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When to give your ego the heave-ho


By taking responsibility for your actions or inactions you can make the right life choices

Responsibility and control are inseparable. Existential psychologists, such as John Martin-Fischer and Martin Ravizza, would argue that freedom and responsibility are bound together because we have choice. We may not choose our circumstances but ultimately our choices concerning how we think and feel govern our lived experience. As human beings, we have both the power and responsibility to choose how we experience the world.

In essence, the message is: if we are not happy with our lot, we need to change.

This idea presents many people with a daunting prospect. It literally means we are responsible for ensuring we lead a fulfilling life. If we are dissatisfied with our life, we have two choices: we can either recognise that we are responsible and therefore need to make some changes, or we can choose to blame.

In blaming something external, we attempt to deceive ourselves. We try to hide behind the notion that our situation is the result of something outside of our control. I suspect we do this to protect our ego, which doesn’t like to think we are at fault.

Tip on how to take control and responsibility

● You only have true control when you accept responsibility. Recognise that doing so is often uncomfortable
● Seek out and relish the chance to take ultimate responsibility and total control of your performance
● You cannot always control the situation - but you will always have control over how you think, feel and respond to any situation. You have the power of choice
● Be open to learning. Sometimes that means accepting you’re wrong

Through our ego, we are likely to judge ourselves. This judgement usually stings so to avoid the discomfort, we often choose to find an excuse. We choose to ease the pain rather than take responsibility.

This challenge is exacerbated if we’re feeling low on confidence. If we perceive that we’re failing and we feel the sting of judgement, our tendency might be to turn to excuses and blame. If we feel we’re in a vulnerable position, the easiest option is to look for external reasons.

Ironically, when our performance drops and we are low on confidence, it is precisely the time to take control. Once we take responsibility, we can regain control.

The best way to restore confidence is to raise our performance. It’s hard to fool yourself into feeling confident by turning to excuses. Confidence builds when we know how to get ourselves out of a hole and turn our performance around. If we blame external circumstances, it’s hard to see how we can do this - by definition, it is out of our control. People who do this wait for a stroke of luck to change their situation. By taking responsibility, we are no longer beholden to luck but can change our own circumstances, create the life we desire and give ourselves the opportunity to be exceptional.

● This article is adapted from How To Shine: Insights into Unlocking your Potential from Proven Winners by Simon Hartley (Capstone, £12.99). Available from

Simon Hartley is an experienced sports psychologist and performance coach who helps gold medalists, world record holders and championship winning teams get their mental game right. Since 2005, he has applied the principles of sport psychology to business, education, healthcare and the charity sector


Readers' comments (2)

  • tinkerbell

    Unless i have misread between the lines is this some coded message from the leadership academy telling us all that we should go on STRIKE.

    That we should not blame our external circumstances, i.e, the unelected government and pay cartels blah, blah, blah, but take ACTION to change our lot.

    It would seem strange that the leadership academy would be telling us to do this when it is our current leaders who are shafting us big time, but who am i to question their potentially coded message, or have i got the wrong end of the stick:)

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  • I'd quite like to give the NHS leadership the heave-ho!

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