Taking Ownership

Okay, based off of the previous article on ‘story’, let’s assume 4 things:

  1. We all have a story about life.
  2. We all desire the courage to live from our own created story.
  3. We all need the humility to understand our stories have flaws.
  4. We all desire the awareness to find those flaws and update the story.

I believe that there are three mental skills that help us to facilitate these four things. The first of these skills that we’ll talk about is Ownership.

I use the phrase mental skill because I want us to get into the habit of understanding that building intangible characteristics requires intentional thought and practice.

So, what is ownership and how do we practice it?

When I use the phrase taking ownership I am referring to the act of intentionally focusing on the things in life that we can control. When we don’t take ownership of our lives we relinquish the right to influence outcomes. I cannot expect that which I do not control to give me what I want. The follow on understanding is, that which I cannot control should not dominate my thoughts.

I am certain that there is not a single one of you who does not understand this or has not already heard this in some shape or form. However, I think there are two main nuances of the act of taking ownership that I find myself coming back to in my own life and with others:

  1. Pain/Trauma – There are so many difficult things that will happen to us in this life that we don’t ask for and we can’t control. However, the fallout affects our lives. Physical/Sexual Abuse, violent crime, natural disasters, fatal accidents, chronic illness, economic recession, etc. At an individual level we can’t do anything to stop a bigger stronger person from abusing us or a natural disaster ruining us financially or taking the life of a loved one. As hard as these things are… as painful as these things are… Positive personal Growth (Post Traumatic Growth) requires us to show up in our own lives and make choices about who we will become as a resultant of these difficult things that are beyond our control. As conscious beings, our emotional/mental/spiritual being is still in our grasp on some level. Will we take ownership of that fact? This points heavily to the internal problems that life presents us with. Pain is inevitable in life but who we become because of pain is a choice.
  2. The Simple Things – In a world that is obsessed with brands and image (think social media)… In a world that is obsessed with instant gratification… The mundane can become the ignored. The things that you actually can control, are you controlling them?
    • You hate your job and want to leave, do you have a budget? – Your material existence is usually tied to your income. The discipline to tighten up and be on a budget can create the option to change your work situation.
    • You’re in poor health but you can’t afford a personal trainer? – Well, If you can move your body at all, you can begin doing exercise on your own. YouTube is filled with instructional exercise videos. I even made some myself a while back. No, your living room may not be as interesting of an environment as the gym. No, you may not have a trainer motivating you with their words. However, you have space and time to do something. It’s amazing what a few simple exercises can do for a person’s body and mind, if done consistently for a long period of time.
    • Again, solving the external problem points to solving an internal problem. I would say in that in every case of a person trying to constrain their spending habits, there is the internal challenge of what certain expenditures mean to that individual and what happens when they have to sacrifice that expenditure. The external problem (the math to do a budget) is simple. The internal problem (self-worth based on having a nice car, house, clothes for example) is more difficult.

Basically, Painful things are hard to face and Simple things are easy to ignore. Again, courage and humility play a role here. We need to have the courage to take total responsibility for those problems in our lives that we didn’t create. We need to have the humility to understand that we never grow to a place where the basic tasks of life are somehow unimportant. They create a foundation.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from my time in the military:

If we think of the painful/traumatic things in our lives as analogous to parachuting out of an airplane for the first time, then I think this quote from one of my Airborne instructors in the military is helpful –

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane scary. It wouldn’t be normal to not feel fear in this scenario. I’m asking you to control your fear and focus on your training.

Airborne School Black Hat Instructor, Fort Benning Georgia

In regards to the simple things of life that can become boring and so easily be ignored, I had an instructor during my combat medic training who said something I will never forget –

The only difference between a Special Forces Soldier and a regular soldier is not Space Age Technology or Super Human Strength. It’s the fact that a Special Forces Soldier does basic soldiering tasks exceptionally well.

SFQC Medic Instructor, Fort Bragg North Carolina

In order to continually create the story we want to live in and explore, we have to own our story. Yes, many things happen to us that are beyond our control. Yes, other people who love us, do things to us with the best of intentions that still hurt us in the end (btw, we all do this). Yes, the truth can be incredibly painful and traumatic events can leave us with permanent emotional scars. However, that truth, that pain, that trauma… it’s yours now… own it and decide how you will live with it or move past it, whatever… how will you grow from it?

  1. Take time to list some of the most painful events in you life (as few or as many as you feel you need… 2 might be a good number). How did each event you listed specifically impact your perspective on how life works?
  2. What are the daily activities the you find essential across your life time? (A couple examples here are eating and shelter) How would you rate yourself on the management of these activities?

In the next article we will talk about what I mean by ‘Fundamentals’. For me, establishing ownership and regaining control in my life has often started with looking at flaws in my narrative (Story) and then attacking some basic things (Fundamentals). Use these questions to get your gears turning.


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