Master Your Life – Taking Ownership 101

take ownership of your actions the vigilant mind

Is the glass half full or half empty? Doesn’t matter. Let’s find out what’s in the glass, why it’s there, what to do about it and how to do it.

person holding clear glass cup with half-filled water

Table of Contents

The Basics of Taking Ownership – Exploring Optimism, Pessimism, and Realism

Optimism (positive thinking) can sometimes create false hopes and lead to disappointment or temporary feelings of happiness. It may even create an illusion of confidence – a situation where your confidence about something is misleading.

Pessimism creates unnecessary obstacles that hold you back from unleashing your true potential. It is often referred to as the “boundaries you create for yourself.”

Positivity can come from wanting peace and moving on with life carefree. This does not necessarily have to be well-founded and thoughtful. There are also some cases where you can’t easily determine logic of the situation. Positivity in those cases also need not be well-founded, like in reasonable risk-taking (business).

The barriers you create for yourself come from the human instinct of survival. But negativity is not always harmful like when you are considering taking a risky selfie at the edge of a cliff, then I’d rather hope you’re negative in that scenario (seriously, there are many other ways of going on adventures).

Leaving aside the exceptional cases where they are beneficial, both reactions fail to acknowledge a very important aspect of change and transformation.

In this post, I’ll show you how you can adopt realistic ideals, take ownership of your life and unleash your true potential. For that reason, abandon ‘what if’ and ‘what could be’, and embrace ‘what is’ and ‘what now’


The Locus of Control

The Locus of Control is a psychological concept that indicates people’s belief in their ability of having control over the life experiences they encounter.

internal and external locus of control the vigilant mind

Having an external locus of control renders you helpless, deters you from taking ownership, believing in change, and being prone to other problems and mental health challenges.

Why Is It Hard to Take Ownership?

Ease. The psychological burden you face reduces when you shift the responsibility of your fallouts to external factors. You have nothing to worry about at that point, nothing to change, nothing to reflect over. It is the easiest thing to do. Yet, this short term peace is harmful and limiting in the long run.

If you feel that some parts of life are solely limited to destiny, luck, others, or your star sign, that is still shifting responsibility and curling up in your comfort zone. Being religious and believing in destiny does not let you blame it either. “Allah never changes the condition of a people unless they strive to change themselves.” {Quran 13:11}.

astrology star sign horoscope memes

Different Fields in Life Where You Need To Take Ownership Right Now!

Taking Ownership in Your Student Life

You score below your target in a test and end up blaming the difficulty of the paper, distractions, or lack of time. Since all of these factors are external to you, they also can’t be changed by you. As a result, you do the same things for your next test and get the same results or even worse because your previous incompetence piles up and the cycle repeats while reinforcing itself.

Students sometimes also feel that they are not as involved as they should be in extracurriculars. But this is not accompanied by a plan or active effort to increase involvement. Complaining and feeling negative emotions is okay but it has to be controlled and constructive for good results. Remember the glass – talking about it having less water does not work. An active effort to add water to it is needed.

Are you a student or know a student who could upskill their learning journey? Check out one of my other comprehensive and insightful works providing 20+ amazing learning, time-management, and productivity strategies, and psychological hacks! Beating the Illusions of Competence in Learning and Learning Efficiently.

Taking Ownership in Your Relationships and Friendships

Certain habits can be repulsive to many people like jumping to conclusions, lying, gossipping, etc. When people lose friends because of these reasons, they tend to blame the incompatibility, actions or decisions of others. They get stuck in a constant cycle by doing this, not changing or talking about it. Cognitive distortions and insecurities also play a role in this cycle at times, but since that is a different topic on its own and does not go with the target of this post, I’ll steer clear from it.

This can also manifest in simpler ways for introverts and extroverts. Introverts may feel like they could do better with more friends while extroverts may sometimes want some space for themselves but neither make an attempt to move outside their comfort zone.


Taking Ownership of Your Lifestyle

frog the pride and superiority you feel from having  an unhealthier lifestyle than others is a short term gratification that  will lead to long term detriments

Is your screen time too high? Have you seen the sun in a week? You haven’t moved beyond two rooms in the house for days? You haven’t been eating healthy enough? Feel like you want to lose weight? Score higher? Find a job?

Well firstly, congratulations on identifying a field of your life where you need work. Secondly, the glass of water won’t fill itself. If anything, water is going to evaporate (I’m writing this post from a desert). You have to actively work to add water to that glass.

Taking Ownership of Your Work and Career

taking ownership for growth and comfort in work

Shifting of responsibility or failure to take ownership in work can reflect in many ways. A few of them are:

  • Visible lack of interest in the work leading to lower productivity and lethargy.
  • Mistakes and failures are blamed on external factors or even other people (for example, a communication mishap that could have been a fall-out between both people would be blamed entirely on each other by them).
  • Lower reliability – missing of deadlines, incomplete tasks, failure to attend meetings and actively engage in the team.
  • Reluctance in exiting their comfort zone.
  • Cognitive distortions or habits that victimize self or seek sympathy.
  • Dependency.

