One Saturday morning last year, my wife and I drove past a man on the side of the road in obvious pain. As concerned citizens we spun the car around and pulled over to make sure he was ok. He was bleeding from his face and in a lot of pain. We immediately contacted the ambulance and had him picked up and assessed whilst we kept him awake and talking.
It did make me wonder though how long he had been there. He was not moving so I imagine he had been there for some time. A funny thing happened once we stopped to help him. A flow of people stopped and came in behind us to also help. Why did no one stop before us? Why did everyone else fail to act?
This is technically known as the diffusion of responsibility.
Someone else will do it
The diffusion of responsibility is the assumption when there are a lot of people around that someone else will do the right thing. The problem is if everyone is thinking like this then no one will do anything. Similar situations arise when someone’s car alarm or house alarm goes off. We tend to assume that someone else will take responsibility. Often no one will though.
At work when an e-mail is sent to multiple people it often goes unanswered. Same phenomenon at play here too. We all assume someone else will take responsibility. It is too easy to say, “it’s not my problem.”
The danger of thinking someone else will do it also plays a part in our personal finances
With our work, we think that our employer will take care of us. We assume that we will be employed until we are 65 and will only save 10% of our income to reflect this plan. However, company restructures or economic recessions may cause us to experience unemployment. Suddenly, our meager savings is not enough for us to live on. We rely on pay checks from our employer and we rely on them to keep us employed. They rely on us to get a job done and sometimes the job requirements change making us redundant. We need to take more responsibility and not assume that our employer will always be there to take care of us. They are not responsible for us.
With our retirement we often assume that we will receive a certain amount of income from Superannuation from the government or an inheritance from family. We may, or we may not. Nothing is guaranteed, particularly for younger generations. It is better to assume we will get nothing, than to assume we will get something and end up getting less.
With investing, many of us leave that up to the professionals. Sometimes this may be a good idea, but more often than not we are better off financially to just follow the market and invest in index funds. Portfolio managers charge a lot to manage our money and there is no guarantee that they will do better than we would on our own. Read this article to see the impact of fees on how much we can end up losing out. It can also be difficult to find a manager that 100% has our best interests at heart. Often, they are under pressure from their employer to meet targets and maybe they are also tied in to sell certain products that may not be best for us. The point is to take responsibility so at least we have a full picture. Otherwise we risk giving a lot of our money away.
Own your life
We need to take ownership of our lives. If responsibility were a bull, we need to take it by the horns. We shouldn’t wait for, or rely on others to save us.
We need to stop blaming others or making excuses. Otherwise we won’t be able to learn and grow from our failures and mistakes. Worst of all we won’t be owning our responsibility to ourselves. Understand that it is ok to fail. In fact, it is perfectly normal. Failure is our best teacher.
By accepting responsibility we make better plans for our future. For example, we can plan for a life without superannuation and inheritance. So, if we don’t receive these we will be fine. If we do, then we get a great bonus. Then there is a no blame mentality. When we take on the responsibility we can’t blame the government or family for our failings. We go from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. Negative thoughts are too consuming and not good for us. With personal responsibility our life becomes much more within our control with no surprises.
If you are passed over for a promotion, ask what you need to do better. Don’t make excuses why you didn’t get the job.
If you didn’t save as much as you wanted this year don’t blame everything else. Find out why and move forward from there. By blaming others, we are likely to continue with bad behaviours.
If you didn’t get to the gym as much as you wanted don’t make excuses. If it was a top priority you need to ask yourself why you didn’t attend so that you can make it right.
Negative excuse making and blaming will get us nowhere. When we take responsibility, we tend to be more positive and more in control. Not just with our finances, but our life in general. Once it becomes a habit, taking action will then become our new normal. Only then can we become the best version of ourselves.
The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here
What are your thoughts? How hard is it to take responsibility for your failings? What have you taken responsibility for that has dramatically improved your life?