When you read the title you probably thought, “there must be a typing error: how can responsibilities, of all things, set us free?” Actually, we are used to thinking that the opposite is true, i.e. that without the burdens of responsibility we would have greater freedom. To understand the meaning to this apparent clash of concepts, we have to take you on a journey through our daily experience as trainers. In the classroom, we come across young people who are angry with the world, professionals who rail against the market and salespeople who blame all their woes on their customers. Social networks and television are full of complaints and accusations against others. If you listen in on a conversation between “insiders” you will realize that it is often no more than a rant against the faults of others that are, apparently, beyond the speakers’ control. It would thus seem that people commonly believe they have no “responsibility” for what is happening around them and for the world they live in. Yet despite this “freedom” from the weight of this particular burden, their situation seems to be getting no better! What if the relationship between a lack of responsibility and freedom were not, actually, so clear?
Passing the buck
Let’s try to find a different way of working, that allows us to really become masters of our own lives and of what happens to us. When you start to look at the events from a new point of view, trying to act and take upon yourself some of the responsibility for what happens, you hear people who are used to blaming others (society, employers, bad luck, government, grasshoppers, aliens etc.) say, “No, this is awful, much more needs to be done!” This attitude of passing the buck, or considering that others should do ‘much more’ – ben’altro in Italian, is so widespread that the Italian language has acquired a new word, benaltrismo to describe it. On closer inspection, this ‘benaltrismo’ hides a fear of feeling that you’re responsible for what happens, of being unfairly blamed or, perhaps, of being forced to roll up your sleeves and make a change that will force you out of your comfort zone.
The most immediate consequence of placing the responsibility for what happens to us outside our control, is that we eliminate any opportunity of finding our own solutions.
In doing so, we are forgetting our primary goal as human beings: to evolve towards happiness and certainly not to find excuses for failing.
Ask and you shall receive
In his Gospel, Matthew attributes this phrase to Jesus and it reminds us that if we want our desires to be fulfilled, we must act. Later, quantum physics taught us that the mere act of observing a system changes it. All this makes us think about how our actions (and thoughts) affect the results. Are we thus “guilty” of all the “bad” things that surround us? No, but as our friend Roberto Gavioli (a psychologist specializing in interpersonal communication, Ed), reminds us, life is a perfect drugstore: it always delivers exactly what you asked for, and what you need for your own evolution. The problem is that often we are not aware of what we are asking for, and what we really need to evolve. We’re thus bewildered, judging what happens to us to be unfair; we do not learn anything but rather consider ourselves victims of a plot hatched against us by the universe.
If we learn to deeply question ourselves about what happens to us, and search for a way to react and deal with events, then we will be fully free, i.e. able to bring about change in the only place where we can be truly happy and fulfilled: inside ourselves! As long as we persist in accusing others, with the absurd claim that they have effect changes to improve our conditions, then our life – both personal and business – will resemble a prison. Leaving others the privilege to act, we lose our creative power, that divine spark that we each received. Responsibilities, once acknowledged, considered and experienced as an opportunity, no longer leave us helpless in the face of exterior circumstances but enable us to take action to help transform our world into the wonderful place of which we dream.
The responsibility for what happens is not always ours, but we are the ones who can decide how to react: knowing this can set us free.
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