The fine line of taking 100% responsibility

Acknowledging the consequences of your own actions, while not denying other people's contributions to the problem, is a delicate balancing act.

Steffan Surdek
October 12, 2020
Luis villasmil ml Vb Mbxf WI4 unsplash

Over the past few years, in our retreats, I often spoke about taking 100% responsibility for your life. I learned about this principle at a CAM event a few years ago, where I met Jack Canfield. When he presented this concept to us, it resonated with me deeply. I decided at that moment to try to live this principle in my everyday life.

When you train as a coach, you learn a lot of interesting tools such as this to help people grow. You also get to practice these tools on yourself to learn how to use them. The dark side of all this practice is seeing people who begin using these tools for self-defence.

In this article, I want to use taking 100% responsibility to give you a concrete example of what I am talking about.

Let's talk about taking 100% responsibility

To learn more about this principle, I invite you to take a moment to read this neat blog post on Jack Canfield's website. It is one of the key principles in his book "The Success Principles" and it is a very powerful tool.

The idea behind it is for you to take full responsibility for everything happening in your life. Instead of blaming others, you accept responsibility for what is happening around you.

Think about it for a minute. It is very easy for you to blame others for what is happening to you in your life. What makes it easy is because you do not need to change if it is someone else's fault. The other person has the responsibility to take action and do something. If they do it, then great but if nothing changes, you have someone else to blame and feed your frustration.

As you feed this frustration, you start feeling more disempowered. You start telling yourself stories that feed your frustrations even more. You start feeling more and more powerless to change anything.

The idea behind taking 100% responsibility is to look for your contribution in the matter. It is actually a lot easier to change yourself than to change the people around you.

Why take 100% responsibility for your life?

Do you sometimes act as a victim of what is happening in your life? If this is one of your patterns, it may be because:

  • It is a reflection of your family life, the culture you grew up in, or how your parents raised you.
  • It is a reflection of your personal life experiences.
  • It is a reflection of how you look at life, and you do not know any other way.

There could be a lot of other reasons behind it too. Learning to take more responsibility for your own life can open up a world of new possibilities for you. These new possibilities can help you feel more resourceful and live a happier life. You may even find that you can make very different decisions that did not seem possible before.

The dark sides of taking 100% responsibility

Let's explore for a moment how you could also use a tool such as this in a dysfunctional way. For the sake of argument, let's say you are having a difficult conversation with a colleague. Wouldn't the conversation be way easier if you could make it all the fault of the other person?

Think about it for a bit. In a situation like this, let's make them 100% responsible for what is happening. Deny any responsibility and make them responsible instead. It could easily look like: "Tell me, what could YOU have done in a different way?" or "what will YOU be doing now moving forward?"

When you learn these tools, it is very easy to use this knowledge as self-defence. Flipping situations on people in this way creates radical irresponsibility for yourself.

There is another dark side to being willing to take 100% responsibility for your life. Some people can interpret this as a way of not having to take any responsibility at all for their own actions. The trick is finding the right balance between the two.

Remember that when it is always the fault of the people around you the common thread is you... You are in all these situations so you must be doing something to enable this to happen.


Part of living principles such as this is remembering you made this choice for yourself. You should not try to force others to take 100% for their life to avoid taking any responsibility at all.

Acknowledge your responsibility and then point out their contribution to the issue. By taking your fair share of responsibility, you make it easier for others to accept theirs. You should be a living example of the principle instead of inflicting it on others.

How do you take 100% responsibility for your life? What new possibilities does it create in your life?

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash