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40 Examples of Personal Responsibility

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Personal responsibility is the duty to try hard to make your life worthwhile and to be fair to others. On a personal level, this is associated with the sense that you are capable of shaping your own life and accountable for your behavior. At the level of society, personal responsible is associated with collectivism and a focus on the duty of an individual to society as opposed to what society owes the individual. The following are illustrative examples of personal responsibility.
Meeting your commitments.
Owning up to your mistakes.
Taking care of your health.
Managing stress in a positive way.
Being accountable for your actions and inactions.
Achieving your objectives at work.
Developing good habits.
Sticking to a budget.
Reasonable spending habits.
Saving money or paying down debt.
Living up to your values.
Setting high standards for yourself.
Paying bills on time.
Avoiding unnecessary debt.
Living within your means.
Seeking help when needed.
Trying to do good for people & planet.
Not wasting time.
Maintaining a strong work ethic.
Trying to recognize your mistakes to correct.
Apologizing when you are wrong.
Working to improve yourself.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Prioritizing sleep and rest.
Avoiding excessive or foolish risks.
Demonstrating care and diligence in your work.
Studying hard to achieve a goal at school.
Demonstrating respect for others.
Trying to be polite.
Building trust and credibility with the people you know.
Being a responsible pet owner.
Careful consideration before taking on a duty or task.
Trying to be fair to others.
Avoiding discrimination and prejudice.
Respecting reasonable rules.
Respecting valuable traditions and culture.
Trying to maintain peace and civility.
Being aware of safety and security.
Demonstrating professionalism in your work.
Taking initiative in your life.

Characteristics of Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility is essentially a worldview that views the individual as having the power to define their own life. This makes the individual accountable for their actions and outcomes in life. The following are basic characteristics of personal responsibility:


Agency is an individual's capacity to control their own life. A person, such as a very small child, who has no agency also has no personal responsibility. Most adults have enough agency to be completely responsible for their own life. There are things that can limit agency such as living in an extremely repressive society or having a serious medical condition or disability.

Locus of Control

Locus of control is the degree to which an individual believes they have agency, or the power to control their own life. Those with a weak sense of control view obstacles and problems as defining their life as opposed to opportunities to build strength, knowledge and resilience.


The basic responsibility to control your emotions, desires and impulses. For example, the responsibility to control feelings of anger such that you don't act out in an unreasonable way.


The responsibility to be honest to yourself and to others. This can be expected of a small child, particularly with regards to honesty to others.


Accepting accountability when you have done something wrong.

Moral Duty

The responsibility not to do things that are morally wrong, even if this means challenging authority. For example, following orders doesn't absolve one of personal responsibility for morally reprehensible acts.


The duty to try to resolve differences with others in the most peaceful and respectful way possible. For example, following the rules of a society in trying to change that society.

Reasonable Expectations

Conforming to the reasonable expectations of others where this makes sense. This implies adhering to cultural norms unless there is some good reason not to adhere. For example, removing your shoes when you enter someone's home if that is the local custom.


The responsibility to apply attention and care in your actions. For example, the duty to pay attention to the road when driving a bicycle.

Risk Management

Taking reasonable steps to manage risk. For example, performing basic safety related maintenance on a vehicle.


The duty to try to understand your own thoughts, emotions, motivations, character, values and goals.


The responsibility to observe your environment and others and to be mindful of your impact on the world.


The duty to find energy and enthusiasm for things. For example, an adult can't expect others to be constantly motivating them but rather need to find their own source of drive.


The responsibility to develop a reasonable level of knowledge with regards to your family, community, society, culture, planet and profession. For example, the responsibility to know a little about local manners when traveling.


The responsibility to do your very best to fulfill your roles in life whether they be social or economic. For example, trying to do your job well and being a good parent.


Solving problems and making decisions without anyone having to push you. For example, a high school student who is expected to achieve reasonable academic results without parents pushing them to complete things or study.


The duty to build resilience to stress. For example, an adult can be reasonably expected to handle criticism without losing it.


The responsibility to seek improvement and to change in response to your experiences.

Health & Wellness

Taking good care of your body and mind.


The duty to try to do something meaningful with your life as you see it.

Personal Responsibility As a Worldview

Personal responsibility is a worldview that is strangely associated with both collectivism and individualism. Individualists want the freedom to make their own choices including their own mistakes whereby they dislike excessive societal restrictions such as a paternalistic government. Collectivists emphasize the individual's responsibilities towards society over society's obligations to the individual.


Personal responsibility is a generally admired trait such that its counterexamples have negative connotations as follows:
  • Irresponsibility such as neglecting duties, trying to avoid consequences and behaving recklessly.
  • Dependency such as over-reliance on others and society in general.
  • Blame-shifting whereby an individual doesn't recognize and take accountability for their own failures.
  • Victim mentality is a sense that all negative results in life are the fault of external forces. Victim mentality is also associated with a lack of willpower and no sense that one has a duty to work towards their own happiness.
  • Paternalism whereby a society or institution treats adults as if they are children who have limited power to make their own decisions or to shape their own lives.

Personal Responsibility as a False Dichotomy

It is common to use personal responsibility as an excuse for why governments, institutions or corporations aren't responsible for a problem. This is essentially a false dichotomy whereby it is incorrectly assumed that because people are responsible for a problem that institutions are not responsible. This often comes up with respect to environmental problems whereby consumers are blamed for the problem in order to remove responsibility from governments and firms to solve the problem. For example, blaming plastic waste on consumerism whereby you present harsh minimalism as the solution as opposed to government and industry actions that could solve the problem across society.


Personal responsibility is the principle that individuals lead their own lives whereby this comes with accountability for outcomes including mistakes. This can be contrasted with paternalism and the sense that individuals are relatively helpless to solve their own problems or make their own decisions.


Personal responsibility is an admired character trait and common worldview that views the individual as having a duty to define their own life. This is often extended to include a sense of social responsibility whereby the individual has a duty to society and to other people in general.
Overview: Personal Responsibility
The duty to try hard to make your life worthwhile and be fair to others.
Related Concepts
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