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The First Step to Solving Any Problem: Clarifying Ownership

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Today we’re talking about one of the most important ideas and principles of success (regardless of how you may be defining success for yourself these days).

I can definitively say that after 30 years of working with an amazing variety of people and issues, THIS issue is usually at the root of all other issues, in some way, and the most important thing that nearly every person I’ve ever known has needed to get clear on before they could progress.

In fact, it’s THE foundational concept for ALL growth, thriving, progress, improvement, and achievement--for ALL of us.

Overstatement?  Not at all. In fact, this idea is worth millions, literally.

You want to flourish?  Then make sure you’re crystal clear on this concept.

You want to reach your goals?  Then you must be fully functional in this area.

You want to improve your relationships, increase your happiness, and upgrade your energy levels?  Then focus daily on this one thing.

What am I talking about?

It’s the Law of Ownership.  I call it a "law" because it's a principle that's true for all people, in all places, at all times.

Here’s what I mean:  to own=to take responsibility for.

Well, what exactly are we to own?

We must take ownership and responsibility for everything that’s WITHIN our boundaries--our “area of rule”.

For example, think of your yard.  Everything INSIDE the fence is yours to take responsibility for--to “own”.  Your grass is too long?  Then YOU better cut it!  Not your neighbor--YOU.

That’s how ownership works.

Important corollary:  what you own, you control (or SHOULD be controlling).

In other words, what you own, you have legitimate authority over, and the “right to rule”, so to speak.

And conversely, clarifying what you DO own ALSO clarifies what you DON'T own.

Back to our "yard" example.  You have authority over your yard.  Your neighbor can’t take it upon himself to plant new shrubs and chop down that big Oak tree while you’re gone for the weekend.

This is very intuitive, and even obvious, for things like yards and Oak trees.

“Whose yard is it in?”  (who's owns it?) can get much more complicated, though, when we start dealing with things like relationships--at work, at home, and out in the world.

People REGULARLY disagree about who’s responsible for what (no, I’m not simply talking about division of labor, like who should do the dishes).  It’s not always obvious.  

Clarifying ownership is a real skill--a crucial life skill.

For example, who’s responsible for your angry feelings?  MOST people get this wrong (and thus most people stay stuck in anger).  YOU are responsible for your anger--all the time, only you.  Perhaps someone else triggered the anger (which you're not responsible for), but only you are responsible for managing it and controlling it and resolving it, because that anger is inside YOU--it's "inside YOUR fence".

“Who owns the problem?” is one of my favorite OQ’s (Ownership Questions)--sounds like such a simple question, doesn’t it?  Not always.

So for this week, I want you to be thinking about all that you own, and thus all that you need to be taking responsibility for and taking control of.  Specifically, are you taking responsibility for all that you need to?

If you're stuck, this is the first step to getting UN-stuck--clarify what you own, which THEN clarifies what you CAN control and what you CAN'T control.

And getting clear on these two categories . . .

  • what you can control
  • what you can't control

. . . begins solving everything.

“Who owns this?” or “Who owns what” (when there’s multiple things going on) are great clarifying questions when you find yourself confused about any situation.

Here’s a short list of things for your to own--that you have the authority to manage:  your . . .

  • attitudes
  • thoughts and beliefs
  • emotions
  • choices
  • potential decisions
  • opportunities
  • behaviors/actions
  • talents
  • time
  • money
  • strengths
  • deficits

These are all YOURS--own them and manage them well, and stop giving other people power over these areas.

Remember--what you own, you’re responsible for, and should be taking control of.

Get good at asking yourself, “Who owns this?”, and coming up with the right answer!

Be well, and more to come . . .



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I’m Sean Cox,

I write these articles to provoke you to look at your life–to consider where you currently are and where you could be in the future. I want you to break free from the status quo, pursue your potential, and become a razor-sharp asset.