Master These Secrets and Take Charge of Your Life Today

man wearing a suit preparing to go to work
  • Twitter

 We all have that person in our lives. We're talking about that person who is always living in a disaster of their own making. Always having problems with money. Always screwing up relationships. Always late for work (if they have it). These are the folks who never stop hearing that classic question: “why can't you be responsible for once?”

Dealing with an irresponsible person can be a draining, confusing, and frustrating affair. It isn't easy, especially if it's a person you care about. A perennially irresponsible person is someone who is constantly falling short of being the best version of themselves. And that's a tragedy.

Hopefully, we're not describing ourselves with this rather unflattering portrait, but if we are, there's some good news.

Responsibility is not inherited.

It is not difficult to understand, and it is not some impossible feat that requires an immense, superhuman application of will or effort.

Responsibility is a skill, and while it is typically learned from one's parents or caretakers at a young age, it is also an ability that can be developed at any point in life.

And it's incredibly simple.

In fact, we've identified just four core concepts that form the “secret sauce” to being responsible. The key is to learn these four secrets, internalize them, and make them manifest in every part of your life.

These secrets can be applied no matter what stage you're at. Maybe you're worried that you're “that person” among your friends. Or maybe you're just looking for the latest edge to develop your own sense of responsibility.

Let's try a little exercise. In your mind, fire up your imagination and think of…

The Most Responsible Person You Know

man left alone in the office still working on a computer
  • Twitter

That's right. Think of the most responsible person you know.

Do you have a person in your mind?

Now ask yourself: how this person deal with adversity?

What actions does this person take in order to be responsible? What mindset do they use? Do they plan ahead?

How do they treat themselves and the people close to them? How do they solve problems and react to setbacks?

Just as we all know “that person” who is messing up constantly, most of us also have someone we can point to who really has got their life together.

Well, as hard as it may be to imagine… whoever your paragon of responsibility is, they didn't start out that way. Like the rest of us, they started out as wide-eyed children who needed to learn how to do everything. Walking, talking, brushing our teeth, combing our hair… everything.

studious boy reading good books in the home
  • Twitter

Now, it's true that this got-it-together person may have had certain advantages at a young age. And some of these may have helped in the process of learning to be responsible. But it's equally true that many supposed “advantages” actually work against people developing responsibility.

Think of all the celebrity tabloids you've seen, where some rich kid is getting into trouble again and again and again. It's mind-boggling, right?

And one of the patterns with these stories is that a lot of the craziest stuff happens with children of celebrities, or kids who got famous too early.

What do they do when they have everything handed to them on a platter? Sadly, some don't learn to be responsible, and then they wind up facing a rude awakening when they become adults.

So we don't have to look too hard to see examples of what irresponsibility looks like. But what does it actually mean to be responsible?

The Responsible Sort

group of office workers celebrating for success
  • Twitter

The word “responsibility” originally comes from a Latin verb meaning “to respond.” Over time, it came to acquire a sense of obligation. It came to mean that you were not only responding to something, but that you were supposed to respond.

In modern usage, responsibility means someone can be called on to answer for their actions, and usually implies a readiness to do so.

Modern life is complicated. There is a lot to keep track of and a lot that we can be responsible for: family, our health, our friends, work, social and religious obligations. Not to mention the never-ending tasks like taxes, getting insurance, registering our cars and all that other “grown-up” stuff.

People who are responsible tackle these obligations head-on. They don't shirk them, they don't avoid them, and they don't try to saddle someone else with them.

When responsible people make mistakes, they admit them. They recognize when a bad situation has come about as the result of a decision, and don't blame the circumstances for it.

Telltale Signs of Responsible People

handing shaking with encouraging words of being responsible
  • Twitter

People know that in order to be responsible, they have to act like it. But actions are dictated at least in part by what we value. What we think is important. In short, our defining characteristics.

We'll get to the 4 Secrets in a moment, but first, let's look at some of the common qualities that responsible people have. But pretty much all of them display the following:


Remember how we said that being responsible mean dealing with reality? Well, this is where that comes into play.

