I am working on a new book, Just Own It!, due out this May. When I approached my coach and a few publishers about the book, I explained that I wanted to write a book about responsibility—specifically the idea of putting responsibility back into the workplace. My goal was (and is) to write a book that shares how responsibility brings the ultimate in personal and professional freedom, and not the burden or fear that we (society) have come to associate it with.

While everyone I talked with loved the concept, the topic and the idea for the book, most individuals agreed that I needed to change the word “responsibility”. No one likes talking about or being told to take responsibility. Now, while I find this a bit sad, it is ironically true. Somehow the whole concept of responsibility has become something that most of us shy away from, something we don’t seek out purposely, or something we want someone—anyone–else to take. We have come to define “responsibility” as something that makes life harder, not easier.

Taking Responsibility is Empowering

In my opinion, nothing could be further than the truth. We have only to look at our political leaders to prove the point that actually taking responsibility is empowering, and not the other way around. I challenge you to watch the news for one hour and observe our politicians, reporters, and leaders. Listen to their language and message–all you will hear is their lack of responsibility. They project blame endlessly, never once owning up to their role in the issue at hand. Even if what these media icons was sharing were true, their words still don’t create movement; nothing gets done. Why? Because no one wants to take responsibility. But as a leader and individual reading this, you can change the cycle. When you take responsibility, you embrace the power to begin to make change and to begin to move forward. It is one of the most important skills needed for success today.

Life today is tough, both personally and professionally. Uncertainty is our new normal, and we seem to have accepted anxiety and stress as a normal part of everyday life. If you ask me, this is no way to live. The key to decreasing stress and alleviating anxiety begins with understanding the power of and freedom that comes with responsibility. We experience anxiety and stress when we feel out of control, or when fear the unknown. While uncertain times do bring uncertain outcomes, you can gain some sense of control by taking responsibility for everything within your control. By taking responsibility, you can move into the driver’s seat instead of being taken for a wild, terrifying ride to an unknown destination. Responsibility is truly about power—accepting your own power rather than giving it away. When you allow others to make decisions for you or blame them for your situation or mistakes, you give away your power. When you take responsibility, you hold on to your power, and that means owning your failures as well as your achievements. It places you in control of your destiny, and that just feels good. So how do you take responsibility?

We Always Have a Choice

Where do we start and what strategies do we need? Separate what you can control from what you can’t, what you truly can be responsible for and what, at this point, you can’t. Often I work with leaders who are stressed out and full of anxiety. What I find is that they are spending too much time worrying about things outside of their leadership scope or realm of control. While their intentions are good, their energy is wasted trying to impact things they really have no control over and seeing little to no effect, which in turn creates stress and anxiety. With these leaders, I like to change the conversation and focus first on the art of learning to separate–what you can control from what you can’t. Learn to put time and energy into what you can control: developing your team, making your department more successful, and enhancing your client’s experience. Separate what you can control from what you can’t, and put your energy and your time in those areas where you can make a differenceAccept that your decisions are yours, and that you always have a choice. Too often I work with clients who feel that what is being “done to them” or “asked of them” is unfair or too hard. Even if we want to stretch and say that their claims are true, at the end of the day we all need to accept that we are always making a choice: a choice to say yes or no; a choice to do the job and do it well, or to do it poorly and accept the consequences.

Owning Our Decisions is Powerful

While decisions may not always be easy (I get it, we need our jobs, we need a pay check), they are still ours to make. Owning our decisions is powerful; it keeps us from wasting energy whining and complaining, and instead gives us energy generating solutions and new ideas. Instead of wasting energy on blame, our energy goes into productive activities such as excelling in our jobs, meeting tough new goals, or working with leadership to create better solutions. Focus on what you want, and what you want to achieve. Responsibly begins with knowing what you want and creating a plan to get there. You can’t wait for someone else to set your goals, give you skills, or build your strategy. By focusing on and knowing what you want, you take away the stress and anxiety of waiting for leadership to chart your career path or develop your skill set. Instead, you step into the driver’s seat, and work with those around you to achieve success. Execute–the most important step. I will never forget struggling to fight back tears while going through my husband’s belongings after he passed away. This was yeas ago. Anyone who has gone through this process knows that is difficult at best, and understandably this was not my easiest of days. I eventually found myself on the floor crying, wishing for things to be different. Then, like a lightning bolt, it hit me. I sat up and realized there was nothing anyone could do to make things different. No one but me. If I wanted things to be different–if I did not want to find myself in the same spot this time next year–then I needed to make a plan and execute it. I realized in that moment that I was the only one who could make a plan and execute it. It was my responsibility. Yes, life is tough, both personally and professionally, and uncertainty isn’t going anywhere. While many of us want a guarantee of safety and stability, there are no guarantees or certainties.

If you follow the four strategies we discussed–Separate, Accept, Focus, Execute–you will have the best shot of creating an environment that is SAFE, and will put yourself on the path to ultimate freedom by owning your responsibility! Business Growth Expert, Meridith Elliott Powell, works with clients to help them instill ownership at every level to ensure profits at every turn. Click here for 3 Sure Fire Tips To Get Your Team To Instill Ownership At Every Level, To Get Profits At Every Turn! Meridith is the author of several books, including her latest, Winning In The Trust & Value Economy: a professional’s guide to business and sales success. When not keynoting and leading workshops, she looks for (and rarely finds) inspiration cycling, golfing or hiking her favorite trail. www.meridithelliottpowell.com