How to Live Responsively and Responsibly

My six year old daughter is unashamedly and unabashedly connected to her heart.

When was the last time that you…

  • …sang from the bottom of your heart…all day long?
  • …just knew you were going to be a rock star, chef, a soccer player, and a grocery checkout person?
  • …had the best day ever and made sure everybody heard about it?
  • …wrote a song for every visitor who came to see you or for every person you went to go see?
  • …created stories about butterflies, princesses, fairies, and superheros that ended in a concert for your parents?

When was the last time you were so unashamedly responsive to your heart?

Well, when was the last time you…

…dreaded Monday?

…squeezed 27 hours of uninspired work into a 40 hour work week?

…said… ‘If only… I didn’t have to pay the bills’?

…felt a little bit of yourself die inside, like you’re committing slow, time-released soul suicide?

All of this in the name of responsibility.

Because we’re all committed, vehemently, to being responsible.

We all want to be responsible. We have families, rent, mortgages, cars, phone plans, Applebee’s lunches, cable bills, drinking, smoking, and chocolate habits. Our budget is an 18-headed monster gazing hungrily at us, waiting for the bit of green we get so we can keep it at bay for another month.

It’d be irresponsible not to attend to the gray cubicle walls and Dell computers and Microsoft Excel, Word, and Outlook to get our weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly direct deposit.

It’s not at all bad to be responsible. But the problem is that we work so hard at being responsible that we slowly, but surely lose our ability to respond to our hearts.

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Photo Credit: escuchoelecodetuvoz ~ via Compfight cc

Only the lucky few have figured out how to mesh being responsive to their hearts and responsible to their commitments. The Foodnetwork Stars, the entrepreneurs, the athletes and entertainers, the lucky few who love Excel and reviewing contracts. Those people are by far in the minority.

But what about the rest of us? The ones who slip our card in literal or figurative time clocks, do our duty, go home, watch TV, go to bed, and get up and do it again.

Is it possible to be both responsive to our hearts and responsible to our commitments?

Not only is it possible, I believe it’s also our ultimate responsibility. You owe it to me. I owe it to you.

As important as it is to make sure our income exceeds our outflow, it’s vitally important that we remain attuned and responsive to the things that tug at our hearts.

How flaky is that, right? I mean, ‘responsive to our hearts’? ‘In tune with our passions?’

When will the unicorns bound into our lobbies and the rainbows pop through our windows and pixie dust settle onto our desks?

If it’s not the stuff of fairy tales and moonbeams, then what does it even look like to be responsive?

It might not look much different to the naked eye. We might still be going to our jobs and doing our time. I don’t recommend a ‘drop everything and follow your art’ response.

Being responsive is simply a decision – initially. It is a decision to give yourself a default ‘yes’ instead of a default ‘no’ when an idea comes to your head via your heart.

Instead, of ‘no’ I could never bring that idea to my boss, how about ‘yes, that’s a great idea, I owe it to my boss.’

Instead of ‘no’ I could never develop as a speaker and influencer, how about ‘yes’, I have years of life experience and enough knowledge to help someone, somewhere.

Instead of ‘no’ I could never lose that weight, I’m just big-boned, how about ‘yes’ I can become the most healthy me ever and I’ll start with a 10 minute walk.

Think about the ‘nos’ you chastise yourself with. How can you say ‘yes’ instead?

How can you, today, strengthen your responsibility by being diligently responsive to the stuff in your heart?

Let me make a few additional suggestions:

  1. Start by saying ‘yes’. As mentioned above, say ‘yes’ to yourself as much as possible. Practice viewing ideas as possibilities.
  2. Then learn to say ‘no’. If you want to take steps toward responding to your heart and not simply being responsible, start saying ‘no’ to the things that are neither responsible or responsive, if only for 30 minutes a day. Can you find 30 minutes extra a day if you say no to TV, video games, extra sleep, mindless web surfing, lunch out at a restaurant, etc? We all have 30 minutes. Create ‘Cognitive surplus’. That extra bit of mental and emotional energy available if we cut out something that sucks the brain power out of us.
  3. Practice creating ideas. I get this idea from James Altucher. If we practice ideas, we’re practicing hearing our own hearts. Every day, come up with 10 ideas. 10 ideas for a business you could start. 10 ideas for new tasty recipes. 10 ideas for dates with your significant other. 10 ideas for the person in the cubicle next to you to further his or her career. 10 ideas to make your office’s lobby a more welcoming place. 10 ideas for a screen play or novel. Write down 10 ideas a day. You’ll start seeing patterns that show you’re being responsive to your heart.
  4. Make one bold move a month. Give yourself permission to make a bold, comfort zone stretching move once a month.  Speak at a homeless shelter, if you want to be a speaker. Apply for 10 jobs just to see what’s out there. Start a blog. Send 10 thank you notes to old friends.
  5. Be overly-protective of your ears, eyes, and mind. What content do you consume? Make sure it is idea-inspiring, value-confirming and encouraging content. If you’re a person of faith, listen to sermons. If you’re a mom, listen to parenting podcasts. If you’re in sales or want to be a leader, find some content that strengthens that desire. (and ditch the stuff that conflicts with what you hold in high esteem

I love what Nancy Duarte says. We all have the ability to change the world. We all, inside of us, have at least one idea. It’s getting that idea out. That’s what we are all waiting for. (See below for her talk on how to get your idea out).

You owe it to me to relearn how to be responsive to the stuff inside you. I owe it to you. Even if it feels silly, unimportant, or we’ve spent years squashing those ideas, passions, goals, and dreams that bubble up, we owe it to each other to reconnect to our ability to hear and listen to our hearts.

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