Throughout our lives, we are confronted by external pressures. It is how we react to them that determine our level of accomplishment in life. Those who take responsibility when problems arise -- perceiving their own limitation or weakness relative to the problem – accomplish greatly. Those who blame others or simply ignore difficulties to begin with, stagnate and achieve less.
For example, in the book Pride and Prejudice the main hero Darcy is confronted by life’s difficulties, many of which he precipitated in the first place. Fortunately, he responds positively by taking personal responsibility for his behaviors. He does this by acknowledging his character flaws and misdeeds. As a result, his shift in attitude sets in motions a series of events that end up resolving a critical problem, while winning over the love of his life. In that process, he also grows as an individual, which is in fact what ultimately attracts Eliza Bennet to marriage.
When life bears down on us and exerts pressures, we can respond positively or negatively. Those who respond positively, who take responsibility rather than blame others or are indifferent to the situation, set the stage for great positive responses from life.
Here are two other little true episodes of life that illustrate this principle.
A woman was paying a bill at a restaurant to the waitress. In the middle of the transaction, the woman's friend interrupted the waitress and asked for some brochures that were stored behind the cash register. They were brochures for various local attractions. The waitress continued with the transaction with the woman and then gave the man a brochure.
An hour or so later when the man and the woman went to visit the attraction, he was disappointed to learn that it was closed. What had happened was that the earlier negative interruption by the man at the cash register asking for the brochure attracted a negative life response in that area -- i.e. the attraction that the brochure was advertising.
Fortunately, this story had a happy ending. After being disappointed by the closed attraction, he had the subtle sense to see the connection between his rude interruption and the negative outcome. What happened was that at that point, he took responsibility for his past misdeed and the negative response that followed. At the very moment, he accepted responsibility, the woman at the entrance indicated that the attraction would in fact be open in an hour. The two close friends then went to on to have had a wonderful time at that natural wonder -- an underground cave.
When an individual realizes his complicity in a negative outcome and becomes accountable for it, life tends to quickly move in his favor. It is the life response power of taking responsibility in life.
Here is the second true story along these lines: this one narrated by an associate of ours.
"In our unit there was a supervisor whom I felt was indifferent, insubordinate and had to be bridled. I was looking for an opportunity to pin him down. The time came and I dismissed him mercilessly. Within two days of his dismissal, there was a major breakdown in one of the machines. The supplier of the machine had sent their engineers. They struggled for 7 days and could do very little to set right the machine. I was thoroughly disgusted. I started examining my attitudes on several matters during the last 10 days.
It struck me that whenever I am able to dominate, my attitude is to dominate. I could dominate the supervisor and dismiss him mercilessly. But in the case of the machine, I could not afford to throw it and replace it with a new machine so I was tolerating it. I understood that I have to change my attitude. I called back the supervisor, felt sorry for my rude action and requested him to continue in the company. He felt very happy, the machine was fixed soon thereafter. Within a month, this supervisor got a good job in a government undertaking on a higher salary and parted with me happily. Since then there was no serious trouble with any of the machines."
Finally, here is one other example of taking responsibility; this one culled from a popular recent film, Master & Commander: the Far Side of the World.
In the 19th century and the British naval frigate HMS Surprise is pursuing the Acheron, a large and powerful French war vessel that is sailing off the coast of South America. At one point, the Surprise, commanded by Captain Jack Aubrey, is herself ‘surprised’ when she is attacked by the Acheron; badly damaging the ship and wounding many of its crewmembers. As a result of these events, Stephen Maturin, the ship’s doctor and close friend of the Captain, comes in conflict with him over his relentless pursuit of the enemy ship. The doctor insists that it is better to retreat, regroup, and consider a new approach rather than further endanger the crew. When Captain Aubrey rebuffs him, Maturin tells him that he is acting irrationally and fanatical.
At one point, Doctor Maturin suggests that they stop for a while at the Galapagos Islands, where he can gather sample specimens of some of the rarest plants, insects, and animals on earth. However, the driven Captain indicates that there is no time for such trifles, and they immediately head out to complete their mission.
