I’m not happy. I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them.
— Beverly Sill
Hi, my name is Irina Skrypnik and I would like to introduce the topic of responsibility for us to discuss and practice. When I arrived for training with Christopher Avery, I didn’t fully understand what he meant by responsibility. For me responsibility was a range of correct actions: paying taxes, being an upstanding citizen, being accommodating towards others, not causing anyone any problems, taking responsibility for my actions, thoughts, and the attainment of my goals, especially if I didn’t really want to attain them. For me, back then, this was the highest manifestation of responsibility: selfless heroism! Oh, how wrong I was…
I asked a few people whose opinion I value, what responsibility meant to them:
Their replies had a huge impact on me. Freedom, choice, resource, or internal motivation! This is similar to what Christopher Avery understands by responsibility:
It is the freedom, choice, and power to resolve any problem.
Let’s have a look at an example:
You have a desire, a real, vibrant one. For example, to learn how to paint in watercolors. And so, inspired by this idea, you begin to move into a future in which you can paint. But then… you find an obstacle in your way.
“I don’t have time; it’s expensive; there aren’t any good schools; a good one is far away; I’m already 25 and that’s too late to learn how to paint; I’d better focus on my career; and what’s the use of painting anyway? There is no use. It is just a waste of time. I’d be better off devoting some time to my family/studies/earning money to live first and foremost, and then think about having fun…”
Does this seem familiar?
So I want something. And that’s absolutely fine; it’s normal as a human being to have desires.
But not everything goes to plan all the time. As I head towards the fulfillment of my desire, I might encounter an obstacle.
At that moment, a psychological process begins; I start to think about where the obstacle came from. How can I deal with the obstacle? Should I fight or just give up? Can I overcome it? Is it within my power to do so? Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts… And that is the very process of taking responsibility.
As a result of these thoughts I can choose to shift the obstacle and get on with my journey towards what I wish for, or stay with it and “write the story” of why my desire is unattainable. There may be several scenarios for these “stories”.
This is the Christopher Avery’s model (stages), and it is worth reading from bottom to top.
First scenario: Denial
Ignoring the existence of the problem or obstacle that stands in the way of your desire. I am choosing not to notice the problem. And if it isn’t there, then I don’t have to solve it. Convenient, right?
For example: I didn’t really want to learn to paint. I’ve changed my mind.
Marker phrases: “It’s not a problem!”; “I don’t see anything wrong with this.”; “I’m fine.”
Second scenario: Lay Blame
Someone else is to blame for the fact that I can’t obtain what I desire. He or she isn’t helping me, is failing to provide me with something, or isn’t behaving as I would like him or her to.
For example: When I was a child, my parents said that I wasn’t good at painting, so now I can’t learn to paint. I watched some lessons online; the teachers couldn’t explain it properly, and I very much doubt that they can teach people online how to paint.
Marker phrases: “It’s all his/her doing!”; “I asked him, but he…”; “If a designer made me a design right away, we’d manage.”; “When I was a child my parents spoke to me in such a way, so that’s why I’m like this.”
Third scenario: Justify
There are external circumstances that I can’t influence. They are bigger than me, and I am powerless to change anything.
For example: The art school is a long way from my house, the classes there are at an inconvenient time, and the tutoring is expensive. I could endlessly continue this list of external circumstances that are preventing me from learning to paint. There must be some sort of conspiracy against me!
Marker phrases: “That’s just how it is.”; “That’s our culture.”; “There’s such bad code here, that there’s nothing I can do.”; “The traffic’s terrible!”
Fourth scenario: Shame
Blaming yourself. The belief that the reason something is not going right for me lies with my own self. The complexity of this scenario lies in the fact that I am isolated from the outside world, and so I cannot get external support or resources.
For example: I’m already 25 years old; that’s too late to learn how to paint. And if I never follow anything through to the end anyway, then what’s the point in starting at all? I haven’t got any artistic leanings. I’m not only tone deaf, but ham-fisted too.
Marker phrases: “It’s my own fault that…”; “I’m not talented.”; “It’s my fault that we didn’t achieve our aims.”; “If only I were… then I could…”
Fifth scenario: Obligation
Doing what I should do rather than what I really want to do. I am obliged to. I ought to. I sacrifice my own desires. This was my most profound insight. In my own understanding, responsibility meant precisely “doing what I ought to”.
Marker phrases: “I should, ought to” and so on. “I hate my job, but I should be supporting my family.”; “I can’t get divorced from my husband, as I should be caring for the children.”; “I don’t want to write bad code, but I ought to get the job done, and so I will sacrifice some quality.”
This is not a separate step, but rather the moment when the shame or circumstances become impossible to bear. These cause unpleasant feelings, and the only possible escape is to leave. Leave the situation, throw in the towel, and cease to take part.
Marker words: “It doesn’t bother me anymore.”; “It’s their problem. What am I here for?”; “That’s it. Leave me alone!”
If we manage to get through all these thoughts and to feel within ourselves a sense of freedom and the power to make a choice, to create, to act, guided by our own burning desire, that is a full acceptance of responsibility. It is a pair of outspread wings on your back. It is joy and warmth within.
There are no “good” and “bad” scenarios, and no way to eliminate them, but it is possible to recognize them and meet whatever is really blocking our path to what we desire head on. Our thoughts.
I want to be like that!
How can I do so? How can I get the ball rolling with the responsibility process? Start with yourself. Take note and reflect on where your desires are encountering obstacles, what stories you are telling yourself, and what you are choosing. The first step is awareness.
On Christopher’s course, we keep diaries. I write down everything that I have noticed during the day in there. If I catch myself in such a moment, I say internally to myself “Yes, there we go, got it!” It’s invigorating!
Even this article came about via a less-than-straightforward path of me accepting my own responsibility. Here are the stories that I told myself (try to guess which one corresponds to which step):
- The AgiliX International coach camp in Amsterdam, Modul Coach Mastery, the PSM training… I’ve got no time to write an article! If only I had more free time…
- I rarely write articles. Ilya writes really well, but not me; I can’t write beautiful prose. If only I could…
- Damn! I’ve got to write an article. I promised the team. We took this on during a sprint and so I’ve got to do it…
- And there you have it. (One particular coach posed me a profound question for the theme of the article “What does the topic of responsibility mean for you, personally?”) Even I don’t know what I really want! Three hours on a plane and, as if by magic, the article was ready.
(1 – justify, 2 – shame, 3 – obligation, 4 – responsibility)
By the fourth stage, I had recognized where my desire really lay: to begin sharing my discoveries and experience on this path, which can change one’s perception of oneself and the world.
What if this is the moment when one of my readers perceives his or her own desires and begins to trust in them? In this, it would seem, we are fellow travelers.
Key points from the article:
- Responsibility is the freedom, choice, and power to resolve any problem.
- Responsibility is not a character trait. It is a mental process that works in exactly the same way in everyone.
- There are several steps in accepting responsibility: denial, lay blame, justify, shame, obligation, quit, and responsibility.
- Awareness is one of the keys to the responsibility process.
Thanks must go to the following people for sharing their ideas about responsibility: Lena Vdovina, Olesya Sitakova, Petya Shiryaev, Nina Romanova, Zhenya Ostapenko, Kolya Shapovalov, Galya Khafizova, Denis Skrypnik.
And to my guru on the Responsibility Process, Christopher Avery www.christopheravery.com