By Fred Kofman
Philosopher and Vice President at Linkedin
Only as a warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior can’t complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges can’t possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges. The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or as a curse.” Don Juan, Toltec Shaman
Rather than taking the driver seat, many of us prefer to relinquish control and blame the pilot. We do so because we do not want to pay the price of power: responsibility.
Response-ability is your ability to respond to a situation. You can respond to an offer by choosing to buy or not buy. You can respond to a complaint by choosing to listen or argue. I call response-ability “unconditional” because your responses are not ultimately determined by external circumstances. They depend on external factors, but you always have a choice.
Ability to respond does not mean ability to succeed. There is no guarantee that what you do will yield what you want. The only guarantee is that as long as you are alive and conscious, you can respond to your circumstances in pursuit of your goals. Response-ability is a direct expression of rationality and free will. Being human is being response-able.
Unconditional response-ability puts your focus on what you can influence. When you play cards, you have no control over the hand you are dealt. If you spend all your energy complaining about your cards, you will most likely loose, and you will surely feel disempowered. But if you choose how to play those cards wisely, you may still lose, but you will certainly feel empowered.
In this life you have no control over the hand you are dealt. You will live a sorry life if you keep blaming fate for the unfairness of your lot. Responsibility is looking at your life and making the best of it. Responsibility is knowing that no matter how bad things appear, there is always a possibility to express your values in the face of a challenge.
Responsibility is not guilt. You are not responsible for your circumstances; you are response-able in the face of your circumstances. To take an extreme example, you are not responsible for world hunger. You didn’t start it and you didn’t worsen it. It exists independently of you. You are, however, able to respond to world hunger. In fact, world hunger is such a pervasive problem that you cannot not respond to it. You can ignore it, you can read about it, you can donate money, you can work in a soup kitchen, you can volunteer for the Peace Corps, or you can devote your life to feeding the hungry. Whatever you do, that is your choice, your expression of your response-ability in the face of world hunger.
Response-ability is the source of power and integrity, the power to influence your situation and the integrity to do so in alignment with your values.
Find more exercises related to mindfulness at work here.