March 11 – Personal accountability

“You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now.” (Fred Smith)

There are fewer concepts in my life that I believe more strongly than the notion of personal accountability. One of the things that drives me nuts when watching or reading the news is when I see people blaming everyone but themselves for their predicaments. Reading their cries of “it’s not my fault,” will many times infuriate me, because I know that there is always an element of a person’s own choice that leads to a situation, and usually that element is the one that dominates.

I do my best to hold myself to the same standard. No one but me is responsible for who I am, and where I find myself at any given time. If I am facing a pressure deadline at work, it is often because of my own procrastination. When I am facing a difficulty at home, I can easily see how my own actions have shaped the events, and so on.

Less than 2 weeks ago I started a journey toward living a more healthy life. I am tracking that journey at my health blog – Bobby-C’s Health Journey. I am completely accountable for being the size I am. I could play a denial game, and say that the food industry sabotaged me, or that my job makes it impossible for me to work out. I could blame the pain in my knees as the reason I don’t exercise more, and on and on. But the truth is that I am the solely responsible and accountable for being where I am today. I am equally accountable for the fact that I am now on a path toward a healthier life. I know myself well enough to know that the minute my journey becomes dependent on someone else, it is doomed.

I am who I am because that is who I want to be. When I look in the mirror and see something I don’t like, there is only one person looking back. That person, and that person alone can make the changes. Another thing I like about this quote is the second sentence, the idea of being in the process of change. I cannot transform myself overnight. I cannot flip a switch and be thinner, or athletic. I can’t change on a dime and become more cheerful, less judgmental, or anything else. It takes time and effort.

I remember a story from when I was in the 7th grade. In my grade school days I was not always the best student. I had potential, but I lacked the will to apply myself to make that potential into anything. In a quest for acceptance, I would act out in class, shirk my homework, and more. This became a particular problem in the 6th grade when I compounded slipping grades with disciplinary problems. When 7th grade began, I was on a similar path.

At the end of the first marking period, my grades were not where they should be. My mother was upset, and I was upset as well. I had made strides in cleaning up most of the discipline issues, but my grades still suffered. I remember talking to my teacher and telling her that I was “turning over a new leaf”, and that she would see better work from me.

I had made a decision to immediately change my attitude about my school work. I started paying more attention in class, and doing my homework on time. It wasn’t easy because I had fallen into bad habits that needed to change, and I had dug a hole with my grades. By the end of the second marking period, my grades had improved. I built on that momentum and continued to work hard. At the end of the year – another two marking periods later – I was a straight A student. I say this not to brag on the past glory of my 7th grade report card, but rather to say I changed because I wanted to change. I didn’t blame the bullies at school for my discipline problems. I didn’t blame the fact that I was in a single-parent home or a lack of resources for my grades. I didn’t blame the fact that I had a very difficult time keeping my mouth shut in class for being in trouble (today I might have been diagnosed with some condition or another). I made a choice. My 12 year old self decided that I wanted to be better, and I made it happen.

I am who I am because that is who I want to be, whether I like who I am or not is beside the point. If I do not like something about myself, then I either must accept it as something I want, or make the decision – and take the actions – to change.

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