The ART of Successful Living: Accountability + Responsibility = Trustworthy

By Alice Wheaton

100% Accountable + 100% Responsible = 100% Trustworthy
75% Accountability + 75% Responsibility = 75% Trustworthiness
100% Accountable + 100 % Responsible = 100% Trustworthy

Trust is all about Ourselves

When our words and actions match, we are congruent and trustworthy. There is only one test to tell us if someone (including ourselves) is congruent and that is the test of time. When we give our word, to others and ourselves, and keep it, we are perceived by the world around us to be trustworthy. Ultimately, we are all known by our actions. 

Right now, there may be many, many circumstances towards which you feel powerless. The choices are to adopt either a submissive, defensive, or fully accepting stance to those situations. Some resistance to this concept is very natural. After all, one does not want to be adrift on the sea of life, alone and assuming 100%, responsibility might seem like a formula to face life alone, without the support of others. The opposite is true; your relationships will be even better than before when you make a decision to practice the Art of Leadership. Think about these words of a popular song of the seventies: I am a rock…I am an island… Who wants that? Almost no one. Asking for help is still accepting responsibility.

For example, what if you have a job that you promised to complete on July 17, it is now July 12, and you have come to a dead end. You don’t know how to accomplish a very important part of that job, yet you are 100% responsible, so what should you do? The answer is to ask for help and in doing so you will still maintain 100% responsibility.

Now, imagine a team brought together to accomplish a task. The objectives and  measured outcomes are presented. Everyone on the team personally and voluntarily accepts (for no one can mandate this to another) 100% responsibility for the result. This is imperative for a great team to function. Imagine saying to a chain: Okay, you three links here are only 50% responsible, but the other 110 pieces are 100% responsible. The point of lowered responsibility in the chain is where the efficacy of the entire chain is weakest. 

Would you want that particular chain with several weak links holding the gates of your neighbor’s yard closed with a pair of ferocious, dedicated guard dogs behind it? Probably not! Any relationship where each of the members assume 100% of the responsibility will function much better than if one or the other accepts only partial responsibility. The language of someone who is not willing to be accountable and responsible sounds like this:

  • I will be respectful to you, as long as you are respectful to me.
  • You snapped at me first!
  • You ignored my pleading for help when I was down, so now it’s your turn to suffer. See how you like that!

It takes courage to accept 100% responsibility for our lives. If I assign 85% responsibility to me and 15% responsibility to you, for the remaining 15%, I am in a potential ‘victim’ state. Assuming 100% responsibility for our participation in the past will free us from projecting guilt, and resentment onto others.

Let us say someone really did something bad to you as a child. How can you take 100% responsibility? You can, by saying: This ‘bad’ thing happened and I can let it affect me for the rest of my life, and I can choose 100% responsibility for my attitude toward it. I can observe how my thinking about the past event colors my life today. I do not like or want that, so I let go. The past is done – I cannot change it. It does not exist. If I continue to live there, I am controlled by an illusion for an illusion is something that does not exist but that I give energy to anyway.

Taking 100%, responsibility for the present is also freeing. Notice when something bad occurs, there seems to be a frenzied witch-hunt. Whom shall we blame for this? What if someone stepped up to the plate and said: Let’s stop looking for the person who did this and start looking for the solution. The quicker we assume responsibility for the solution, the more likely we will see ourselves and be seen by others as having the traits of a leader. The future will provide us with freedom, abundance, challenges, rewards, pain, setbacks, joy and success, all of which make up the rich tapestry of life. Do not spend time affixing the blame; fix the problem!

Like the past, the future is also an illusion – it is not here yet, but we can be prepared and give ourselves the edge by assuming 100% responsibility for ourselves as we go forward. With this proactive attitude, we have focus. This is one of the reasons top performers achieve their position; they have a have a concrete plan for their life. It means they have already taken the time to create priorities for the future. There is something magical about that. Our expectations have a greater chance of being achieved, when we plan. In addition, with a plan we give ourselves the freedom to add, delete, or change in response to the actual events as compared to planned events. If we have no plan and leave everything up to fate, then we must accept what comes blindly and fit ourselves to it as best we can. When we have a plan, life still delivers tragedy and sorrow, but when it does, we are resilient and are not thrown off course for long.

Our attitude of living 100% responsibly will keep us vigilant as we complete due diligence before getting involved with someone else’s project, thereby preventing the disasters associated with ‘trusting the untrustworthy’!  Moreover, if we should err, we are able to trust ourselves to deal with the consequences.

Let us look at the pattern of trusting the untrustworthy. This is a common weakness, or character deficit. Even the most well informed and sophisticated of individuals are ‘taken advantage of’ more times than they care to admit. This is unjust and unfair, but so what! The trend will not change unless we learned to ask ourselves the all-important question: What is it about me that cause me to trust the untrustworthy?

Some of the answers to this one question may be:

  • Making decisions quickly. Unable to take the time to complete due diligence.
  • Making decisions based on how great the need is to be rescued from something. The need to be rescued often overrides gut instinct.
  • Craving change and being impatient with process.
  • Inability to set, and maintain, personal boundaries.
  • Inability to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
  • Need to be liked.
  • Hungry heart.

When you discover what your reason is for trusting the untrustworthy, plan to spend some time in quiet reflection, and see where you had something to contribute to almost every situation that hurt you. When you take 100% responsibility, it does not mean it is open season on beating up on yourself! It is more a matter of: Oh, so that’s the cause. Now I need to learn new skills so it does not happen again. 

One of the tools you can put to work right now to mitigate the danger of trusting the untrustworthy is a balance sheet – listing pros and cons of any  decision you are about to make and then giving yourself a week just to sit with the process and ask some ‘call to truth’ questions such as: 

  • What is the cost for doing/having this? 
  • What is the cost of not doing/having this? 
  • If I wait a few days, will my need and desire be as great or will I want it less?
  • Who could potentially lose because of this decision?
  • Do I want to be rescued from a difficult situation? 

Most decisions made in a hurry turn out to be wrong. Your new mantra could be: I make my decisions over time with lots of due diligence. Another step is to require the other person to put in writing, in measurable terms, what they will be delivering. If they cannot or will not, the answer becomes clear – Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

Frequently, when something goes wrong, most individuals rush in to lay blame, defend, and justify as to why they are not responsible for the disastrous event. Many relationships that begin with love and trust deteriorate into blame, shame, resentment, and distance. The partners may change but unless each individual learns to take 100% responsibility for his or her own life, the results will eventually be the same despite the geographic cure where they move to another city but take themselves with them!.

Justifying and defending yourself may work from time to time when you manage to escape repercussion; however, as a mode of operation, this does not help anyone get the results they really want in life. The process of taking 100% responsibility is simple, but not easy, because our society holds a CYA (Cover Your Ass) mentality.

There are many situations in life over which we have no control, but ‘acting as if’ we have ultimate control will increase our options. You will be surprised at the capacity for power we have to change our circumstances and influence others simply by assuming the attitude and behaviour of responsibility. Life will work out in the process of life itself.


Alice Wheaton is a best selling author with books translated into ten languages. She is a consultant, and speaker, working tirelessly to help bring out the best in others.

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