Responsibility is a part of adulthood, but, it would probably be fair to say that a lot of people find themselves lacking a clear sense of direction in life these days — with plenty of Internet memes already having done the rounds of millennials trying to figure out how to ‘adult’, among other things.
There are plenty of reasons why you might feel like you’re in a rudderless boat, with regards to things like your career, or your personal relationships. Over the last few decades, much of the stability that came with working in various industries has evaporated, and the ties that once bound employee and employer are often now a lot looser and harder to define.
Then, there’s the fact that technologies like the Internet have been disrupting all sorts of elements of life and work, at an exponential pace, for at least the last couple of decades.
So, what’s the solution if you feel like you’re unmoored and hopeless?
A common option is to play the blame game. For a while now, it’s been fashionable to be a victim and to look for causes to take up, and social ills to vanquish, in order to establish a roadmap forward. ‘It’s the baby boomers who left us with this mess’ ,’the 1% is holding me down’, et cetera.
Regardless of who is, or isn’t, responsible for whatever issues you may be dealing with, however, the buck always has to stop with you. Because, ultimately, no one is — or ever will be — as invested in your own life and livelihood as you yourself are — with the possible exception of your close family.
If you’re looking for a sense of direction in your life, you may find that direction by walking the path of adopting more and more responsibility, in a productive manner. Maybe you’re already doing everything perfectly, and aren’t dropping the ball in any domain of your life. But it’s far more likely that there is a lot of work you could still be doing to ‘be your best you’.
Here are a few tips for adopting more (productive) responsibility in your life.
Take steps to fix the broken and improve the damaged things that you see in your own life and immediate vicinity:
One of the best ways of adopting more responsibility in your life, in a way that is likely to be productive and fruitful, is to focus first and foremost on taking steps to fix and improve the ‘damaged’ and ‘broken’ things in your immediate vicinity, to the best of your ability.
This point applies both in a more literal and pragmatic sense, and also in a more abstract sense. If there are broken items of furniture in your home, engaging in some DIY to get them repaired can be a great way of stepping into the role of the kind of person who ‘fixes things’.
For that matter, this process could just as easily mean getting rubber roofing installed, or finally fixing that crack in your wall.
At the same time, though, you should also look for problems and signs of ‘damage’ that exist within yourself and your own behaviour.
Do you have a particular hang-up or issue that you feel has been holding you back for years, but that you’ve never really addressed? Now could be the time to seek out counselling, to make a concerted plan to change things, or even just to begin reading an array of books that might provide helpful insights into the subject.
The key point here is that whatever it is you’re doing to fix and improve things, should be focused close enough to home that you can actually make a substantial impact, in such a way that you will be changed for the better as a result.
Actively engage yourself in pastimes that involve you trying to create things, rather than just consuming them:
‘Consumerism’ is a word that we all hear a lot, and it’s not exactly a flattering term, either.
When someone talks about ‘consumerism’, they’re always talking about a way of relating to the world that prioritises the accumulation of more and more stuff over the development of a better and better character, or a wider set of experiences.
The bottom line is that we all ‘consume’ to some degree. No one could ever actually create every tool, leisure item, outfit, and foodstuff in their life, unless they were living a seriously Spartan existence as a mountain hermit.
But it’s when you consume endlessly, and create little or nothing, that the issues really start to arise. Among other things, living like this puts you in a permanent state of helplessness, and makes you completely dependent on other people.
More than this, though, it can end up training you into a state of ‘learned helplessness’, where you fail to take your own potential and capabilities seriously enough.
A great antidote to consumerism can be to focus on actively engaging in pastimes where you create things, instead. That could mean painting, hobby woodworking, creative writing, or any number of other things.
Just be sure to spend a decent amount of your time actually making things, instead of just using them.
Audit your own habits, and design a life for yourself that you would be proud of. Then act it out:
Several people in recent years, including the Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, and the author of the book Atomic Habits, James Clear, have written about why it might be a good idea to focus on ‘systems’ (meaning, basically, habits) rather than ‘goals’.
One of the key points in this line of reasoning, is that your ‘systems’ are about who you are right here and right now, while your goals are about who you hope or want to be at some distant point in the future.
By all accounts, a huge amount of what we all do on a day-to-day basis is totally habit-driven, and mostly unconscious — or at best, semi conscious. This naturally begs the question: are your everyday habits in line with the kind of life you want to live, and the kind of person you want to be, or not?
By auditing your own habits, and designing a life for yourself that you would be proud of, you can radically change the way you relate to the world around you, for the better, pretty much immediately.
Instead of setting yourself goals like ‘I will lose 20lbs by November’, or ‘I will earn 10k more by next year’, set yourself daily habits that increase the likelihood that you will move in the directions you want to move. This is a path that has everything to do with taking responsibility for who you are today, rather than who you will be tomorrow. And, according to certain insightful individuals, it may be a more effective strategy, too.
Accept the opportunities that present themselves to you at the moment, and do something with them:
Sometimes, we end up failing to properly adopt responsibility in our lives, because of our egos or hang-ups. Often, this manifests itself in the form of people refusing to acknowledge or seize the opportunities around them, either because those opportunities are daunting, or because they feel those opportunities are ‘beneath them’.
To adopt a stance of proper productive responsibility, though, you should accept the opportunities that present themselves to you where you stand, right now, and should then work to do what you can with them, and see where the path leads.
It may be that the only job available to you at the moment is the one that you are overqualified for. Or it may be that starting up a conversation with that special someone is a truly terrifying prospect to you.
In either case, it’s often better to do something than to do nothing, and there are likely plenty of things you could be doing right now if you just opened yourself up to the possibility.