A prolific statement and attitude that I have found to have become very popular among adults during and since the pandemic is "don't tell me what to do." What I find both troubling and interesting about this is that I am not sure that people are aware of what they are saying when they make this statement. This seems to me as a very adolescent response or arrested development. In the adult world, nobody is telling anyone what to do. We live with a series of commitments, agreements, responsibilities and impacts. So what is the problem and why does this statement keep coming up?
Firstly, I don't think people always know what they are really committed to. We claim we do when we say things like “I am committed to my family”, “I am committed to my job”, or “I am committed to my partner.” In my experience, I often encounter people who are just not clear on their commitments. For myself, it is only when I am held accountable to my own commitments that they become clear to me.
When it comes to agreements, all we have as humans is our word—which at times is impossible to keep. The best we can do is to honour our word. We change, circumstances change, and therefore sometimes our agreements have to change. If we honour words, then we are responsible and very selective as to what comes out of our mouths. In this way, we hold ourselves accountable. From my point of view, this is freedom.
Responsibility is the ability to respond. No one needs to tell you what to do because you have chosen to respond to what is. In your own way, on your own time. If you are clear on your commitments and honour your words and agreements, then this is the ultimate in self-determination.
An essential part of this methodology is to be wholly and completely aligned, clear and responsible for the impact of your thoughts and actions. That doesn't mean you have to like it or agree with the impact, but you have to be responsible for it. This is also the hard part, the part that goes back and makes you want to say "don't tell me what to do.”