People who practice honesty are saying “I value the truth, and I accept reality.” This is the foundation for being responsible. It's pretty difficult to be responsible without it.


Responsible people don't just “know that their actions affect the world around them.” They care. It matters to them how their choices impact others.

Sadly, there are some people who know that what they do affects others, and yet still choose to take harmful or destructive actions. These people aren't detached from reality. They are detached from a piece of themselves that feels compassion.

Responsible people need both their heads (reality) and their hearts (compassion) to inform their choices.


Responsible people treat others with respect. This can change from person to person, and sometimes even the most responsible type will accidentally disrespect someone else.

The difference is that a responsible person will avoid doing this intentionally, and will apologize and make amends when possible.


Responsible people know that even when their intentions are good, they may mess up. When this happens, they don't try to pass the buck.

Anyone can blow a tire and accidentally take out their neighbor's mailbox with their truck. An irresponsible person will blame the truck, the tire, the slippery road…

A responsible person will be getting the toolset and working on fixing his neighbor a new post.


Showing courage doesn't have to be the kind of courage that shows up in classic war movies or superhero flicks. In reality, courage often manifests in how people deal with day-to-day issues that make them most uncomfortable.

Responsible people don't shy away from those problems.

Most of us have things we really hate doing. For one person, it might be the drudgery of paperwork. For another, it might be having a “difficult-but-necessary” conversation with someone they'd rather avoid.

But whether the problem is a personal confrontation, dreary office work, or something else entirely, responsible people put their discomfort second to what they know is necessary. That small-scale courage amounts to a lot of good decisions over the course of one lifetime.

It Pays to Be Responsible

a stack of money with a trophy on top
  • Twitter

Responsible people lay the groundwork for a successful life. In a myriad of ways, their seemingly-small daily choices pile up to create an avalanche of success.

When we're first learning to be responsible, this can seem a bit daunting. The idea that we might have to increase the number of obligations is one that might add stress to our lives. But the truth is that responsible people are usually less stressed than their irresponsible neighbors.

People who avoid obligation usually have it catch up to them eventually. Whether we're talking about health, legal issues, money, personal problem… whatever. It can be any of those things, but if we're dealing with them like adults, we stay aware of each of these areas of our lives.

This added feeling of being more in control of ourselves and our circumstance will reduce the day-to-day stress dramatically. In addition, other people notice when we're like this.

Think about it. If responsible people deal with their problems ahead of time, and pre-plan, the result is a person who is more calm, more confident, and more likely to attract added promotions and opportunity.

Being irresponsible can be a vicious cycle that pushes some people downward. But in the same way, being responsible can gain a momentum of its own.

Once you master the 4 Secrets of Being Responsible, you will find your life much less stressful, much less confusing, and gradually good things will start to appear in ways you previously would not have expected.

The 4 Secrets of Responsibility

top secret icon for taking responsibility
  • Twitter

First of all, these are secrets that anyone can master. But to those that haven't they seem mysterious and almost unattainable.

Responsible people have attained them because they deal with reality. It doesn't mean they lack imagination (quite the contrary!). But, when it comes to problem-solving, responsible people are usually not living in some fantasy world.

So if they need a skill they don't have, they seek to acquire it.

They don't give half-hearted efforts and hope for the best. They bring the best of themselves to every situation. With this mindset, they continue to get better, get results.

Responsible people are able to do this because they recognize certain things that others don't. Whether they were taught these truths or learned them the hard way, it doesn't matter.

If you learn these secrets and really internalize them, you almost can't help but be responsible, too.

So what do our responsible friends recognize?

Secret #1: They Recognize that Everything is Connected

woman with her notes is talking to someone on a cell phone
  • Twitter


Responsible people know that they do not exist independently from the rest of the world.

They are very much a part of it, and they do their best to make sure their effect is a positive one.

