The Straight Truth


A Powerful Personal Accountability Exercise

Someone once said to me “Anger is the number one way to avoid personal responsibility.” It stuck. Whenever I am angry I ask myself this question, “What is it I do not want to be responsible for right now?” In the privacy of my mind, I go exploring, willing for an answer to emerge even it the answer implicates me. Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I don’t. When I don’t I move on. Either way, this powerful exercise in truth telling lowers my stress…immediately.


This past year I have made a few business decisions that did not turn out well. In one instance I blamed the vendor. The conversation in my mind was around all the things the vendor promised but did not deliver. I would catch myself brewing…getting angry…as I watched funds go out the window to pay for outcomes not delivered. I wanted to be mad. So until I was willing to give up being mad, I stayed mad. It didn’t change anything except my stress level, which went up. When I was ready to give up being mad I asked the question. “What is it I do not want to be responsible for?” The answer came immediately:

  • Not reading the agreement I signed, thoroughly and more than once.
  • Not adjusting the agreement, in writing, every time the vendor suggested a new direction or solution. I went along with a lot of double talk I didn’t understand.
  • Stopping the process when I was not clear how what was being done met the agreement.
  • In other words, I did not want to be responsible for holding the vendor accountable!

I wanted my agreement with this vendor to be like the one I have with my electricity provider; I pay, you provide. If the power goes out, I trust it is being worked on for restoration as soon as is possible. Simple. I know better in the ways of business but I still chose to ignore what I knew. I wanted to see if blaming “them” would get any traction. Nope.


I could be right about what the vendor failed to deliver but so what? I can spend my time being right or learning from my role in what did not work and avoid repeating the same mistake. I am not blaming and shaming myself for a bad business decision, I am learning. The biggest lesson that has sunk in (finally) is…”Hope is not a plan.” As in, “I hope this vendor does what they say they will do.” “I hope the relationship is such that this vendor will have my best interest at heart without my having to closely manage every aspect of the work.” “I hope this vendor can read my mind about what I think is common sense and change the contract when it is warranted.” “I hope we can get this work done without having to talk to the vendor every day.” “I hope I don’t have to spend time learning how to do what I am paying the vendor to do.” Geez, that’s a lot of hoping.


Whether I ask the question (“What is it I don’t want to be responsible for?”) in the moment or as a reflective exercise on what isn’t working in the moment, I learn. The tip off to stop and ask is anger. Here are some common learning moments I have that you might be able to relate to:

  • I’m late and lost and I’m yelling at cars in my way and stoplights that are not green.

What is it I don’t want to be responsible for right now?

  • A performance evaluation does not yield stellar praise and a huge raise.

What is it I don’t want to be responsible for right now?

  • A colleague has let me down several times by not delivering what was promised by when he agreed to.

What is it I don’t want to be responsible for right now?

  • My teenagers or husband not following through on a task they agreed to do before we leave the house to do something fun.

What is it I don’t want to be responsible for right now?

Try it when you are in that moment of anger and frustration and everything is directed away from you. THEY are the problem. THEY are making you angry and stressed and unhealthy. Hmmmm…maybe not.

My experience since making it a habit to ask the question when I am angry is that I don’t always get an answer, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. And, most of the time it helps. It has become the ultimate self-help and it’s free!


Is blaming others fun? Is justifying your anger that is probably being taken out on others more comfortable? Sure. But in the end the likelihood you will see the same road different day is high. And, there will only be one common denominator in your anger…YOU.

I am going to take my own advice and commit to continue to live and learn in my “anger” moments.

If this post made you mad, start here: What is it I don’t want to be responsible for right now?