Ownership: the mindset you need to cultivate for change

In my profession of coaching people to be healthier through exercise and nutrition, it’s common to hear clients position their struggles with a victim mentality (“I had a meeting and couldn’t…” or “it’s been a stressful week due to my boss…”). I get it and have been there. It’s easy to put the onus of not being able to achieve the health and wellness goals you’ve set out for yourself on something or someone else. I also understand sh*t happens. For real. I’ve been in those situations when I worked at Amazon — all of a sudden a leadership document drops in your lap and is due the next morning which requires your immediate boss to review it that evening… which means you only have a few hours to put your edits in. This is a true drop everything and focus moment.

Here’s the thing though. I had plenty of those experiences while working at Amazon yet I still managed to get healthier, both physically and mentally during that time, losing 80 pounds, running multiple Spartan Race Trifectas, and getting stronger in the gym. How? One word: ownership. A lot of people, whether they be public figures or influencers, talk about ownership, but I don’t feel many take it to heart. So, let’s talk about it here and what it means from my perspective.

What does ownership mean?

Well, ownership is defined in the dictionary as “the act, state, or right of possessing something” and, as Jocko Willink (ex-Navy Seal, author of Extreme Ownership) likes to say “you must own everything in your world. There is no one else to blame.” To me, ownership simply means acknowledging and taking responsibility for what happens in your daily life. As an individual, you make hundreds of choices everyday. You choose when you wake up. You choose what you have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You choose to go to work or not go to work. You choose what time you go to sleep. You choose what kind of exercise you get. So, the question I have for people is, what did you choose to do today? And, by choosing to do the things that you did (or did not do), did you place a priority on the activities you intended to?

Here’s an example:

You go to sleep at midnight knowing you have to wake up at 5am for an early meeting the next morning. You wake up and feel terrible. When you feel terrible, you don’t feel like eating healthy. When you don’t eat healthy, you tend to feel worse. By the end of the day, you’re just too tired to go to the gym like you had planned.

The CHOICE of going to sleep late in this example led to a series of events that may not have aligned with the healthy goals you have. This may be an extreme example (or not) depending on what your day to day experience. I’m just giving one to highlight how impactful your individual choices can be.

I believe whole-heartedly that it is critical to know and understand every choice you make and prioritize what’s important to you. As I like to say, if you own your daily choices and habits, you own your future.

Here’s a couple practical examples of habits that help me prioritize my own health. I did these when I was at Amazon and still do them now.

  1. Planing my calendar every day for the next day — I go through the exercise of blocking any “open” times on my calendar for the next day, which frees up space to catch up on work or tackle the “drop everything” projects. I rarely accept a same day meeting request unless it is urgent.

  2. Plan my workout schedule weekly — my schedule may fluctuate week to week but generally I find times to schedule my 3–4 sessions per week and block my calendar ahead of the start of the week to ensure it is protected during these times. I tend to do this activity on a Sunday, which takes me 5–10 minutes tops.

  3. Make lunch easy— lunch is hard and time is precious during the day. I like to maximize the use of lunchtime and utilize it as a short mental reprieve and recharge. In order to ensure I don’t have to think too hard about what to eat and also eat the the way I want to, I either prepare my lunch the previous day or use a meal provider so I have easy and ready meals which are nutrient-dense.

Whether the above can work for you or not depends on your own preferences and schedule, but I urge you to experiment. Find what works for you, and, above all, remember to take ownership for your choices. Stay healthy, friends.

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