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Radical Responsibility

In our fast-paced, digitally-driven competitive world, the call to improve performance, deliver exceptional results, and drive innovation is louder than ever. Employees and leaders are frequently encouraged to perform better, deliver more, and drive innovation. Amidst these demands, a fundamental principle often gets overlooked, one that can transform our work performance and job satisfaction significantly: radical responsibility.

Radical responsibility is a psychological concept that involves taking absolute ownership of your actions, decisions, and their consequences. It is a commitment to self-awareness, self-improvement, and pro-active behavioural change. Understanding and embracing this concept can lead to personal and professional growth and, more importantly, develop a mindset that cultivates resilience, productivity, and innovation.

The principle of radical responsibility is deeply rooted in psychological theories. A person with an internal locus of control believes that they have control over their life events, while those with an external locus attribute their experiences to external factors such as luck or other people. Those with an internal locus are more likely to take radical responsibility, as they view themselves as active participants in their life trajectory, including their career growth.

CBT, a widely accepted form of psychotherapy, often incorporates aspects of radical responsibility. This therapeutic approach emphasises recognising and altering negative thought patterns to change feelings and behaviours. By taking radical responsibility, you can consciously modify your cognitive patterns and improve your responses to workplace challenges. Radical responsibility fosters resilience by encouraging acceptance of failures and setbacks rather than blaming external factors. This resilience, triggered by cognitive restructuring, helps you bounce back stronger.

How can radical responsibility enhance your work performance?

Radical responsibility encourages continuous learning and growth. It prompts you to reflect on your actions, identify areas of improvement, and work towards refining your skills. This proactive approach to self-improvement inevitably results in enhanced work performance.

Secondly, by taking complete responsibility, you can better cope with failures and setbacks. Instead of blaming external factors or dwelling on negative outcomes, you view these situations as learning opportunities, enabling you to bounce back stronger and more resilient.

Consider this scenario: Sarah is a software developer who recently contributed to a major bug in a software release. Instead of blaming her team or the demanding work schedule, she accepts her part in the mistake. She acknowledges that she overlooked crucial testing procedures due to time pressure.

Learning from this, Sarah commits to prioritising thorough testing in future tasks, regardless of the deadlines, and communicates this commitment to her team, encouraging a culture of quality over speed. In this scenario, Sarah practices radical responsibility by accepting, learning from her mistakes, and taking action for future improvement.

Radical responsibility can lead to higher job satisfaction. When you see yourself as the masters of your fate, you tend to find more value and fulfilment in your role, which can increase overall job satisfaction and performance.

To incorporate radical responsibility into your professional life, consider the following steps:

  • Regularly take time to self-reflect. Understand your thought patterns, reactions, and behaviours in different situations. Mindfulness can be a powerful tool in this process.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to adapt. Recognise that everyone, including you, has room for improvement. Use feedback as a tool for growth rather than a source of criticism.
  • Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, focus on future actions. Think about what you can do differently next time to achieve a better outcome.
  • Consistently apply the principle of radical responsibility in your work life. It’s not a one-time event but a continuous process of self-improvement.

Taking radical responsibility doesn’t mean you are alone in your journey, nor does it imply that you should be overly self-critical. It’s about realising your potential to shape your professional destiny, acknowledging your capabilities to navigate through obstacles, and embracing the opportunity to become better versions of ourselves. In a world that continuously demands us to level up, embracing radical responsibility can be the key to thriving in the workplace.


By Ampara Bouwens

Ampara is an experienced Clinical Psychologist with over 19 years of experience, providing mental health services in private, governmental, and corporate sectors. She specialises in complex trauma, personality disorders, and other severe disorders, using a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to help clients regain control and autonomy over their lives. Since moving to New Zealand in 2016, Ampara has been running a successful private practice, offering personalised and effective treatment to individuals seeking to improve their mental health and well-being. Ampara is also the clinical lead and founder of MindGarage – a leading provider of psychological services, treatment, and assessment, with a team of skilled therapists who provide high-quality, personalised treatment via the same compassionate, non-judgmental approach. The MindGarage team takes a holistic approach to therapy, considering all aspects of a client’s life and offering tailor-made services to meet individual needs. MindGarage believes in empowering clients with the skills and knowledge needed to make positive changes in their lives, promoting long-term mental and emotional health.

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