Many of us feel a tremendous sense of responsibility -- responsibility for ourselves, responsibility for our children, responsibility for our significant others, responsibility for our work, responsibility for our homes, responsibility for our communities.
We feel responsible for fixing, changing, helping, saving, solving. We feel responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of things that are outside of our own personal control.
All of this responsibility can feel like a huge, smothering weight.
Not surprisingly, many people feel crushed -- in spirit, and even physically -- by all of this pressure.
But there's another way to look at responsibility, a way that will not only provide instant relief, it will help you feel more in control of your life.
As Deepak Chopra says in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, "Responsibility means not blaming anyone or anything for your situation, including yourself. Having accepted this circumstance, this event, this problem, responsibility then means the ability to have a creative response to the situation as it is now."
In other words, your true responsibility is your "response-ability."
Once you come to understand that, you've got the keys to the kingdom!
Here's an example: Several years ago, I was having a hard time dealing with my father. He made me really mad.
We could spend four hours together, and sometime near the end of those four hours, he might think to ask how I was doing. The rest of the time, he'd talk pretty much non-stop. And if I tried to participate in the conversation, he would shush me and tell me not to interrupt.
That drove me crazy. It hurt my feelings. It made me insanely angry.
In short, I saw my father's behavior and attitude as the problems, and I wanted to change them. I felt as if I should be able to help him -- to fix him and make him change. I felt responsible for improving him in order to improve our relationship.
When I finally realized that I could neither change nor control this man (nor anybody else, for that matter), I recognized the one thing I actually could change and control: I could change and control my response to him.
And that changed everything.
I consciously decided that the things my father did that made me angry were not going to make me angry anymore. I decided to view those same behaviors as his "funny, quirky qualities." And I chose to laugh at them instead of getting all steamed up.
Well, guess what: It worked. And it was remarkably easy.
Whenever I would feel myself starting to tense up around my father, I would remember the choice I had made and I would smile to myself.
Making this kind of choice is exactly how we take back our power: While the outside stimulus has remained the same, we’ve changed our response to it.
We have taken responsibility in the Deepak Chopra sense of the word.
We haven't taken responsibility for changing a person, nor for trying to fix that person.
Instead, we have taken responsibility for our own feelings and our own mental health. We've taken response-ability.
Taking response-ability is a major step along the path to self-empowerment, and it's a huge leap forward toward genuine, lifelong happiness.