I want to talk about personal accountability. Sexy, right?
I think it’s super sexy! It’s about taking responsibility for your life and everything that goes into it. It’s empowering because being personally accountable moves us from being the victim, to the author of our lives.
When we ask questions prefaced with a “how” or “what”, we are searching for answers and actions. When we ask “why, who, or when”, then we are waiting for others. We surrender our agency and ability to take action.
Taking personal accountability means ownership and retaining the agency over our lives. We are not limiting ourselves, waiting for others to take action, or endlessly searching for a “why” we may never find.
In his epic book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl learned this lesson while a prisoner in the Nazi death camps. Frankl realized that even in a Nazi-controlled death camp, designed to be dehumanizing, he had freedom. Crazy right?
Frankl observed that while the Nazis could take nearly everything from him, his clothing, his wife, his food, his sleep, and his freedom, they could not take away his agency to comply with their request. The decision to listen to their orders was his to make. He had agency.
When asked to do impossible physical labor in his diminished state, Frankl decided to do the work they requested because he chose to do it. Sure, you might say that when your options are life or death there isn’t a true choice, but Frankl saw that differently. Rather than being the victim of the situation, he reframed it to see himself as in control of his fate.
He realized that at any point, he could decide not to comply with his orders. That subtle shift in perspective strengthened his resolve to live. There was nothing the Nazis could do to take away his choice; he was personally accountable if he decided to live or die.
If a man who spent years in a Nazi death cap can find freedom in personal accountability, what can you do in your life or workplace? Rather than looking for someone to blame, lament about your situation or complain about a lack of X, take action.
Be accountable. You are and always will be the author of your life.