We all know this intelligently. But many, many people live their lives as if reality and the rest of the world will never catch up to them. They delude themselves into thinking that they are victims of circumstance, whereas, in fact, they are the victims of their own poor choices.

Responsible people embrace connectivity. They actively seek it out in their lives, and do what they can to improve their surroundings.

This doesn't mean that responsible people need to cram their schedules full of social events and obligations. Responsible people can be social butterflies or avowed introverts. But they recognize that whatever the situation, their choices affect the world around them.

As a result? They don't make excuses for themselves when they know they can make a better choice. They don't leave a mess for others to clean up.

sand timer telling is that time is running out
  • Twitter

They respect others' time. They practice punctuality. If they have to cancel on an obligation, they let their host know early, rather than waiting to the last minute. The same holds true if they are running late.

They know that their actions affect the planet. They don't waste resources.

They also recognize that resources mean more than just water and electricity. It means time, money, and personal energy.

These people know that in order to be responsible, they must take “take responsibility” for themselves, but consider how their actions will resonate in the bigger picture.

Secret #2: They Create a Process

Irresponsible people have no process. Responsible people do.

One of the dangers that we listed earlier was that irresponsible people often don't make good decisions because they pretend that they're invulnerable. They act like their bad choices won't catch up to them, and they take it as a personal offense when (inevitably) that happens.

To the irresponsible, the responsible seem almost magical.

Responsible people, meanwhile, know that they aren't magic. They know that they need to do the little things because they know that they're not invulnerable. So they become proactive.

Part of this is taking care of things like paying bills on time, setting aside money for taxes if they know they'll be paying in. It also means attempting to better themselves as people. Trying to learn new skills and methods for building a better life for themselves and those around them.

two women concentrating and doing yoga
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA, by Relaxing Music, via Flickr

This might include introspection, like meditating. It might mean reading a book on time management, or just learning new techniques to become more organized or more effective. They keep their minds busy with useful information, rather than chasing after every bit of gossip or empty factoid that comes their way.

By doing this, they create a process for self-improvement. And they create the habit of thinking ahead. They're less likely to be surprised because they are more likely to see problems coming a mile off.

Secret #3: They Recognize that They Must Earn It

people busy and working hard in an office
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by ElizabethHammond, via Flickr

Some things in life are gifts. Life itself is one; love is another. Many of the best things are free, or given freely, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But unfortunately, plenty of people expect that everything should work this way. They think that showing up should be enough, and feel entitled to have things simply because they want them.

Responsible people know that the vast majority of the things they want must be earned. This is especially true when it comes to anything financial or material. It is equally true when it comes to earning social respect.

You'll rarely see someone who is entitled and think, “wow, that person seems really responsible.”

Responsible people also don't take offense when they're not handed something. When something doesn't go their way, they first seek to understand what they could have done differently, rather than assuming that the world has it out for them.

And this is an important distinction to make because not all responsible people are necessarily “high-achievers” (although you're a lot more likely to get to the top if you are responsible!)

But the difference is this: if a responsible person decides that running the marathon isn't for him, he doesn't blame the marathon (or the other runners.)

Of course, many people who take these secrets to heart will find their earning power drastically increased as a result of practicing them. When the responsible mindset and a strong drive are both present in one person, the sky is the limit.

Secret #4: They Recognize the Importance of Emotion

business corporate men sitting on a panel in a media interview
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by NYCMayorsOffice, via Flickr

The last secret is the one that is truly missed by many people who might otherwise be thought of as “responsible,” but ultimately fail the test.

Consider someone who shows up to work on time every day. Never has trouble with money, or with the law. At work, all of his projects are done on time, and to exceptional quality.

But he is completely ignorant of the emotional landscape. He might have a temper. He might be prone to fits of anger or over-excitation. Perhaps most telling, this employee doesn't notice when other people are uncomfortable, confused, sad, or need help.

Or he just doesn't care.

This is the last of our secrets, but it is incredibly important. Even if you exhibit a knack for “dotting your i's and crossing your t's,” you need to be aware of the emotional aspect of responsibility.