Several days later, there is a dispute aboard ship and the doctor is accidentally wounded. The Captain, concerned about his friend’s condition, orders the ship back to the Galapagos where Maturin can heal. With the doctor near death, the Captain senses that had he listened to his old friend’s suggestion, this dire situation would never have happened.
Fortunately, in the days that follow, the doctor recovers, and the Captain guardedly allows him to go on the outing to gather the rare specimens on the island -- the trip he rejected earlier in order to pursue the Acheron. At one point on his field trip, Maturin climbs a hill, gazes out to sea, and then to his utter amazement sees the Acheron sitting there docked at the edge of the island! What had eluded the crew for months was now suddenly docked at the doorstep, and in an extremely vulnerable position. Quickly the crew seizes the opportunity, sails around the island, and destroys the Acheron.
This is a perfect example of the life response in action. When the Captain changed his attitude and took responsibility for the grave conditions of his friend by heading back to the Galapagos where he could heal, he created an opening that allowed the doctor to discover the vulnerable ship. By changing his perspective, the captain aligned with powerful positive conditions that enabled him to fulfill his and his crew’s mission.
One Step Further
Taking Super Responsibility
Taking responsibility is one of the important ways to accomplish and grow in life. And yet on closer examination, we can identify several levels if it. For example, it is far easier to take responsibility in situations where we were clearly at fault, where our culpability is readily apparent. At the other extreme, it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, even illogical, to take responsibility for something that we had no direct part in! Or is it? Is it actually possible to take responsibility for negative circumstances in which we played no direct part?
To answer that question, let us consider examples of these two extreme possibilities. Let us start with the situation in which I am obviously to blame. Imagine that I am the chief negotiator trying to facilitate as compromise between two parties who have a difference of opinion. In this situation, I unfortunately make the blunder of arranging the wrong meeting place, causing embarrassment and anguish for everyone. In such circumstances, it is relatively easy for me to take responsibility for this negative result, for I was the one clearly at fault. But what about a situation where I have played no direct part in the outcome, and yet I am still related to that project? Can I take responsibility in that situation as well?
Again, let us imagine that I am moderating a negotiation between two parties. After several days, the discussion breaks down because of a disagreement on fundamental principles. Though I have made the full effort to bring the parties together, and I have done my work diligently and professionally, an element has crept in that was beyond my control that prevented the two parties from coming to an agreement. What I suggesting is that even in this case I can take responsibility for the negative outcome!
The reason I can make this statement is because of the fundamental relationship that exists between my inner consciousness and the world outside myself. If there is anything negative occurring outside myself that I am in any way related to, I should be able to discover a corresponding wanting element in my being, no matter how small or how subtle, change that trait, and thus bring about a positive response. This is, in essence, the principle of “inner-outer correspondence” which is the reason that the phenomenon of life response occurs. Thus, even in situations where I did not have an obvious relationship to a negative outcome, I should still be able to take super responsibility and discover a corresponding element within, reverse it to overcome the negative circumstances and create sudden new positive one.
For example, in the project I just described perhaps I had some hidden fear that I was not conscious of at the time the negotiations were going on. From the perspective of my “involvement,” that wanting fear is what attracted the negative result. If I then go ahead and reverse it, life on the outside will respond in kind. Thus, even in situations where I have had no obvious and direct --i.e. outer and material -- influence on the outcome, I can still take responsibility, i.e. super-responsibility, thereby reversing the previous negative outcome. If that is true, then every one of us has the capacity to reverse any negative outcome that has crossed our field of awareness.
Thus, we see that there are several shadings to taking responsibility in life. If a negative or difficult situations arises in which our behaviors or actions have obviously contributed to the problem, then we can certainly accept our culpability in full. If we then go the next step and change the corresponding limiting quality within ourselves that precipitated the problem, life can respond overwhelmingly by canceling the negativity of the past and eliciting other forms of good fortune. At the other extreme, we can take responsibility for any negative outcome, even those we had no direct involvement in creating. By taking super-responsibility, we acknowledge the principle that we can change any negative outside ourselves by discovering and changing a corresponding trait within ourselves, no matter how subtle or obscure. When we shift the problem inward, the problem outside ourselves can instantaneously dissolve. By taking this approach, we can literally right any wrong that crosses our field of awareness. In that way, we can literally change the problems of the world from within.