By Erica Estes, Graduate Assistant for Facilities & Fitness at the University of Southern Mississippi

In his book QBQ! The Questions Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life, John G. Miller emphasizes that “Change only comes from the inside, as a result of decisions made by the individual.” This summer, alongside some wonderful co-workers and student employees, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze and apply Miller’s work to my life and experiences. Miller explores the various ways to incorporate personal accountability into life and so eliminate blame, complaining, and procrastination—which will then ensure that goals are met and visions are fulfilled.

I believe that the above quote can also apply to all of us starting a new school year. A new season of life often brings about different environments, academic requirements, and work responsibilities. Although several aspects of our life continually ebb and flow, we do have control over the choices we make in response to the environment that surrounds us. As school and work spring to life in the next several weeks, it can become easy to feel anxious and become fatigued. Miller says that stress is a response that results from the choices we make and the questions we ask ourselves. With this in mind, I encourage each of you to choose joy, peace, and hope over stress this coming year.

To bring this mantra to life, you have to actively alter your perspective by shifting your focus inward rather than on the external modifiers of life that are beyond your control. We only have the ability to alter our own responses, behaviors, and attitudes. So take personal accountability for the things in life that are within your grasp.

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.” –Motivational speaker Jim Rohn

You also have the ability to consider better options by asking better questions. Rather than placing blame and responsibility on others, ask how YOU can help your co-worker, supervisor, or institution. Ask yourself what tasks you can complete and what obstacles you can overcome to help solve the challenges at hand. It is imperative that as growing professionals we take responsibility for both our blunders and our growth. Learning and development are by-products of the actions that we take—even if they sometimes result in mistakes.

Be courageous in your attempts to take action. Be progressive and bold rather than waiting to be told what to do. For example, step out of your box to attend or even present at the next regional conference or state workshop nearest you. Be the person who takes advantage of the educational opportunities that NIRSA offers—illustrate that you are embracing personal accountability in the interest of strengthening yourself and your institution. Be the medium through which NIRSA news and knowledge is dispersed throughout your university. Take the initiative and be the student that changes someone else’s life by serving as an Engagement Coordinator. Teach them about all NIRSA has to offer students in the collegiate recreation world. Learning is a life-long process that pushes us to internal change by transforming our knowing into doing. It begins from within and it starts with YOU.

“The moment that you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” –Motivational speaker Hal Elrod

As students engaged in a learning lifestyle, we are constantly working in groups that are composed of our co-workers, peers, and teammates. These teams cannot exist without a foundation where personal accountability is the cornerstone. I’m going to echo John G. Miller and say that we must each take ownership of the strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the table as a member of a team. And in order to capitalize on the potential of a whole team we must be aware of the fact that we only have the power to change ourselves.

Miller states in his book that “A teammate is someone who can look right through you and still enjoy the view.” Being personally accountable means being flexible and adapting to the various strengths and weaknesses of those within a team. I believe that there is no better way to take personal accountability to the next level than by joining a diverse team of student leaders. With this in mind, I encourage you to apply to serve on the 2016-2017 Student Leadership Team—serving is great way to become an integral part of all the opportunities that NIRSA provides its members!

As we begin a new academic and recreational year, focus on being personally accountable in challenging situations. Ask yourself how you can assist others in tough times to mitigate blame, complaining, and procrastination. Take ownership of your personal development and ignite a fire for the future of NIRSA that begins from within.