Responsibility Fault Fallacy
December 5, 2021
When it comes to problems, many are often reluctant to take responsibility because they believe that to be responsible for the problems means also being at fault for the problems.
Responsibility and fault often go hand in hand in our work environment. But they are not the same thing. For example, if I knock someone down when driving my car, I am both at fault and likely legally responsible for compensating the person I have knocked down. Even if the mishap was accidental, I am responsible. If I make a mistake, I am responsible for making it right. That is how it should be.
But many times there are also problems we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them. For example, I lead a project where someone in my team commits a fatal mistake leading to the project failing. It may not have been my fault that the error happened, but it happened under my watch, so I am responsible. Knowing that the mistake has happened, I am responsible for making the situation right, doing whatever it takes.
Unfortunately, we are all responsible for experiences that aren’t always our fault. This is the paradox of life. In his book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fu*k, Mark Manson calls this paradox the Responsibility Fault Fallacy.
A fault is always in the past tense. It is a post mortem. Responsibility, on the other hand, is always in the present. A fault is a result of decisions already made. Responsibility results from the choices you exercise in the present, regardless of whether you were at fault or not.
There’s a difference between finding fault with or blaming someone else for your situation and them being responsible for your situation. The fact is nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. So many people may cause your unhappiness, but you are always responsible for your own happiness. Because you always have a choice in how you look at things and how you react to them.
We all love to show up and take responsibility for success and happiness. But when it comes to problems and mistakes, we slink into the shadows, worrying about the consequences. But taking responsibility for our problems is very important because that’s where real learning comes from. That’s where the real life improvement comes from.