Monday, August 10, 2009

Why we avoid accepting personal responsbility.

Today is my 300th post since I started this blog in June, 2008. While 300 is just another number, it does indicate, if nothing else, that I've been diligent in my task. I've enjoyed sharing my opinions with you and trust that this coming year will see more signed-up readers. I strongly encourage you to sign up by scrolling down to the end of the page and signing in where it says "Follow."

Thinking further about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Will Marre, who lives here in San Diego, and has a new book coming out next month entitled, Save the World and Still be Home for Dinner, points out that the success of CSR is dependent on each of us assuming personal responsibility for our choices and actions. Having passionate feelings about how we might contribute to a better world isn't enough. There are many barriers between noble intentions and effective action. The major barrier to accepting personal responsibility is adopting false stories.

We tell stories about everything - our parents, our high school years, ex-spouses, the economy, etc. These stories are usually based on a few selected facts and a hefty filler of emotional logic. Emotional logic is the glue we use to fill in the gaps between our fears and reality. False stories allow us to mentally connect events that weren't directly connected in reality and to invent causes, motives and reasons why events turned out the way they did. It also lets us generalize an individual incident into a law of life. False stories provide us with elaborate excuses for why we can't act on our desires. They lead us to deny, blame, or rationalize which creates inertia in our lives.

To deny means to pretend a negative situation doesn’t exist. “I have no problem. My life's fine as it is. This situation is normal and I shouldn’t expect more. Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for things to change.” To deny also means telling ourselves that change could create an even worse situation and this then becomes our excuse not to change.

To blame is to say, “I don’t like my situation, but it’s not my fault and I can’t fix it. I can’t do anything to create a sustainable future because my boss would never go for it.” We blame our obligations, responsibilities, and the stubbornness of others for the inertia in our lives. We don’t change because we're waiting for people or situations to change for us.

To rationalize we literally tell ourselves “rational lies" that make superficial sense. Most of the time these lies are constructed around two false ideas:
(1) even though this aspect of my life is less than I want it to be, it doesn’t really matter,
(2) change is impossible. ("We tried that before and it didn't work").

Denial, blame, and rationalization all are well-developed mental games we play to keep us in an unconscious state. But change is only difficult as long as we resist it. In business, small, visible and successful change often ignites a storm of enthusiasm by employees and consumers that gives leaders the courage to support further positive change.

More on accepting personal social responsibility tomorrow.