Responsibility vs Duty

by Hetal Shah on April 9, 2010

in Life

Driving back home from work today, a colleague hitched a ride with me. The conversation started with how the day was, what the weekend plans were and moved on to family, kids and responsibilities.

My colleague has two boys, one in high school and another in college, and she adores both of them. She takes every opportunity to spend time with them, cook for them, plans outings, studies with them, watches movies with them. In short, her life revolves around her boys – and she loves it.

She does put the hours in at work, does her job diligently, and then with equal (if not more) passion, adopts a new role at home. For her, there are no chores when it comes to her kids.

A different view

Recently, I attended a lecture on the Art of Living (yes, there is an “art” to it) where the talk was on happiness and leading a stress free life. As the floor opened up to audience questions and comments, one gentleman explained his situation. He’s married, has a good job, works hard, has a small child, is striving for a better future – atypical of most people in this world.

However, his analysis was that even though he loves his child like no other, raising the child still seems like a daunting task and he wasn’t sure whether he was up for the challenge.

Responsibility and Duty

So, why does all this matter? If you analyse the two scenarios closely, one real difference emerges in the approach to raising children. One takes the form of responsibility, and the other takes the form of duty.

The difference? Responsibility is something that “you are responsible for the outcome of, or take ownership of”. Duty is more like a set of life instructions that you just follow – much like a “have to do” approach.

When a task is looked at as something you have to do (a duty), the brain goes into resistance mode. Nobody likes being told what to do! If the same task is taken up as a challenge with ownership (a responsibility), the brain focuses on the positive outcome of the task.

Our choices

We face very similar choices at work almost on a daily basis. The job that you are assigned and the role that defines your job function is your responsibility. But how many of us really take responsibility, and not just treat it as a duty?

Do we really take responsibility for our environment? We all say we do, but really – do we?
How many of us take responsibility for our own happiness?
Do you take responsibility for your own health?

Most of us would look at these as just “have to”, or “must do”. Lets see if we can change that to a “want to”.

Lets take ownership, and impact the outcome.

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April 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Shreedhar October 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm

That’s a nice way of explaining duty and responsibility, Hitesh!

Guesto September 7, 2012 at 5:13 am

Good one. I’m in the same situation as the second parent, have to improve now after reading this.

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