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Four levels of responsibility

We live in a world shaped by habits of retribution – that punishment and blame are morally justified. We habitually blame others for how we feel, and blame the world for what happens to us. It is not in our cultural vernacular to claim ownership for our lives.

We allow others to be in control, and to tell us what to do. Our health care industry is rampant with mental models of blame – its the virus, its the disease, its genetics – and disempowerment – doctor’s orders, if the doctors can’t fix it, nobody can fix it. Our justice system is built upon the premise of punishment and blame and guilt, right and wrong. This is very convenient, because we don’t have to take responsibility when we have experiences that are outside of our understanding or of our comfort zone.

If we would be willing to take up the reins of our own lives, to step outside of the personal paradigms made up of what we are taught, what we are told, what we have been given to believe, the first thing that will be asked of us is to take responsibility for that which we have re-claimed. With autonomy, with independence, comes responsibility.

There are four levels of responsibility I want to address, though no doubt there are many additional ways to think about this. I have chosen these four, to build upon each other and form, together, a holistic picture of what responsibility is, and what it requires of us:


1. Owning your feelings,
2. Owning your needs,
3. Owning what happens to you,
4. Owning your biography.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be posting about each level. Stay tuned. Every Monday night.

Being generative: Caring for the tone in our delivery

(This article was written as the third installment of three articles on being generative in any situation where you want to be helpful. Please check out the first one: Being Generative in a Supporting Relationship, and the second: Being Generative: Ask a Question.)

How we are heard by another depends a great deal on the gesture of our delivery. There are many ways to say “okay”. It can sound excited and positive – “okay!”, or it can sound sarcastic and unconvinced – “ohhkaaaay”, depending entirely on the quality one infuses in the saying of it. It is still the same word, with a thousand different inflections possible. Tone sets the stage for how the other will listen to you. Read More »

Being Generative: Ask a Question

(This article was written as the second installment of three articles on being generative in any situation where you want to be helpful. Please check out the first one: Being generative in a supporting relationship.)

A simple technique for mitigating any judgments or projections that may be present, is to ask a question instead of making a statement. Asking questions is hands down the best way to create a generative space. However, not all questions are created equal, and here are some helpful and unhelpful kinds of questions to consider. Read More »

The Shadow, or, The Guardian of the Threshold

Do you know what a shadow is? Sometimes it is called the shadow-side, that part of us that is ugly, dark, maimed, and terrifying. Some people believe it is an expression of the dark side of humanity, that we are stuck with and must learn to deal with, that all the ugliness we see in the world is the result of our shadow. Read More »

Being generative in a supporting relationship

There is a skill and art to setting up and maintaining the conditions for a generative partnership between a coach and client, and the ways that is done will be very individual. However, I propose that there are some principles at work that will be helpful to anyone finding themselves in a coaching role, including team leaders looking for more productive ways of supporting and coaching their teams. Read More »

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