(designer_start) [ pic of someone comforting or paying attention to another ] (designer_end)

If people feel you don't care about their emotions (or that you can't control your own), they will never trust you. The real advantages of responsibility that occur in a human framework are things like getting hired for a good job, gaining a promotion, or really being trusted with any rewarding opportunities where you're working as part of a team.

Some people may think that feelings are not as important as results. In some extreme cases or completely practical scenarios, this may be true. But in the day-to-day world, emotions and result are interconnected.

If you want to be seen as being responsible, adopt a calm demeanor, manage your emotions, and pay attention to those of others.

What If I Missed My Chance to Be Responsible?

Sometimes, we might regret past irresponsible decisions. Or maybe even certain decisions we thought were good ones but didn't turn out the way we wanted.

Maybe we are just getting things together in the second or third act of our lives.

This is entirely understandable. But did you know that “getting a late start” can actually be a good thing?

Think about it this way. When you were younger, you didn't know what it means to be responsible. Now, you have many advantages. You know who you are, and maybe more importantly, who you aren't.

You likely have a better idea of what's truly important in life.

And finally, people who are just starting out are often chasing things they don't understand. If your desire to be responsible is based solely on chasing a goal, you may give up if the pursuit doesn't turn out the way you hope.

But if you have a little life experience, your desire to be responsible may spring from a deeper sense of who you are.

So it is never too late to take that step.

Mary Kay Ash worked in door-to-door sales for much of her life and didn't found her cosmetics business until she was 45.

Ray Kroc was selling cups at age 52 when he had a little idea for a restaurant that became McDonald's.

Grandma Moses created paintings that are globally acclaimed and some even hang in the White House. She was 78 when she started painting.

We each only get one life, and none of us knows how long we have. That's not being fatalistic; it's just the honest truth.

With that in mind… if you believe that being responsible is going to improve your life, why wait?

How To Develop Responsibility: Step-By-Step

Developing the habit of responsibility is often a process that nobody else sees. Oh, they'll see the signs. They'll notice the change in your demeanor; they'll see the ways in which your life is improving.

They may even ask for tips, but it will often be accompanied by some sort of amazed comment, like “what's your secret?” (you can tell them you have four of them).

What they won't see are all of the little things you've done to develop the characteristics within yourself. Being responsible requires self-examination, looking inward, and being objective about what you see.

Step One: Own Every Decision You Make

businessman speaking on public at a podium
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by NIC ICTU, via Flickr

This is not the same as saying “everything that happens to you is within your control.” This does not make you all-powerful. It does not mean you control nature or other people or “the hand you are dealt.”

What it does mean is that you decide to see your life as a series of choices. Each choice you make creates a long, complicated chain of events… and that becomes your life. When you start seeing your life this way, rather than in terms of what happens externally, you will start paying attention to making the best choice you can, each time.

Step Two: Examine Your Values

Most people have some idea of what they value and what they don't. But if you just walked up to someone and asked what those values were, they might not be able to articulate them.

Responsible people often know exactly what they value, can tell you what those values are, and can also tell you how they're acting in accordance with those values.

If you haven't done this before, take a few hours and write down a few of what your values are or might be. Then think about how you're putting them into action.

Step Three: Set Goals Based on Values

man in wheelchair is still working on computer for a living
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by SocialMediasl444, via Flickr

Just like we mentioned in the previous step, you want to tie your actions to your values.

Have you ever noticed that many responsible people are working for something greater than just themselves? And yet there is rarely a sense of low self-worth.

The more deeply you care about something, the more carefully you will treat it. When your sense of self, values, goals, and actions are all in alignment, you will act responsibly because it will be important to do so.

Step Four: Don't Quit

Everyone deals with adversity. Irresponsible people run away from it. Responsible people meet it head-on. Keep focused on what truly matters.

