My husband graciously carries his laundry basket to the washer, but I beg him to let me do the work because I like to clean. Yeah, that’s right. I like to do laundry. A pile of clothes reminds me we live life fully, and washing and organizing make me feel productive.
Later I hear the clink-clinking of the dryer, and I purse my lips.
“Did you leave a jump drive in your pocket again? How many times have I told you…”
“I’m sorry,” my husband says. “It’s my fault.”
He’s always quick to apologize. I take a breath and clench my teeth, reminded that leaving chapstick and quarters in the pockets of his Levi’s is just something he does. If they’re in my dryer it isn’t anyone’s fault but my own.
Admitting my failures, taking ownership of things in which others play a role, and apologizing doesn’t feel natural. It makes me rotate my shoulders as if to move the little pride monkey off my back. But accepting responsibility for small stuff keeps my emotions in check, which empowers me to adapt. I’d rather not waste time blaming others, and, in turn, stall productivity. Blaming others is one reason bullying wrecked my adolescence. I focused more on my bullies’ words and actions and less on my circumstances being temporary and controlling my reactions. Living in the moment is a habit I’ve carried into adulthood. It can be a gift and a crutch. If I get absorbed in the details of now and fail to see the bigger picture ahead, the results I desire, it’s easy for me to blame other people, like a training client who doesn’t follow instructions. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s less likely that she’s disrespectful and uncoachable and more likely that she’s a visual learner. It’s my responsibility to take her to the mirror or film her to show her the mistake and help her improve. Other times, taking ownership isn’t about getting someone to do what I want as much as it is about freeing myself of controlling others and seeking peace.
Have you listened to your words lately? Are your frustrations doing anyone good? If it’s always someone else’s fault, chances are it’s your fault. People expect criticism and reprimand, and maybe they deserve a kick in the rear, but when we first take responsibility, others are more likely to consider self-improvement. We can pass the buck, which might work to some extent, but, sooner or later, we’ll end up with quarters clink-clinking in our dryers, reminding us to check our own pockets.
“We have to own everything in our world. That’s what Extreme Ownership is all about.” -Jocko Willink
What is one small thing for which you can practice taking ownership?
Recommended reading: Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin