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The Power of Taking Responsibility

When a team takes ownership of its problems, the problems get solved

“War is hell, but war is also a brutal teacher. War teaches you about brotherhood, honor, humility, and leadership. In this riveting talk, Jocko Willink explains from personal experience how war teaches you the most when things go wrong. Jocko asserts that when a team takes ownership of its problems, the problems get solved.”

Taking Responsibility Creates Integrity

If you take a moment to watch this short video, at the thirteenth minute mark, you get to hear Jock Willink talk about how by taking responsibility for his actions, he created trust from his leaders and his team. He showed that he was a man who was not going to shirk his responsibility or pass blame.

Many people have been taught to believe that by accepting responsibility that it weakens their position or causes them to look bad. But in reality, the inverse is true. By taking responsibility and accepting the consequences we create safe places of trust and learning. We can learn from our mistakes and move past them, and in my experience, when you admit that you have failed, people with character and integrity will rally around you to pull you back up.

Extreme Ownership

My mentor recommended the book Extreme Ownership to me back in 2016. I listened to the audiobook and thought it was very informative, but I still didn’t fully understand the power that comes with taking responsibility for my actions. For most of my life I lived in with a victim mentality, things happened to me that were seemingly out of my control. But was that really true?

In 2017 I got into a partnership with some friends that ended up costing me a lot of money. For about a year after that conflict unfolded, I played the victim. “They did this to me.” But the reality was that before I ever entered into the agreement with them that cost me thousands, I saw a myriad of red flags and warning signs. But instead I ignored those warnings and deluded myself into thinking I could make an impossible situation work. I made poor choices again and again, sometimes out of obligation and sometimes out of fear.

What was driving those poor choices? Insecurity. The desire to be liked. Past wounds. To be seen as a hero – and this was a pattern in my life. The story that I told myself each time I got into a situation where I felt like I was being used, was that these people were using me. When in fact, I was often manipulating the world around me by trying to buy their love. In essence, I was using them to meet my own needs of feeling valuable, wanted, desired, etc.  I believed that the more people needed me, the more they would love me. I tried for years to make myself indispensable and so when I was disposed of or discarded I was devastated. “How could they let me go!”

Amidst all of this drama happening in my life I was introduced to the drama triangle: Villain, Victim, Hero. (Sometimes referred to as Villain, Persecutor, Rescuer) I was asked, “When something bad happens to you, where do find yourself landing on this drama triangle?” My immediate answer was “Victim”. This was easy to determine because I had been sitting in this position often. If I was late to work, it wasn’t my fault, it was traffic. If I made a bad grade in school it was because the test was written poorly or the teacher didn’t teach the information correctly. According to an article in Forbes, this victim personality often finds that their problems are unsolvable:

“The Victim sees life as happening to them and feels powerless to change their circumstances. Victims place blame on a Persecutor who can be a person or a situation. Being powerless, the victim ostensibly seeks a rescuer to solve the problem for them. Victims also have a sneaky interest in validating their problem as being unsolvable.” (Forbes)

The problem with being stuck in victim mentality is it leaves you powerless and of course when you don’t own your part in a bad situation then you can’t help but look for others to blame for your misery.

But what happens when we own our choices and behavior?

Think of a scenario where you have been in an argument and someone accuses you of a bad behavior. When they say, “You can never pick a restaurant.” Or “You always leave your clothes on the floor.” Instead of saying, “No, I don’t do that.” What happens when you just admit it? “Yes, I do have a problem leaving my clothes on the floor, I am lazy, and I don’t want to change.” Or, “Yes, I can’t make up my mind about the restaurant or where I want to eat. I am afraid that if I make the wrong choice I won’t be satisfied.” By owning our actions and behaviors, we have the ability to create change in our lives. As Jocko Willink says in his TED talk, “When a team takes ownership of it’s problems, problems get solved.”

Make Changes. Not Excuses.

Recently I had weight loss surgery. I had gastric sleeve in May of 2019. I have lost 70 pounds and I still have another 30 pounds to lose in order to reach my goal. My whole life I tried quick-fix solutions to dieting. Keto, Atkins, Paleo, Whole30, Intermittent Fasting, I tried them all and many more. However, I kept failing. Why? Because I was stuck in victim mode. My metabolism was to blame for my inability to lose weight. But the reality was that over time I had learned to eat large quantities and not limit my portions. I used this also as an excuse. I would say, “Well, the portion sizes are just so large at a restaurant.”

When I look at what I eat now compared to what I used to it, it is 1/3 of the total calorie consumption and I still have to exercise and watch what I eat.

Gastric sleeve didn’t solve my problems with gluttony, it was just a helpful “governor” that helped me tame the beast of my obsession with food. It also helped me to stop making excuses and to clearly see how much I was over-eating on a daily basis. For a long time I didn’t want to get weight loss surgery because I saw it as a crutch. But at 43 I had high blood pressure and incessant heart burn as well as being pre-diabetic. If I didn’t make a drastic change and stop playing victim to my surroundings I was only going to stay stuck. I decided to make changes and not excuses and I’m so glad I did. I sleep better. I feel better. And I have taken responsibility for my life.

TED – Getting Out of the Dreaded Drama Triangle

While I was writing this article I was researching the drama triangle and stumbled upon some new information. Before I believed that awareness of the drama triangle was the only way to avoid falling into it’s snare, however, Dr. Womeldorff has created a new triangle called The Empowerment Dynamic.

The Victim transmogrifies into Creator

The Persecutor takes on the role of Challenger

The Rescuer assumes the dynamic new role of Coach

The Empowerment Dynamic

New Roles. New You.

What would your life look like if you took on a new way of seeing yourself and seeing others around you? Right now we are currently dealing with challenges from coronavirus. During this time we can use this as a wonderful excuse to play victim and to fall into some self-defeating behavior patterns. Or, we can use this as an opportunity to Create, Challenge, or Coach. We can’t always change what happens to us in this world, but we do get to choose how we respond to it. Perhaps what is going on in the world right now is the universe telling you it is time to make that change you have always dreamed of. To write that book. To start that podcast, to take a class.

Adjust Your Sails

I’ll close this post with a couple quotes that resonate with me during times of adversity. I hope that during all the challenges you face in your life that you find that these times are often the times that you grow the most and you find out who you really are.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained”. – Marie Curie

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

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