Constantly Guilt Yourself Over Doing “The Responsible Thing?” Maybe You Shouldn’t.

There’s a lot of bullshit around the word “responsible.”

We let this tiny word guilt us to the grave.

Do the responsible thing. Act responsibly. Be a responsible adult. Don’t be so irresponsible.

I don’t know if we should blame this asshole voice in our heads on our parents or not, but you might want to consider it. (Hi, mom!)

There are a lot of things that are, by default, “responsible”—taking the kids to soccer, suffering through another Jillian Michaels video, religiously categorizing our business expenses in Quickbooks, slogging through our inbox on a Friday.

And, you know, we do those things. We do ‘em because we’re adults, and we do ‘em because we know that the consequences of not doing those things will be far worse. (I can’t think of a worse day than having your children kidnapped after realizing you’ve gained 10 pounds after getting a call from your accountant that you SUCK, after slogging through 100 emails from people who all need something from you.)

But nothing in life is cut and dry—unless we’re talking about Aged English Cheddar, of course. (Can we please talk about Aged English Cheddar sometime? I’m @TMFproject on Twitter.) And sometimes in life, when things are jagged and entirely soaking wet, you’re going to have to make these things called DECISIONS. And when that happens, usually you’ll go running and crying into the lap of our friend Roger the Responsible and ask: What’s the responsible thing to do here, Rog?

Which, I suppose, is better than making a decision based on “What’s more sociopathic?” but nevertheless, making decisions based on which one is the more “responsible” decision to make is problematic. Why?

Because sometimes bad decisions parade themselves around as responsible ones.


  • A big, new dream client shows up in your inbox, which would normally be great except for one thing: You’ve promised yourself you were going to take this month to start writing your book. So you run to Roger the Responsible and ask, “What’s the responsible thing to do here, Rog?” And Rog proceeds to remind you of all your outstanding student loans, that new car you splurged on, the money you still owe your web designer. And so you take the client, because not taking the client would be irresponsible, right?
  • Or maybe you’ve been seeing everybody and their mother starting a podcast, and doing webinars, and giving away fancy eBooks, and so you figure that you should start doing these things, too, because not keeping up with the latest and greatest feels irresponsible and lazy—even if it means doing less painting or speaking or whatever it it that you love to do.
  • Or maybe you’ve been dying to try something new—to start writing like you really talk, or only offer ONE service instead of five. But then Roger the Responsible kicks in and reminds you that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and what if you lose everything you’ve worked so hard to create?

We make a lot of “responsible” decisions that are actually bad ones, because we’re more focused on doing what’s responsible in the short-term, instead of doing what’s responsible in the long-term. And guess what?

Sometimes the most responsible thing we could be doing is going to feel irresponsible now.

Sometimes the most responsible thing…is saying no.
Sometimes the most responsible thing…is being selfish.
Sometimes the most responsible thing…is rejecting the money.
Sometimes the most responsible thing…is having a controversial opinion.
Sometimes the most responsible thing…is going with your gut.

Because sometimes the most responsible thing?

Is not cut and dry.

But when you know what you really want, it doesn’t have to be.

h/t Meg Worden, who inspired the fuck out of this blog post after our conversation yesterday.



Unpopular Ideas for Living a Happier Life.

More Posts from: