Take Responsibility For Your Own Success

You will never possess what you are unwilling to pursue.

Dr. William Glasser, the author of Reality Therapy, has found there are two types of people in the world. Some people are happy and healthy, and they truly enjoy life. Other people are unhappy and unhealthy, and they’re disgruntled with life.

The difference between these two types is one of perspective. Happy people spend time in self-evaluation, which leads to self-improvement and a high quality life. They take responsibility. They focus on what they can do to make things better.

By contrast, unhappy people evaluate everything and everyone except themselves. They blame other people and circumstances for their difficulties. It’s always someone else’s fault. They focus on what others did to mess up their lives.

Obviously, you want to be solidly placed in the first group. Who doesn’t? The truth is, very few people are. According to Lewis Timberlake, in his book It’s Always Too Soon To Quit, statistics show that only 10% actually succeed at their goals, making the self-improvements that build a quality life. Another 10% are at the other extreme, so unhappy with their defeats and difficulties they turn to desperate measures, such as drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, or suicide.

Most people, 80% live somewhere between these two extremes. They simply endure life. They have dreams, but they’re convinced they’ll never be achieved. They have jobs they don’t like, but they don’t do anything about them. They’re frustrated because they feel they didn’t get the right breaks in life.

In reality, people don’t fail because they don’t get the right breaks. People fail because they don’t think the thoughts and do the things that will change their circumstances. The top 10%, the truly happy people, take a different approach, and you and I would be wise to follow their example.

First, DECIDE YOU’RE GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL. You’re going to be happy. There’s no doubt about it. Period. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.”

Second, ACCEPT THE FACT THERE WILL BE STRUGGLE. In fact, struggle is good. Struggle builds character, and character leads to all types of success. Zig Ziglar reports that immigrants are four times as likely to become millionaires as native-born Americans. Truly happy, successful people seem to know a secret–that hard work will pay off later while laziness pays off now.

That was certainly the case with Steve. He was born in New York City in 1921, the child of an abusive mother who frequently vented her vicious temper on him. To make things worse, Steve was frequently left with a variety of alcoholic aunts and uncles so his vaudeville parents could go on tour.

At age 13, Steve ran away from home to seek refuge with an aunt in California, riding his bicycle most of the way across the United States until it broke down. He continued his trek on freight trains, eating ant-covered leftovers that wandering hoboes had left behind.

As he got older, Steve served a short term in the Army, and then began a radio career in the 1940’s. Later he went on to TV, became an accomplished pianist, and wrote over 4000 songs and several books. But perhaps Steve Allen is best remembered for creating the comedic talk show in 1953 called “The Tonight Show.”

Interestingly enough, Steve Allen never gave up the struggle, even when he had it “made” and didn’t have to work anymore. The last few years of his life were dedicated to the Parents Television Council, a national effort to clean up the filth that permeates so much of today’s television programming.

Losers tend to be very envious of successful people like Steve Allen. All they see is the end result. They don’t see the struggle. They say, “I could have done that if I’d been in his shoes. He had all the right breaks. I could be successful too, if times weren’t so tough, and if I could just get a few breaks.”

The truth is, successful people wouldn’t be the successes they are without all the struggle they had. Successful people accept the struggle as part of the process. Just like Steve Allen, they make a conscious decision to change their circumstances.

Fourth, MAKE YOURSELF DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, EVEN IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. Losers are guided by their feelings. If they don’t feel like it, they don’t do it, even though certain steps have to be taken if success is to be achieved. A loser is like the employee who was asked what he did in the morning to make sure he had a great day. He answered, “I call in sick.”

The top 10% don’t enjoy certain tasks any more than the losers do, but they do them anyway. The top 10% know they can’t get to where they want to go by remaining where they are. So they make themselves do what needs to be done. It’s their duty. And sometimes, as novelist John Fowles said, “Duty largely consists of pretending that the trivial is critical.”

Finally, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Refuse to excuse yourself. Losers think a good explanation can excuse a poor result. Truly successful people take responsibility for their failures, learn from them, and do better next time. It’s a matter of maturity, and maturity does not always parallel age. Maturity comes with the acceptance of responsibility.

Action:  Conduct a self-evaluation. Make three lists. Write down 50 things you are good at, 5 things you need to improve personally, and 5 things you need to improve professionally. Do something every week to make positive changes in each of your listed improvement areas. Keep a record of what you’ve done, and it won’t be too long before you’ll see results.