Sunday, May 24, 2015

Redefining Responsibility

I recently had a stimulating conversation with a colleague about responsibility. She revealed that one of her friends defined responsibility as the ability to respond. I found that clever, if not wise.

This is not a novel perspective. This play on words conveys a deeper understanding and larger meaning of what it means to be responsible, but doesn't provide insight into what is meant by ability.

Ability is capability; the extent of someone's or something's ability.

The extent is determined by myriad factors such as experience, skill, and talent. But the subtle and routinely ignored element that can impact outcome the most, as it relates to the ability to respond, is desirability. Our capabilities shrink and expand with our endeavors based on how strongly we desire the results, and how freely we can choose the manner in which we pursue them.

This is why in any sport, victory is often awarded to the team that wants it more badly (typically the team that has the strongest intrinsic motivation). The same can be said of those in life threatening situations and those who escape from poverty.

Responsible individuals suitably respond to expectations (their own and those of others) which contain a call to duty and/or demand that specific actions are taken with effect. So to be able to respond aptly to expectations (i.e., be responsible), one must not only be capable, but must also be willing to handle them to get the results that come with the expectations - whatever they may be.

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