5 Tenets of Personal Responsibility

UPDATED: April 13, 2020
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2017

Life blooms when we take responsibility for our full human experience. To be personally responsible and self-reliant means we have to get our sh*t together and decide to have command over these five areas:

1. Our Aim

What is our goal, our direction, our purpose? What is it that we are moving toward and organizing our lives to achieve and contribute? These are questions of the motivated and purposeful human.

2. Our Attention

Are the things we continually focus on bringing us joy, success, connection and growth? Or are we being distracted by a bunch of garbage and gossip in life?

3. Our Attitude

The power plant doesn’t have energy; it generates energy. Similarly, we don’t have an attitude; we generate one. When we choose to generate a negative energy and attitude, life is horrible. But when we choose to generate and broadcast a joyous, loving and positive energy, life opens up to us, people feel something new from us and our entire life blooms and grows.

4. Our Affections

Are we connecting with those we love and sensing the beauty of this life? The emotional quality and connections we feel in life are also a choice, and we should choose to feel again, to love again, to become passionate and emotionally open, giving, strong and vibrant.

5. Our Actions

Our destiny is dictated by our disciplined actions—what we do each day, the habits we develop, our purposeful efforts. Take no action, have no life, no adventure, no progress. But overcome apathy, fear and get going, and soon there is magic, momentum and what I love to call the charged life.

Related: Caged, Comfortable or Charged—Which One Is Your Life?


Have you ever met somebody who just drives you nuts, someone who makes you ask, Why are they not more responsible? For whatever reason, they cannot stand on their own in life. We all know someone like that, and some of us have been guilty at points in our lives of being that type of person, so let’s dial this in.

What does personal responsibility really mean? What happens in our lives when we have it?

We are not meant to be victims or apathetic people lying around, hoping something comes along to change our lives, because only two things change our lives:

  1. Something new does come into our life and it changes our direction, our insight, who we are. Maybe we win the lottery or the lucky white knight comes in and saves your life.
  2. Something new comes from within you. That thing that comes from within us is so powerful; it retakes our life. What is that magic? It’s personal responsibility. When we are more personally responsible for our own lives, life blooms. We have a sense of confidence and certainty in who we are, but also a sense of total truth with what life is supposed to be.

It doesn’t sound sexy to say, “Be responsible for your life.” But I think we have five main responsibilities in our lives, and if we take control of each of these areas, a new power comes into our life, a new joy and zest.

1. Our Aim

The first thing we are personally responsible for is our aim, ambitions, desires, goals and dreams.

Successful people look out and say, What is it that I desire of my life? And they go for it. They’ve set an intention. They’ve set a direction for who they are and where they’re going, what is meaningful to them, and who they want to have along with them. They don’t always know the full picture, they just know, I want to be like this. I want to do things like this. They start along that path.

Because they’re following their own path, even if they don’t know where exactly it goes, they’re living the adventurous life. They’re entering a new phase of their life where they truly feel that this journey is their own, versus being carried by their parents, professors, peers or co-workers. They have their own aim in life.What do you want next week to be? If you don’t know, then you are aimless, and when you’re aimless, it’s easy to feel lost. You wander around in the world, a giant wilderness. In Montana we always say, “The time to have the map is before you enter the woods.”

The world is a big thicket of crazy throngs of people who have all their wants and wills, and if you don’t have your own direction, if you have not set your own life agenda, they will set one for you. So you have to direct your own aim.

2. Our Attention

Where is your attention going each moment of the day? The ability to be fully present is just guiding one’s attention to this moment, giving ourselves an alertness, an intention and awareness to the very now that we are experiencing. That’s power.

When you are more attentive to your life, to the moments you experience, it’s amazing. But attention also applies to what we are paying attention to overall.

Many of us are guided by the aims of others. Our attention is stripped away and refocused on the distractions of the world. So many people aren’t paying attention to their goals, their desires, their dreams, or demands and responsibilities of life; they’re paying attention to the distraction that showed up.

If we’re going to accomplish our goals, go where we want to in our lives and sense the fullness of this moment, we have to guard our attention from all the garbage that can come in and sweep it away.

3. Our Attitude

How are you meeting life? Are you meeting life energized, alive and buoyant, excited, enthusiastic and positive? Like you can’t wait for the next moment to unfold? Or do you think, Well, here we go again.

