01/23/2012 11:52 EST | Updated 03/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Taking Responsibility Changes Everything


Responsibility changes everything. The moment we decide that we are the ones who are capable of and responsible for changing things, everything shifts. Whether it's your relationship, your career, your life, or global issues -- the world gets better whenever one of us simply decides to step up and do what we can do in our sphere of influence.

Seeing ourselves as responsible and powerful to change things is a game changer in the deepest sense. The shift is akin to the childhood game of tag. When I was a child, I played endless hours of this game. One person was "it" and had to run around trying to tag someone else. The moment you were tagged, the whole game changed. Well -- YOU are "it!"

You are responsible for your own happiness, for the success of your relationships, for the morale of your workplace, for the success of the company where you work, for your career and for your life. What's more, you are responsible for poverty, for global warming, for your neighbourhood, for your school and for homelessness. Better said, WE are all "it." That is, when each of us takes responsibility, stepping up to do what we can, everything gets better. Not only that, but when we step up and take responsibility, the game of life and work is more fun and more rewarding. We find more success.

What Can I Do About It?

Whenever you find yourself saying someone else should do something about (fill in the blank), whether that someone is your mate, your boss, your neighbour, the mayor or the CEO -- turn it around and ask: "What can I do?" The moment someone else says "someone should," turn it around and ask them, "Yes but what can you do about it?"

Maybe you are thinking "Yes, but I own only a small part of the problem." That may be true, but you can't change anyone else -- you can only claim your part and do something about it!

For my new book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything, we surveyed people to ask why they don't step up to make things better. The number one response was "Because I am only one person and it won't matter if I step up."

What we forget is that one person stepping up matters because of two simple principles. The first is what I call "aggregate influence"; that when one person's act is aggregated with that of many others it becomes significant. One person deciding not to use a plastic bag at the grocery store seems insignificant, while the aggregate of millions doing so is huge.

The second principle is what I call "the responsibility ripple," which is that when one person steps up, it tends to lead to others doing so. For example, have you ever noticed that when you yawn, it's highly likely someone around you will also yawn? Recently, I yawned and even my dog yawned! We yawn together for the same reason that we smile when a stranger smiles at us or that we laugh when someone else laughs at a joke, even if we don't get the joke. We humans are social beings and fitting in matters to us.

Every action creates a ripple. If I become more civil to my spouse, they are more likely to do so. If one person stops complaining at work and focuses on solutions, suddenly others catch the vibe. When one person steps up to try to change the world, others suddenly find their own courage.

A Resolution For The New Year

So here is a great resolution for the new year: step up and take responsibility. Every time you find yourself saying, "Someone should..." decide to begin doing what you can instead. Every time you think one person, meaning you, doesn't matter, remember the power of aggregate influence and the responsibility ripple and step up anyway.

Dr. John Izzo is the author of five best selling books including Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything and The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die. He has spoken to over one million people at conferences and corporate events.