Taking Responsibility for Your Decisions

asking for advice

When we’re teenagers, we hate the thought that our parents can limit our decisions. I remember my father not allowing me to stay out late with my boyfriend and feeling utterly defeated. How could he do that to me?

Obviously, parents have every right to restrict their children’s decisions during their formative years. Looking back on high school, I’m grateful for all the decisions my father made for me. Without his guidance, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today.

There comes a point, however, when our parents can no longer make those decisions for us. Once I entered college, it was my decision how late to stay out with friends. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and it felt great – at least when the consequences were positive. During those years, I’d pat myself on the back for acing a test, finding a meaningful part-time job, and maintaining a budget. But when the consequences weren’t so great – hanging out with crappy friends or hating my major studies – I looked to my parents for advice.

The key word here is “advice.” I could have chosen not to talk to my parents about these coming-of-age issues, but I did. They did the best they could to listen and be supportive. I could call at one in the morning (and I did), and they’d hash it out with me for the thirteenth time. Should I ditch these friends? What other major should I study? They had opinions, sure, but they didn’t make ultimatums or use coercion to force me into one singular decision. I asked questions, and they answered, sometimes with passion, sometimes without, but always with me in mind.

Based on those late night talks, I ended up ditching those crappy friends of mine – a good choice. I also tried desperately to succeed in science – a bad choice. I ended up hating college and blamed my parents for getting me to try something I did not enjoy. I became that indignant teenager all over again. During one phone call, I told my parents to butt out of my life, to quit making decisions for me, and it hurt my father. He quit giving me advice for a while since he didn’t know how to give it without upsetting me.

It’s easy to blame our problems on someone else. While some of that is justified (in the case of abuse or crime), many times we simply don’t want to live up to our own decisions. If we lose a job because we never show up on time, it’s not the manager’s fault. If we break the speed limit and get a ticket, it’s not the cop’s fault. And if we receive advice and take it, it’s not the advice giver’s fault. Making the most out of life means owning up to both our successes and our failures.

It took me several years to realize how stupid I was and apologize to my father. Even now, more than a decade later, I find myself sliding into that old habit when I call my parents for guidance (which I still do, sometimes at one in the morning). I have to remind myself that I’m asking for “advice,” not a decision. And when I do make a decision, it is wholly mine, and I take responsibility for the end result – professionally, personally, and emotionally.

Photo by Mark Sebastian

14 thoughts on “Taking Responsibility for Your Decisions”

  1. Blaming others too often is one of the worst things anyone can do. In fact, I find it personally very frustrating.

    No matter what happens, it’s important to look back to think about what you could have done differently to adjust the outcome. Because you’ll never control what others do, only what you do.

    And frankly, even if it ends up being “someone else’s fault,” the best you can do is improve what you do yourself next time around.

  2. Like you, I hate it when people use it as an excuse for inaction. Or worse, it makes them feel like they can’t try again. Much better to move on than dwell on whose fault it is.

  3. There is no shame in asking the advice of those who went before us. Why make costly mistakes that can be avoided by gaining some wisdom and insights from our folks. But yes, ultimately we have to make our own decisions and live with the consequences.

  4. very nice post Deborah
    taking responsibility for our decisions is the first step towards taking control of our lives and to living better ones
    thank you for the post :)

  5. This is a very important topic. Taking responsibility for your decisions is what separates adults from young children.

    Another problem is that some people are trying to avoid making decision altogether. But they fail to realize that by not making a decision you are actually making a decision of keeping the situation as is. You should always consider the implications and consequences of Not making a decision. It many cases the price of avoiding a decision can be very high.

    In any case, when making a decision we should always “consult” with our core values and verify that our decision is aligned with our values.

    1. Good point that not making decision is, in fact, making a decision. This is absolutely true. Your actions AND inaction guide your path in life. If you put off or fail to make a decision, it will affect change in your life just as sure if you had made a concrete choice.

      I also like your note on consulting with your core values first. It’s a good point and worth considering no matter what choice you are faced with.

  6. Yes, once you take 100% responsibility for your life, you are in a much wiser position when criticizing others, and you do it constructively and much less often! When you learn from your enemies, that is really empowering!

  7. You’re welcome! Your “enemies” (even if it’s just people you discover you hold arrogant attitudes towards) have the useful function of training you to not lose sight of their humanity or “potential” even if they are acting in a horrendous way right now. If you can manage that with resolve, you will develop more compassion (doesn’t mean agreeing with them or their destructive side) in general. It’s one of the hardest, yet most liberating voyages because you feel connected them and become stronger than the destructive tendencies in you!

  8. I can relate to your post so much especially with my parents. Growing up they were always giving their opinions, direction, and “advice” which can be quite normal for a caring parent to act and lead a child. It came to a point somewhere between my teenage and college years that I felt if I didn’t sway their way in making a decision or changing something in my life… I was doing wrong and doomed. To this day I am 28 and just recently considered the fact I feel hindered by this thought process of mine and felt I couldn’t trust myself.

    I know now I cannot go through life feeling that way ..but , whenever I was trusting and confident people had some way of making me feel that I was wrong. This has burdened my life so much that I am considered to be a very private person when it comes to sharing my life with my parents & loved ones. I have been so defensive over the years when having regular conversations with my parents.. I just decided to avoid it as much as I can all together and to be honest I am happier for it inside. I cannot take advice and being told what to do when I’m not asking for it. Therefore sharing gives it a chance someone will give me their opinion as if I cannot make decisions myself.

    It really disgusts me that I had to feel like this growing up. Weather its my own fault or my parents .. I feel anger towards them and myself for letting it go this far. I never want to have the feel that I have to “justify” to anyone. I will never make my children feel as if they cant follow their own dreams and interests.

    1. Dani,

      Thanks for sharing your story. Everyone’s relationships are different. Sometimes, we have to just say we don’t want any advice…period. If that makes you happy and allows you to make positive choices for yourself, that’s great. Some parents do give “advice” with the expectation that you must follow them.

      As a new parent myself, I know what it’s like to not want to make the same mistakes as my own parents. Learning about yourself can help you teach the next generation. Good luck in all you do!

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