“Some things are up to us and others are not.” – The Enchiridion
The ancient Stoics taught that we own only our choice of thoughts and actions. Everything else – the externals – remain outside of our own doing.
That means we have way more agency in who and what we are than we tell ourselves. While its not within our power to determine the outcomes, our choice of inputs most definitely are.
We have ownership for our “attitude & effort” including our:
- beliefs and opinions
- motivation and goals
- decisions and behavior
- actions and reactions
You can work out diligently, eating right and practicing your craft, only to twist an ankle the day before the big race. You and your team can research and prepare, persistently following up with a prospective client for years, only to find out your main contact has taken a job elsewhere just days before you were to be given the order.
It’s only human to be disappointed in outcomes like these. Yet if you’ve given it your all, owning every aspect of your performance, you should feel at peace. As one of my partners likes to say, “You can’t do more than you can do!”
How are you doing with the things that are up to you?
Taking ownership means you:
- Take the initiative to learn, grow, and improve. You adapt. You ask lots of questions. What can I do better? What was effective? What wasn’t? You put in the work.
- Live abundantly. You share your knowledge and expertise, helping others succeed. You aren’t resentful when others experience good fortune.
- Bring your best energy into every room, speaking with certainty and listening with empathy.
- Remain accountable. You follow through. You do what you say you’re going to do. You don’t blame others or make excuses.
- Can be trusted to do the right thing, even when that means getting uncomfortable along the way. You seek truth. You aren’t worried about being right, just getting it right. You put your ego aside for the betterment of the team.
- Seek stillness. You find opportunities for silence in your life. You know wellbeing is the key to steadiness in a spinning world.
- Contribute to the common good. You know that no one is an island to themselves. As a social being, you know who you are and to whom you are linked. You are duty-bound to provide support to your community.
- Cultivate positive relationships. You trade unreasonable expectations for appreciation. You pause before responding, choosing not to be harmed. You live fully in the present, knowing the only thing in your power is what you give. Not what you get.
- Believe the dream is possible. You’re unafraid to go for it. You might come up short this time. But that’s okay, because success for you is about giving it your best effort over the long haul, not winning one event.
Life is unpredictable. We don’t control what happens to us. We don’t control what those around us do, say, or think. We don’t even fully control our own bodies. In that sense, it’s easy to feel very small, almost helpless.
But it’s within us to choose our thoughts and actions. We get that opportunity literally every minute of every hour of every day. What matters is taking ownership for how we show up, how we respond, and what we do. It’s not about outcomes, it’s about being the best version of ourselves.
Jocko Willink said it this way in a Goalcast interview:
I say, take ownership. Take extreme ownership. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame any other person, or any other thing. Get control of your ego. Don’t hide your delicate pride from the truth. Take ownership of everything in your world, the good and the bad. Take ownership of your mistakes. Take ownership of your shortfalls. Take ownership of your problems and then take ownership of the solutions that will get those problems solved. Take ownership of your mission. Take ownership of your job, of your team, of your future, and take ownership of your life.
This year I’m taking ownership.
I’m going to focus on what is up to me: my actions and thoughts. Not what happens to me. I’m changing my definition of success to be about the effort that I’ve put in. It’s the process that determines success, not the outcome. And I’m holding myself accountable for giving it my all, every time.
Here’s to owning success in 2022!