Your Responsibilities: Joy or Clutter?

Chances are I’m on a plane as you read this today. After this my posts here on Talking Story will be lighter than usual: I’ll be traveling for a good 75% of the days that are left this month. I still have much I’d like to share with you on this month’s Ho‘ohana, ‘ÅŒpala ‘ole — clearing up the clutter, and making room for the good stuff — and I will do so, however my access to the internet will be somewhat sporadic.

One of the things on my schedule is giving a private custom-built MWA class for a Hawaii company on Kuleana, the Hawaiian value of responsibility. Out of all the values I’ve written about in Managing with Aloha, that is the one they specifically asked  me to talk about first.

It happens all the time. As personal values go, Kuleana is high on most managers’ wish lists.

Kuleana is the value of responsibility.
It drives self-motivation and self-reliance, for the desire to act comes from accepting our responsibility with deliberance and with diligence.

—Managing with Aloha, page 126.

As I polished up my notes for the class, I thought I’d share some of my planned discussion points for them with you, and I’ve programmed them to post over the next few days.

However first, some self-reflection on Kuleana:
Self-reflection on what you consider your own responsibilities to be, can be a big help to you in discarding some of your clutter.

When you consider all you do in your life, exactly what do feel strongest about, in that you feel it is your responsibility and no one else’s?

That last phrase, “and no one else’s” is the key. Ask yourself very honestly: what are you doing that is someone else’s responsibility?

Here’s another question. Why are you still doing it?

Do you have to clarify it and decide on your next action?

Do you have to train someone else in it, and coach them?

Or do you have to just let it go, and cut your own emotional ties to it?

Will you allow someone else to take it from you?

There’s something else I want you to keep in mind here: you don’t have to give away what you don’t want to. I’ve written before on my belief that instinctive wanting is a good thing. If you hadn’t read it before, I do feel it was one of my better ones!
(Jay had liked it.)  The instinctive, natural selection of wanting.

So in addition to that feeling of personal obligation you may have, what responsibilities do you keep solidly in your own circle of influence because you want to do them?
That’s okay.

Here’s an ‘ÅŒpala ‘ole Exercise for you.

This works for your personal stuff and for your professional stuff. It works at home and it works at work. So some of you will do it twice because you separate the two, others will just do it all at once mixing the two; it doesn’t matter.

This is a very easy exercise. The problem is that until someone like me gets you to do it, you just don’t do it.

I want you to work on three lists before the week is over.

1. On one, write down your keepers. Recognize that what you enjoy doing serves as an energy catalyst for you. The things on this list will stay in your inbox, on your To Do list, within your projects, and in your life, and you won’t mind one bit.

2. On your second list, write down the things you know you can reassign and delegate to someone else. These are quality items, and they are worth doing, so they will be meaningful for someone, but that someone doesn’t have to be you.

3. On the third list, I want you to get ruthless. Write down the things that are busy-work and really not that important. If you forgot about them no one would notice, but it would clear a lot of pending drag in your own brain. You’ve forgotten the reasons for this stuff, and you’re simply on auto-pilot for them. These things are not adding any value to your life.

I’m not going to tell you what to do with List 1 for now, you probably can deal with it on your own – and happily so.

I’ll be talking about List 2 in a future post. Not too long from now, promise.

Take List 3 for now, and be sure you collect any physical trappings that are associated with it. Once this collection is done, cackle with glee as you burn the list. Give away, donate, trash, bury or burn all the ‘trappings.’

Don’t you feel better now?

Wow, just noticed something … this is completely off-topic, but it is very cool!
This is post # 300 for Talking Story :)


  1. says

    Congratulations on Post #300! And thanks again for great life advice. I know we all work on trying to sort out which activities give us life from the activities that drain us. The hardest part is not determining which ones need to be let go of, but really letting them go. I know I recognize habits in my life that don’t do anything for me – problem is, habits are difficult to change. It’s a process :)

  2. says

    This exercise will be so helpful for me this week.
    I’m going to meet my mentor for the first time in two days, and I need to prepare myself in an orderly manner. I’m definitely going to thrash some unnecessary stuff and stop doing meaningless things :-)

  3. says

    This is so right on the mark – very useful for me where I am in my work right now. Responsibility has always been a double edged sword for me – we can choose to take things on like a pack mule, or feel the pride of the honor and trust bestowed upon us. To be conscious, aware and choose what we want – now, that is powerful! Thanks for the great thinking and exercise!

  4. says

    ‘ÅŒpala ‘ole: De-cluttering Work Processes

    Since we first talked about it in June of last year, MWA3P, the productivity training we have developed for Managing with Aloha, has evolved into a great success. [To read more on the 3 components of MWA3P, click in here.]