Step Five: Give Yourself a Little Credit

When you start achieving your goals (getting a promotion? Moving to a better neighborhood? Buying a new car? Building or creating a stable financial life?) you will feel pretty good about yourself. So enjoy it! Relax for a bit, pat yourself on the back, and then start thinking about the next thing,

How to Be Responsible In Public Life

These are the ways in which a person manifests responsibility in a social setting. It's less about the internal journey (although it's connected) and more about the ways we treat others.

Step One: Respect Other People

Show up on time. Don't be rude, don't waste other people's resources. Communicate confidently and stand up for your friends if they need your help.

Step Two: Respect Finances

Money is a tricky issue for many people, especially socially. But you don't want to become a financial burden for others if you can help it. Make wise decisions regarding your own money. Develop a savings plan, and if you don't have one, talk to an advisor who can help you.

Step Three: Take Care of Your Health

old man warming up to stretch and exercise his body to work
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by SayerandJames, via Flickr

You want to keep the quality of life as good as you can for as long as you can. Eat right, don't smoke, moderate your intake of alcohol and junk food. You know all this stuff.

But many struggle with these issues for many reasons, even if they've got it together in every other aspect of life.

Whether it's bad eating habits learned in childhood, or a smoking or drinking habit that developed later in life, these particular issues make it very difficult to be responsible in other areas of your life.

Don't feel that “being responsible” means that you have to solve every problem alone. Sometimes, seeking a little help can be the most responsible thing you can do.

Step Four: Walk Your Talk

man holding a board meeting with his team
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by AnnaMitchell, via Flickr

Hold yourself to the highest code of conduct, and never expect other people to do things you're not. This is especially true if you're in a position of authority, or are representing a group or company.

People see when others have double-standards, and will regard it as a lack of sincerity — being responsible means having respect for the truth.

Got Kids? Teach Them to Be Responsible, Too

Teaching kids is largely a matter of modeling behavior, reinforcing it, encouragement, and patience.

Step One: Be Consistent

responsible father holding his little girl for a walk
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by RomanJoe, via Flickr

Always be consistent with what you tell your children, especially when it comes to values.

Step Two: Involve Them

Involve your kids in the processes you want them to learn. When they're the right ages, have them help you grocery shop, cook dinner, wash the car or balance a monthly budget.

Step Three: Feedback and Consequences

Make sure you praise them for a job well done. If they forget to do something or act irresponsible, make sure not to sweep it under the rug.

Step Four: Model the Behavior

Just like adults, kids know when there's a double standard. If you want your kids to be responsible, they have to see you acting that way, too.



Quit Smoking
Drink and Eat Responsibly
Use Health Insurance

heartbeat icon
  • Twitter
enterprise icon
  • Twitter

Dress Appropriately
Study the Company (If Interviewing)
Always Keep Improving (If Hired)

Always Practice Respect
Be Willing to Compromise
But Don't Accept Poor Treatment

relationships icon
  • Twitter
friends icon
  • Twitter

Communicate Honestly
Respect One Another's Time
Admit When You've Made a Mistake

Don't Post Abrasive Material
Don't Post Material You Don't Want Employers to See
Don't Post Personal Overshares

users icon
  • Twitter
money bag icon
  • Twitter

Allot 50% For Necessities (Rent, Food, Gas, etc.)
20% For Saving
30% For Discretionary Spending (Save More if you Can)

Only 48% Of Americans Consider Themselves Very Happy
Meditation Increases Happiness 20%
Good Relationships are the Most Important Factor for Happiness

happy smile icon
  • Twitter

The Responsible You

determined person climbing up a mountain even on sunset
  • Twitter

Image: CC by SA 4.0, by SteinLiland, via FlickrFlickr​​​

Being responsible is a journey. And it's one that continues throughout your entire life. But if you remember the 4 Secrets, as well as our suggestions on putting them into practice, you'll see the difference.

So remember…

1) Everything Is Connected (that means you, too!)
2) Create a Process
3) Earn It
4) Remember Emotion

Cultivate responsibility using these principles as your core...

The rest of your life will thank you.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This