The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability

Photo of a person taking a photo of themselves in a mirror - The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability

I own it.

That’s been my response to many of my mistakes, missed goals, and disappointing outcomes.

When an idea is communicated poorly in an email – I own it.

When a health and fitness plan doesn’t get off the groundI own it

When I flub a difficult conversationI own it.

With problems like these, it’s pretty clear who’s the responsible party … It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me*. 

I’m sure you’ve heard many “I own its” … and you’ve probably said a few of them, too.    

You’d think with all the willingness to own less-than-best results that we’d exist in a world with little problemsHardly.

Most of us aren’t challenged with accepting responsibility – “owning it” is easy.  The next step is hard. It’s being accountable, which means that you’re willing to do something different to get a different result.

Accountability requires action. Doing things differently requires change. Change, at any level, can be really, really challenging.

One of my favorite podcast guests has been Steven Pressfield – the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and The War of Art. He writes extensively about resistance – an external force that pushes hard against us whenever we attempt to live the life we were born to live. (See interview)

We battle a tremendous amount of resistance when we hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard

If our jeans don’t fit, and we want to go on a diet, cravings can get the better of us.  

If we’re existing in a difficult relationship, and we avoid the hard topics, our risk-aversion can hold us down.

If we’re fundamentally ho-hum about the life we live, any change towards happiness will be met with a powerful force that pushes us back into mediocrity.

We’ve got to fight to hold ourselves accountable.  It’s the quality that allows us to stretch into new territories where we build self trust, which leads to self confidence.

Here are just some thoughts to support you and your efforts to be accountable to the change you’d like to see:

  • If there’s a problem, and you’re close enough to it, address itown it. You may not have caused it, but you can do something about it.
  • Reminder: owning it isn’t enough. Just because you own something doesn’t mean that you’re doing something different to get a different result. Really drill down into the behaviors that you can do differently to experience success.  
  • Acknowledge that you’ll encounter resistance. Have a plan when you stare into its eyes.   
  • Remember: small victories, every single day, lead to a winning life.

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