Who is responsible for your reality?

Let me ask you a question.

Who is responsible for your reality?

If you are unhappy about something, in other words, there is something about your reality that you are unhappy about, then you may blame your government, your local council, your utility provider, your travel agent, your postman, your local store, your neighbour, your partner, your family, your parents, your employer, your colleagues, etc.

Is there anything else you would add to this list? Actually, it may be more accurate to ask, is there anyone else you would add to this list? It’s perhaps interesting to reflect that the greatest source of our distress is usually OTHER PEOPLE! The Zoom-Out Social and Zoom-Out Person Dimensions come into play here (more elsewhere).

On one hand, you can admire your ability to be judge and jury for all of these people – these criminals damn it! What on earth is wrong with them, why can’t they do the right thing – why can’t they get it right? Aaargh! So if all of these people are the perpetrators of our distress then what does that make us?


Of course, you don’t think of yourself as a victim. But if other people are responsible for our distress, for our satisfaction with aspects of our reality, then surely that makes you a victim in each case.

For example…

Your boss misses your 1-2-1, again. Your boss has all the power in this situation. Worse, they did it on purpose to damage you in some way.

Your delivery person failed to deliver your parcel. And it contains a present for your nephew. Now they won’t get a birthday present from you.

Your local council has imposed a parking permit scheme on your road which you absolutely oppose and despise.


In all of these cases, the behaviour of another person or group or people has made you ______________. Fill in the blank. And this is the point, the blank here is what YOU actually fill in. You provide the response to the event. This is what taking responsibility is really all about.

It’s your Response-Ability.

In 1989, Stephen R. Covey, in his best selling and highly influential book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, habit number one focuses on this very topic. Habit 1: Be Proactive. This is your ability to be in control of your response. To chose your response and not to be trapped in a stimulus >> response pattern like Pavlov’s dog.

Epictetus, almost 2,000 years ago put this another way:

“People are not disturbed by events but the view they hold about them.”

ZO Twitter - Epictetus quote

This points to the core of what Zoom-Out is all about. That we are the creators of our own reality. For any fans of The Matrix movie, we are the machines and we are also Neo. Of course, we are not masters of our reality, not to begin with. This needs practice. We need to cultivate this ability, just like Neo in The Matrix. But it starts here… taking responsibility for your own reality. As long as you are trying to “fix” what is out there, trying to “fix” other people or passively blaming them, then our realities will ultimately never improve. After all, there will always be someone to blame if you see the world that way. So adopt a meta-perspective, notice how you contribute to your own reality through your responses and start to take more control them. Over time you will gain more and more control over your own reality and your own destiny. This is a worthy and fruitful path.

Did you notice any other benefit here? By changing our perspective we change outcomes. And that includes not adding to the misery of other people. It results in being more objective and constructive in our responses. Which in some cases will dramatically alter how people react to us as well. So not only are we taking control of our personal, subjective realities, we may just be making the world a better place AND improving our place in the world.

Bubble Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



Response-Ability: Stephen Covey: