You’ve probably heard it all your life. Your parents say it. Your teachers say it. Heck, even your coaches may say it. You’ve heard it so many times, you’re probably sick of it, and even though you think you know what it means, I’m betting that you don’t.
So, as you transition from adolescence to adulthood, I’m going to give you what no one ever gave me, but everyone expected me to understand. Here’s what that annoying phrase “Be responsible” actually means in the adult world:
- You recognize the difference between needs and wants, and you put a higher value on needs. Adults live by the code “Get your have to’s done before your want to’s” because they realize that sacrifice and self-discipline are more rewarding than possessions or entertainment.
- You take initiative to do things without having to be asked, including things that may not be your job to do. Adults don’t quibble about whose job or whose turn it is. They do it because the need arises, and it must be done.
- You make a plan on how to accomplish your tasks for the day and you stick to that plan (What really helps, too, is communicating the plan to the people in authority before they can ask. This demonstrates you’re thinking ahead and taking a job seriously)
- You intentionally deny yourself in one area so that you can excel in another. Adults don’t hate sacrifice. They embrace it. Adults realize short term pain is necessary to accomplish long term goals.
- You perform well in the little things so that you can be trusted with bigger things. No one exits boot camp and is immediately promoted to general. You have to work your way up through the ranks. Adults realize that the same principle is true in business and in life.
- You punish yourself when you screw up. Adults accept that, ultimately, it is up to them to make sure they don’t repeat their mistakes. Being in charge of yourself means keeping yourself accountable and in line.
- You express the five R’s when you have done something wrong:
- Regret (“I’m sorry”)
- Responsibility (“I was wrong”)
- Restitution (“How can I make it right?”)
- Repentance (“I’ll try to never do this again”)
- and Reconciliation (“Please forgive me).* Adults are never too prideful to apologize.
- You understand that your relationships are more important than yourself. As long as you live a life centered around yourself, you deny yourself the ability to receive love or to be an effective part of a community. Adults know that selfishness eventually leads to self-destruction.
- Your word is your bond. If an adult says they are going to be somewhere or do something, they follow through on what they have said they will do. If you cannot, or if plans change unexpectedly, inform the person you committed to of the change.
- When you do a task, do it with excellence. Adults do tasks to the best of their ability, doing it right the first time. In the adult world there are no do-overs in life.
- You have a contingency plan for emergencies always in mind. Plan A doesn’t always work in the adult world. The general rule of thumb is to have a backup plan and to have a backup for your backup.
- You can provide for yourself. Don’t be so childlike that you continually need someone to bail you out. This applies to not only the financial realm but also other areas of life, such as car repairs, fixing things around the house, cooking meals, ironing, cleaning, doing laundry, and hygiene. Adults are self-sufficient.
- You know your limitations, and you respect them, but you do not let them hinder you from moving forward. Adults are not afraid to ask someone to teach them how to do something. They practice that skill until they have it memorized and can do it effectively. You don’t have to be master of all things, but you don’t tell yourself you can’t do something just because you haven’t figured it out by age 25.
- Study the rules and live by them. This applies to societal rules/etiquette as well as the tenets of one’s faith. The rules are there for a reason and adults know that we all work better together if we apply the rules to our lives.
- Finally, work hard and enthusiastically. Adults look for ways to find joy in the tasks of life, especially the ones that are no fun to do. It is a miserable existence if all you do is complain.
If you can follow these basic definitions, you’ll discover that things not only go smoother for you in the adult world, but you will probably be proud of who have become in the process.
(* #7 is taken from Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Languages of Apology”)