Watch people when they walk down the street. They’re grumbling. It’s as if they’re emanating nasty, dark, bad energy in the world. And why? Because they chose to. They chose to have a bad attitude for so long that it became part of their personality. Their attitude fixed. It’s closed. It’s angry, upset or bordering on the negative emotional qualities of life, rather than realizing the incredible magic and experience that we all have available to us, each and every single moment of the day.

Related: How Incredibly Successful People Think

There is a lot of magic around here. When your attitude is open, you’re allowing yourself to learn. When your attitude is open, you’re allowing yourself to connect to other people. When your attitude is open, finding happiness isn’t something you do; it’s something you create. You choose the attitude of happiness. You don’t have happiness; you generate it. You don’t have good energy today; you generate it.

Everything we’ve learned in psychology over the years is that you can literally change your attitude just by controlling your thoughts and directing them in a new, positive, healthy, social way. Why not do that? You deserve to have a good attitude. It’s a choice, so choose to have a good attitude.

4. Our Affections

I’m referring to our affections as our emotional quality of life, but also those we care for.

We should control the amount of emotion that we have throughout the day—not to stifle it, but to allow the beauty of it to surface. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate toward other human beings. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate for causes. To allow ourselves to feel affectionate for Mother Nature, our planet and our God. To allow the emotional connection that happens when we care deeply about something.

So many people have been hurt in their lives, so they shut down. It takes a lot of responsibility to allow ourselves to love, because it’s so much easier to close people out, to become a victim. Because when we’re a victim, we don’t have to be responsible. It’s somebody else’s deal. They have the power. They whisked away all our goodness, and now we can just be upset and angry. That’s the easy route.

Demanding that we take control of our emotional reality and the affections we have for others brings risk. If you heighten the affection you give to somebody, he or she might hurt you. So? Maybe your ego is trounced a little bit. Maybe you feel sad for a couple of minutes, but what is life? Is it supposed to be a bland, colorless universe where we don’t get to experience the heights and the joys and the gifts of love? I don’t think so.

Affection is something that we can all choose to feel and cultivate in our lives. If we are not overcome with emotion once in a while for somebody, then we aren’t thinking about the beauty in other people. We have become too trapped in our own thing.

Other people should fascinate us. We should be excited to meet them. Our brain is hardwired to love novelty. Guess what? We have 7 billion people who can give us that dopamine drip, just by talking to them and connecting real emotion with them again. Let’s do that.

5. Our Actions

What is it that we’re doing each and every day? Take responsibility for our actions because they are adding to our character and destiny. Who we become is a result of our disciplined actions, not our random initiatives that we do occasionally that respond to something, but,

Something completely changes. We get a remarkable amount of momentum and progress in our lives.

Being able to control our actions and guide them toward healthy and positive outcomes for ourselves gives us extraordinary confidence, an extraordinary sense of progress. When we’re confident in who we are and we’re confident in our progress toward where we’re moving, then it’s easier to sense that magical element called happiness.

It all comes from being responsible for those five things. Look at the opposite.

  • Look at those who have no aim in life.
  • Look at those who have not controlled their attitude so they have imbued the negative emotional attitude of those around them.
  • Look at those who cannot control their attention during the day, how much they accomplish.
  • Look at those people who have no affection for other people and they do not control their emotions at all in positive ways.
  • Look at those who are not directing their actions intentionally.

What happens? They end up derailing their life. They end up lost somewhere. They end up frustrated and irresponsible, not only for their own lives, but often for the lives of those who they are entrusted to care for.

Personal responsibility is a big thing. Master those five elements of your life. Bring intentionality to those five elements of your life, and life blooms. An extraordinary new quality of experience comes into our lives, we feel an incredible spark and zest about each day. We feel what we call the charged life.

Related: 5 Rules to Win the Game of Life

A version of this post originally appeared on BrendonBurchard.tumblr.com.

Brendon Burchard

Brendon Burchard is the world’s leading high performance coach and one of the most watched, followed and quoted personal development trainers in history. He is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, a Top 100 Most-Followed Public Figure on Facebook, and star of The Charged Life, a top 10 self-help podcast and the #1 self-help show on YouTube. 5 million people follow him on Facebook and over 75,000,000 have watched his videos. SUCCESS named him “one of the Top 25 Most Influential Leaders in Personal Growth and Achievement.” His most recent book is The Motivation Manifesto. Meet him at Brendon.com.