Viewing Responsibilities: Obligation or Opportunity?

August 2, 2009 by
Filed under: Positive Attitude 


Do you enjoy getting involved with others for a cause? A business project? Or some other undertaking? I’ve enjoyed getting involved in many organizations and helping others succeed in their endeavors for a while. Whether it is in business, in a community project or in a personal matter, being able to make a positive difference in someone else’s life has been a rewarding experience for me. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. There have been many instances where I’ve felt that I’ve worn myself too thin with all of my responsibilities. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever gone from a feeling of looking forward to being involved to not caring as much as you know you should? Not wanting to answer the phone whenever it rang? Ignoring emails? If you have, let me share one of the main things that helped me overcome that feeling.

I started to look at what happens to me as an opportunity, rather than an obligation. When I did so, I was startled to see how it made all the difference in the world! In the past, whenever I felt myself being pulled in all directions or simply being worn thin, I would withdraw from many of the things that I was doing. Instead of focusing on what I needed to do and what I was responsible for, I would begin to ignore phone calls and emails from various people for days on end. You can imagine what that did to my credibility at the time. Not getting back to people when they expect you to contribute is a sure fire way to reduce your integrity and the value of your personal brand.

Deciding to Look at Responsibilities as an Opportunity

Looking at leaders and people of influence, I wanted to know how they were able to be responsible for so much and at the same time get so many things done. My intellect told me “if they can do it, so can I.” I just didn’t understand how they did it. After speaking with a couple of my mentors, and consulting with some of my virtual mentors as well (books), I realized a common theme among many of the people able to get things done while being responsible for so much:

All of these people looked at their responsibilities as an opportunity and not an obligation.

They saw their responsibilities as opportunities to help someone, to influence, to learn, to encourage. After learning this, I also noticed a common theme among people who did not look at their responsibilities as an opportunity. Those that saw their tasks as obligations wanted the task at hand to be done as quickly as possible, with little or no regard to the outcome. These same people also had a tendency to not like what they were doing with their lives at all. This was something I chose not to let happen to me. Life is simply too short to allow such feelings to overcome it. I made a decision to see my responsibilities as opportunities to make a positive difference.

You Can’t Always Control What Happens to You, but You Can Definitely Control the Way You React to It

According to psychological studies, when people feel pressured or hassled, they tend to look at their circumstances as obligations. Obligations, by their very nature, are oppressive. We have to do them whether we want to or not and that sense of obligation is rarely a motivating force for a person, myself included.

I decided to place a sign at my desk for me to see every time I sit down at it. The sign says, “Opportunities or Obligations; what can I do with the opportunities I have in my hand today?” For me, this question helps to remind me to view responsibilities as opportunities to do more, to learn, to grow. Interestingly enough, I found myself wanting to interact with the people and the world around me more not because I had to, but because I wanted to. This was a big shift in my thinking at the time and it made me realize how important our personal viewpoint is. Now I view my responsibilities as opportunities and that has made all the difference in the world because it has contributed to me being a better friend, a better colleague, a better husband, and a better leader.

How do you view your responsibilities? Do you see them as simply an obligation or as an opportunity? Share you thoughts!


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