Consider this scenario: It’s finals week, and you’ve spent the last few days cramming like mad. Deep down, you know you should have started studying earlier in the month, but with intramural football, that new video game, spontaneous trips to the beach, and Netflix parties with your friends, there just wasn’t enough time. Although you’re doing all the “right things” now by highlighting your reading and going over old quizzes, you’re rushed and anxious. It’s no surprise, then, to see a disappointing C- at the top of your paper. Regrettably, you know you could have done better.
So, what now? Do you take issue with the professor or teacher, complaining that the questions were too hard? Do you accuse him or her of biased grading, or being out to get you? Do you compare your test to those of classmates who earned better grades? Worse yet, do you recruit your parents to petition on your behalf?!?
Or, do you take personal responsibility for your grade and accept the fact that you underprepared? Will you own the outcome?
We call this topic “Accepting Personal Responsibility for Our Mistakes and Shortfalls.” And believe me, it’s no easy feat. However, it’s a sign of maturity and a hallmark of a true leader. Being able to put complaints, self-pity, and the desire to blame others for a negative outcome aside is a sign of integrity and self-awareness. Moreover, accepting responsibility causes us to live with an accurate perspective of reality.
Blame shifting and negative behavior justification distorts our reality—causing us to live in a world where we believe we do no wrong. It’s rooted in insecurity, and it affects our decision making, job performance, academic achievements, relationships, and more. Everyone else screws up but us, right? Wrong! The real reality is that we all mess up but have the capacity to accept the consequences and learn from our mistakes.
Refusing to own up to our shortfalls creates a blind spot in our lives—one that may cause us to miss out on great opportunities. That professor who was “biased” against you? She could have turned out to be a great tutor. The coach who you were convinced benched you every game because he “didn’t like you?” He could have been a great personal trainer and helped you up your game. That classmate who was “jealous of you?” She could have helped you become a better friend.
The long and short of it is this: as we grow into well-rounded, confident, and contributing members of society, it’s crucial that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and shortfalls. Although it may seem difficult at the time, this practice will make us better friends, employees, players, and students who have an accurate and healthy view of ourselves and the world around us. Humility and self-awareness are of high value, so start this practice now!
Can you think of a situation where you stood up and took responsibility for your actions? What good came from it? If you are a parent, teacher, or mentor, consider taking some time to sit down with your teen and talk through real-world examples of accepting responsibility for poor choices.