Responsibility is unique among the 6 principles we’ve covered. It’s unique because, without it, you and I are unable to effectively implement the other 5.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Responsibility and Extreme Ownership:

Extreme ownership was a concept coined by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in the book Extreme Ownership.

It’s the principle of taking absolute responsibility for everything in your immediate world. Your thoughts, responses, beliefs, values, and actions.

You get angry when someone cuts you up in traffic. Your response is your responsibility.

Someone annoys you at work. That’s on you.

You come up against a problem at work. You’re responsible for finding a solution or someone who can help.

To make the concept of responsibility clearer, I’ll go back to the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.

Epictetus left us with his dichotomy of control: some things are within our power and some things are not. We have control over our thoughts, perspectives, values, and actions—nothing else.

This concept is important because it aligns well with the boundaries of responsibility. You and I are fully responsible for:

  1. Our values

  2. Our beliefs

  3. Most of our thoughts (some pop up without our meaning to)

  4. How we talk to ourselves (our inner dialogue)

  5. Our perspective

  6. Our emotional response to our conditions

  7. Our actions and their consequences

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
― Sigmund Freud


The ENemy of Responsibility – Blame:

To me, blame is a crutch, it pulls you out from the mindset of owning your situation and finding a better way, and puts you into the mindset of pushing the problem onto someone or something else.

The economy is bad, my boss doesn’t want to promote me, I don’t have the resources I need to do the job etc.

These are all valid contributors to an undesirable outcome but we still need to own our situation, figure out what’s what, and come up with a solution. This is true for our well-being.

Blame is more often than not counterproductive, negative and distracting. In the vast majority of situations, the solution requires thinking in the present moment. Blame pushes you back into the past.

Whenever you blame, you are handing over control of your well-being to something other than yourself. You’re getting into the passenger seat of your emotions and giving the wheel to someone or something else, letting them drive you wherever they like.

Stoic building background

The Key

Extreme ownership helps you to acknowledge and accept the parts of your character that aren’t serving you well or have the potential to be destructive. The un-resourceful parts.

In acknowledgement you’re able to utilise things like gratitude, acceptance and expectation.

In owning the conditions of our mind we take responsibility for its development, figure out the parts of our character that can use work, and find ways to improve.

“Eventually we all have to accept full and total responsibility for our actions, everything we have done, and have not done.”
― Hubert Selby

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