Ideas and resources to enhance your life.
Responsibility goes hand in hand with freedom. Freedom may seem a strange thing to be anxious about, but when you consider that each action/choice on your part results in an outcome, it makes more sense. Responsibility in this sense is not the kind of thing you parents may have asked you to be. It's not about taking responsibility or choosing to be a responsible person. The fact of life is simply this, you will be responsible.
A few examples. If you put your hand into the fire, you will get burned. That is you being held responsible by the universe, nature, laws of science, God, whatever. If you leave a relationship, you will be alone (in some ways). If you waste your tuition on partying, you will have to pay for it later or pay again to finish your degree. In each way you are responsible.
The anxiety stems from the fact that you will be held responsible for something in the future for what you have done in the past. If you lay awake at night thinking of the sins of your past and how they might make you pay in the future, then you are aware of how responsibility can be anxiety inducing.
In part 6 I will go through responses to existential angst. For now I will just make a few comments on responsibility, like I have done for the previous two givens of life.
How to deal with responsibility: The simplest thing to consider, is that every action by you has a consequence. If you are okay with the consequence, then the actions is okay. If you are not okay with the consequence then the action is not okay. This is of course not a universal good vs. bad calculator. It is personal and it is relative. Sometimes the least bad consequence is as good as it gets. for example, I may need to pay 1,000 dollars for dental work today (bad consequence, because I loose money, it's going to hurt, and it might be scary) vs. rotten teeth and more extensive work next year at 3,000 dollars (even worse consequence). Both consequences are bad, but I would rather face option 1 than 2, so therefore option 1 is the best one for me.
The temptation is to procrastinate decision making/action or to not choose/act at all. Because responsibility is a given of life, though, neither option is any good. The only time either procrastination or ignorance are any good is if the consequence doesn't matter either way. If I don't vacuum the house today, it makes no difference to having to vacuum later, other than it will take time tomorrow. Sometimes the idea, "if it doesn't need to be done today, leave it until to tomorrow" does make sense. But, it only makes sense if the consequence of leaving it off till tomorrow makes little-to-no significant difference to you. If it impacts your time, relationships, resources, or health, then it does matter.
A few tips:
1. Scheduling- If something needs to get done, and you can do it within 5 minutes, do it right away. Else, schedule it.
2. It is tempting to not do things for fear of doing them wrong. Just remember, not doing anything is probably just as bad or worse. It is important to engage with the world around you and to accept the things you can't change. Disappointment is no reason for inaction. Very few older adults regret what they did, most often they regret what they didn't do.
3. Take care of yourself and be gentle and gracious with yourself. Life is hard and it gets messy; you don't need any more judgment on yourself than you already have. Be sincere, not serious.
Now go out there and do something crazy, something that scares you, the consequences of which you are willing to accept.
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