Engaging in these or similar habits lowers productivity and reinforces each other. Low results mixed with the inability to take ownership further increases people’s reluctance to move out of their comfort zone or put more effort and may also reinforce self-pitying. However, a team member or employee’s end isn’t the only possible place where lack of ownership can be harmful.

Taking Ownership in Management or Leadership

Managers, frontline leaders, or just leaders in any other field might lack the most effective skill-sets to influence and lead the team. Their attempts to guide and influence their team members might end up in vain. They might fail to take responsibility for their ineffective attempts by attaching the failure to the team members instead. On the other hand, they may also stagnate their progress by indulging in self-pity with questions like “why won’t my team ever listen to me?”, “why am I never taken seriously?” or “Why am I not good enough at this?” etc.

Check Out Also: Coursera Course – Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Taking Ownership of Your Happiness

Which one of the following conditions do you need to meet to feel happy?

“I will gain happiness if _______________”

  1. So and so person compliments me.
  2. Those people are proud of me.
  3. My life falls in place.
  4. My problems can disappear.
  5. I score really well.
  6. They buy me gifts.

Do you notice any patterns in these reasons? That’s right, they’re either outside your control or are vague. So long as you define your emotions merely as reactions to things you cannot control, your stability is bound to be at risk. As for the conditions that are in your control, they should not be vague. Expecting “good grades” without defining what good grades are will keep most away from satisfaction. Psychology tells us that humans are more affected by loss than gain. It is likely that without defining your goals, you’ll be upset over lost marks in your 97/100 than celebrate the 97 you did score.

Redefine your happiness. Change your conditions to things you can control.

“I will gain happiness if __________”

  1. I make my favorite food/drink/coffee.
  2. I read this book.
  3. I sing/dance/skip/walk/cycle (insert any other physical activity).
  4. I study for ___ minutes.
  5. I eat my favorite fruits.
  6. I watch this TV show.
  7. I play this game.
  8. I draw/paint/knit/bake/write etc.

There are certain things you can do that are semi-independent. You should still be cautious of these as they can also take away your power of taking ownership of your emotions. For example, you might place your happiness in meeting your friends. They might not always be free and that would limit your ability to keep yourself happy. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t feel happy when you meet them, but that should not be your only source of happiness.


Taking Ownership of Your Emotions

Just as you can take ownership of your own happiness, you can also take ownership of other emotions. Humans are not perfect and emotions are not always positive. Negative emotions can make us react negatively. Common reactions can be revenge, screaming, fighting, damaging things, etc.

People who do not take ownership of these emotions always justify their actions by claiming that an external factor caused it. Statements like “they made me do it”, “they annoyed me”, “I just had to”, or blaming the alignment of stars, Jupiter, and the Sun are common responses. In the moment, one can ‘understand’ why someone reacted a certain way, but this does not mean that the reaction was okay or shouldn’t be rectified.

Our actions are not the direct result of an event that takes place but our perception of it. If I gave you a glass of water that was not full, you could either drink it, leave it, return it, or add more water to it – it comes down to your perception of how much water is enough water and if you even needed water at that moment.

Granted when presented with an emotional scenario it is more complex to separate the trigger and perception but it is possible and very helpful. Reflect upon a situation in your past where you faced an emotional challenge.

  1. What happened (the trigger)?
  2. How did you react?
  3. Why did the trigger bother you?
  4. How did the trigger impact your values and beliefs to lead you to react the way you did?
  5. Why did you feel the way you felt?
  6. What could you have done about it?

You can run your mind through a similar framework the next time you encounter an emotional challenge before reacting. This may save you from many impulsive decisions and consequences.

How To Start Taking Ownership – The Change Framework

Studies prove that people who set goals explicitly (writing them down and coming up with a proper plan) are more likely to achieve them than others.

You’ve already completed step one of transforming yourself by reading this post. Your process of acknowledging your locus of control has begun!

For starters, you can follow the following steps to begin your transformation journey.

  1. Reflect on areas of your life and identify what your locus of control is in each of them.
  2. List down the things you are happy about and the things you want to change.
  3. Devise a plan on how you wish to make that change – set your goals! Make sure you type or write them so you have a greater level of commitment and clarity.
  4. Identify possible hurdles and commit with a growth and persevering mindset to overcome them.
the smart goal setting framework the vigilant mind

Are there any other fields in your life that you want to take ownership of? Let me know down in the comments below!

Do you need someone to empower and guide you into taking action? Explore other posts and feel free to contact me via any means provided here.

Coming Soon: Decision Making Frameworks!
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