How to take responsibility

Figuring out what we want in life, can be a tremendous task. Ask yourself what you really want is the first step.

Wijnand de Jong (43)


Wijnand is an Amsterdam based social psychologist. He’s a lecturer in applied psychology, an inspired career counselor and an experienced trainer in developing social skills.

In my coaching many people bring up the topic of responsibilities. They ask themselves a loads of ‘Should I…’ questions. We have no problem pointing out what we want on a daily level. But figuring what we want in life, can be a tremendous task. Ask yourself what you really want, is an important  first step.

For instance, once I coached a woman with a responsible job as a sales manager, who never completely finished her master. She built up her career despite of that. But she felt she still needed to face that responsibility from the past.

Should and need

Now, evidently there are responsibilities that people really should and need to take and finish. You need to make your hours on your job. You need to pay taxes on your salary. But, there isn’t any point in thinking about those a whole lot.

‘People don’t live up to these expectations can feel rejected’

The responsibilities of choice are the ones that bother us most. The ones that can keep us awake at night. Being able to take a lot of these is quite commonly perceived as a very right thing to do in working life. People don’t live up to these expectations can feel rejected. Somehow there’s something really bad about not taking responsibilities.

But why did the sales lady felt she had to pick up her master? It turned out that her parents played a major role in this. Growing up as a girl, she and her sister learned that their mum and dad did not get the chance to study. So the rule, written on the walls of her childhood, was: if we give you chances, you should accept them. And her older sister did, which made it even harder for her.

Responsibility

Growing up our parents and educators first took responsibility for us. But soon enough they told us that they were about to give us those responsibilities. Some even warned us, in their moments of despair: ‘Image you have a job like me one day… you couldn’t conveniently refuse to finish your task then, could you?’

Now for the sales manager realising what was hunting her, was half her cure. She had been trying to pay an old moral and emotional bill that her parents gave her, without her noticing. From that point asking her about the things that gave her energy and ideas, helped her to look ahead. She knew herself. Working independently always gave her inspiration. And she had always been setting things up, selling stuff and quite naturally building up networks of people.

Curiously enough, we have no problem pointing out what we want on a daily level. But figuring what we want in life, can be a tremendous task.

What do you want?

Ask yourself what you want. What always attracted you in your work? What are the lines in your own free choices so far? What good memories do you have of projects you did? What made them good? What made you good? Then downsize your thoughts. Mark what you want, set a goal and plan your first steps. Responsibilities will come along the way. But you’re happy in taking them when you have a goal that truly fits you.

Oh, and the sales manager; she decided to put up her own business.

Good luck.