I've observed a widespread decrease in personal responsibility. This observation, combined with the identified theme from the articles led me to spend a considerable amount of time lately thinking about personal responsibility. I began to wonder why some people seem to have a high level of personal responsibility and others don't seem to have much at all.
I started my research into the topic by simply exploring the definition of personal responsibility. My favorite definition came from a man named Len Wilson. His definition is lengthy but to sum it up, he defines personal responsibility as the ability of people to respond maturely to various situations in life. He continued by explaining that we have different characteristics, or personal capital, that give us varying abilities to deal with situations. Those with low personal capital tend to have less personal responsibility and therefore become a victim of circumstances. Those people identify with feelings of powerlessness, dependency and entitlement, and live by the effects of what happens to them instead of affecting their own destiny.
That made sense but led me to more questions. Can personal responsibility be developed? Can levels change throughout your life and in response to different situations? Can people gain personal capital? It led me to research more reports that said yes indeed, personal responsibility levels could change, and drastically. And that makes sense. Think about the people you are aware of who have made significant positive changes with their health. People lose enormous amounts of weight, change diets, stop taking medications, and become overall much healthier. So if people can develop greater levels of personal responsibility regarding their health, then shouldn't we be able to develop greater levels of personal responsibility in other areas of our lives? The answer is yes.
This world would be a different place if personal responsibility crawled its way back into all homes. But we can start here in our community by changing our own lives right here first. We can identify and evaluate our own level of personal responsibility and make a decision on whether there are areas in which we want more control over our own situations. Each time we don't accept responsibility for our lives, situations, or circumstances, we decrease our ability to affect them.
I know that everyone is made happy in different ways. Sometimes I wonder if maybe investing in personal responsibility makes me happy but it wouldn't make others happy. But then I run in to someone who is miserable in their job, unhappy with their situation, or complaining about something else they could impact on their own and I realize that personal responsibility can be for everyone. If you want something more or different in any part of your life, personal responsibility is where to find it. And I think the world could use a little more of it. Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said we are responsible for most of our own troubles. To take that one step further, we are also responsible for most of our own happiness,
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.