Taking responsibility for our choices is part of being an adult. However, when a situation seems to be outside our realm of control, we tend to overlook the contributions we made to it. In turn, we throw our own power out the window.
Consider this…you’re a professional who has agreed to attend a meeting at 2pm, 10 miles across town. Usually, the drive takes 15 minutes, so you plan to leave your desk 20 minutes in advance and arrive with a few minutes to spare. You get a call 5 minutes before you’re planning to leave, and are not able to end the call in time. By the time you arrive, you’re 10 minutes late and the meeting has already started.
Everyone else found a way to be there on time and your tardiness is an inconvenience to the group, whether or not they choose to mention it. The result is a stain on your reputation as a professional, and you’ll need a different approach to keep this from becoming a pattern.
To find more power in a situation like that, let’s look at your story about it.
Do you blame the customer for being demanding and not letting you off the call in time?
Do you argue that serving your customers is more important than honoring your agreement to be on time…hence, no one has the right to be upset if you’re late?
Do you say that “shit happens”, you have no control, and everyone should just simply accept a reasonable excuse? How often is that happening in your life?
Along the road to being completely authentic, the most powerful tool I have found is responsibility – seeing everything you do as a choice, and completely owning every choice you make. No matter how much responsibility you are already taking for your choices, there is always room to stretch.
What’s the flip side of responsibility? Being a victim. It is really easy to blame other people, especially when technically they are at fault. But for every moment you spend putting the responsibility on someone else, the less power you have for yourself.
All of these “stories” assume that you were not in control of your time and something had to give. However, serving your customers and attending meetings are both very important to your career, so doing both with exceptional professionalism is ideal…and entirely possible if you own your choices.
The answer is simple: Knowing you were on your way out the door, you did not have to take the customer’s call. It can go to voicemail and you can call him back when you have more time. However, you chose to take the call, and left your colleagues waiting for you…so own that.
You can take more responsibility by saying to yourself “I made the mistake of taking a customer’s call when I did not have time to serve him properly. As a result, I inconvenienced my colleagues.” When you put it that way, you recognize that you traded one for the other and create the possibility that you can honor both next time. If you use this as a heartfelt apology to the colleagues you inconvenienced, they will understand that you are already looking for a way to avoid inconveniencing them again…and they may be inspired by your attitude.
The power you gain from taking responsibility here is the awareness that you can honor both sides of any equation…AND it’s much more productive than trade-offs. Trade-offs come from scarcity, scarcity breeds excuses, and excuses are never powerful. This is just an introduction to the concept. See how many situations you can find where taking more responsibility for your choices leaves you with more power.
Time to transcend! This blog series is intended to challenge you by reaching beyond the status quo. If you are feeling resistance, consider that your ego is coming forward and presenting you with an opportunity to grow. This is where the magic happens!