As a college professor, I get gratification from seeing a student achieve personally and professionally. There are few things more rewarding than seeing a young person take the initiative to develop the confidence and passion to reach his or her potential. However, I also often see students who are unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own choices. These people unwittingly sabotage their own professional fulfillment and personal happiness. It isn’t just students who do that. Professionals do it, too. Here are five signs you are not being accountable and ways to change these negative, self-sabotaging habits:
1. Excuses, excuses. Do you blame your parents, roommate, significant other, unfair professors, bad bosses, the economy, etc., for your issues and problems? If you answered yes, you are already in self-defeat mode. Instead of coming up with the list of excuses of why things have not gone your way, consider how you can change your behaviors and attitudes. Take responsibility for yourself and your choices. It doesn’t matter whether you work on a team, or whether your professor or boss is difficult and unreasonable. The actions you take and the mindset you hold is yours alone. If you are committed to positive results, academically, personally and professionally, you can take the initiative and action and to make things happen. This also means you take responsibility for your role in both successes and mistakes. 2. Worry, worry. Are you overwhelmed by your work, life, academics, deadlines, and demands on your time? Stop! The worst case scenario is that you will stumble. Allowing worry to take over your life has a paralyzing effect. Instead, set and manage expectations, and take control of your time. Be clear about your priorities and those that others might place on you. Say no sometimes, resist negative influences, and manage your time based on realistic goals and priorities. Ask questions and seek guidance. You must be willing to work to deliver based on these expectations. Sometimes this may be uncomfortable, but without effort you won’t reap rewards. 3. Self-doubt and lack of self-awareness. Many of us doubt our abilities and potential. Yet many also have an inflated sense of their abilities. Self-confidence is important, but over-confidence without self-awareness is dangerous. Seeking criticism and providing a realistic self-assessment of your personality, skills, and abilities are important steps to becoming more accountable and successful. Avoid being hypersensitive to criticism; instead, try to learn, grow, and improve on your shortcomings. Be open and willing to take feedback without getting defensive. When you do well, own that, too. Share your successes with your boss, friends, and family. 4. “Debbie Downer” syndrome. You can’t change past situations. You can’t change other people. It is easy to get stuck in negative mode and rehash what should have happened, who let you down, and why things aren’t working. Instead, focus on where you are now and what you can do to move forward. Consider how you can act and react from this point forward to be more productive and engage in positive behaviors that will probably have very different outcomes. 5. The desire to win at all costs. Are you hurting other people or lowering your moral compass to get ahead? This may provide you with short term gains, but instant gratification without integrity doesn’t last. Be brave enough to do the right thing, even if the outcome may not always work in your favor. Don’t try to get out of bad situations by lying or trying to cover things up. Everyone makes mistakes. Admit it; say “I’m sorry” and mean it. Be prepared with a solution and plan to resolve the situation or issue. Consider what you can do differently in the next situation. Integrity and accountability are two of the most powerful personal traits you can develop.
Change your mindset, and hold yourself accountable for your own life decisions, behaviors, and choices. Adopt the attitude that any challenges are opportunities and problems can be redirected into solutions.
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Take initiative. Results will follow. Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the M.A. in Professional Communication graduate program co-director, communication internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.