The power of personal responsibility (and how to make it work for you)

As Dad to two young boys, I’m used to dishing out regular mini-lectures about taking responsibility for the things you do. Once we are adults, the idea of personal responsibility seems obvious. Of course I’m responsible for my own life, who else would be?

But there’s a dissonance between knowing and doing. Plenty of adults don’t fully tap into the power of embracing personal responsibility. Here’s why I believe it can transform our lives.

What is personal responsibility?

What comes up for you when we talk about this? Is it a satisfying sense of control? Or an awkward feeling of blame? Personal responsibility has been defined as being responsible, answerable, and accountable for things within our control.

The 2018 paper “Self-responsibility: transformations” (published in the American Behavioural Scientist journal) talks about our modern version of personal responsibility, which is more individualistic and autonomous than older versions. (1)

Personal responsibility and success

If we accept this definition of personal responsibility as being a manager of oneself, we can see how it is directly linked to our rate of success in health and fitness, finance, business, and even in relationships. This 2019 paper from the Australian Journal of Management looked at the role of responsibility in log-term job performance, stating that the relationship between learning and on the job effectiveness is moderated by the individual’s sense of responsibility. (2)

“Doing the work” is a core element of making progress towards any goal. Whilst a good coach and supportive environment will provide accountability, the underlying motivation has to come from you.

Developing personal responsibility

To my mind, personal development is a lifelong journey. So how can we develop or strengthen our personal responsibility?

1) Reflect, don’t blame

Blaming others for outcomes takes the power away from you. If something was within your control, you can’t blame someone else. But you shouldn’t blame yourself either. Reflect on what went wrong or what could go better next time.

2) No failures, only lessons

The concept of failure won’t help you grow. It might sound clichéd but there are no true failures in life, only set backs or changes in direction. Adopt a positive (or at least pragmatic) view.

3) Look for the learning points

What can you learn from bumps in the road? This is a positive way of viewing set backs that will not only build your emotional health, but will actually help you gain practical skills.

4) Know your values

How well do you really know yourself? What drives you? What matters in life? Define your values (read this blog post for a practical guide) and use them as your true north to take personal responsibility for decisions.

5) Make calm decisions

Learn to respond, not react. Pause and think before making a decision. Then own it. This is key to taking personal responsibility for things within your control.

6) Do what you said you would

Demonstrate your self confidence by standing by your words. Show up in the way you promised, and do what you said you would. Every time you do this, it’s a vote of confidence for yourself.

7) Set up systems to help

You know I’m a big fan of systems! What daily systems can you use to help stick to your habits and positive behaviours? 

How taking responsibility can improve your life

Here’s the challenging truth about fitness and healthy habits. Nobody is going to do it for you. In fact, nobody can do it for you, because it’s your body. I can coach you through it and be the best support you could hope for. But you are the only one who can physically move your limbs and put that food in your mouth.

But ninja-levels of personal responsibility won’t just help you lose weight, drop body fat, and look after your long-term health.

Imagine the impact collective personal responsibility could have on global health issues like obesity, heart disease, food marketing, even traffic pollution. Now think about what a difference that could make to your life and the legacy you leave behind.

It’s amazing what far-reaching impact personal responsibility can have. And the wonderful part is, it’s within our power.

Let me know what you think about this topic. Get in touch any time to talk about your big visions for your health and fitness.

Coach Joseph Webb.

‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’

References used in todays blog:



close slider

    Please feel free to contact us via the form above and a member of the team will be in touch with you within 24 hours. Alternatively, additional information can be found on our FAQ's, Privacy Policy and Terms pages.

    Consent Preferences