I used to be confused as to what that meant – own your shit. Whenever someone told me to do this, they were generally talking about something I was doing wrong. It generally meant taking responsibility, owning, my poor decisions, transgressions, and deficiencies. Owning my shit was about realizing those things were mine, that I have the potential to really mess things up, that my flaws are real.
The trouble with this approach is that, as much as I did try to own them, and to humble myself with the knowledge that I have some pretty obvious shortcomings, the focus did not make those shortcomings go away. I’ve wasted a lot of time owning my shit, focusing on my limitations and trying to get better at all of those things that I was not good at. Eventually, however, I got tired this not working. So I decided to redefine what this phrase means to me.
Changing behavior almost never happens by focusing on the behavior a person wants to get rid of. Every time you talk to a person trying to quit smoking, the first thing their brain thinks about is smoking. The more I think about my limitations, the more I remind myself of those feelings, and often indirectly re-create them. Owning that shit has no benefit to me.
The only shit I need to own is the good shit. Those things I do well, those activities that make me feel most alive, and the skills I have that have brought real value to other people. Instead of spending all of my time on repairing the screw ups, I’ve learned it is much more productive growing the good parts of myself so that there is less room for the screw ups to occupy my mind. It works, it’s effective, so I think I’ll keep doing that instead.
If we truly own our shit, we will do it more. It’s not to say there will no longer be screw ups, it’s just that we can simply choose to accept them, deal with the consequences, and move on. Owning the bad shit any more than that takes away from the potential for a more productive investment in ourselves focused on the things we want to bring more of in the world.
So from now on, if you ever hear those words – own your shit – just remind yourself to focus on that great stuff that’s inside of you already. Own your potential, your greatness, your passions, and those things you do better than anyone else. Do it because it’s more productive, do it because it feels good, but most importantly, do it because the greatness inside of you is real, it has immense value, and is worth owning however you are reminded to do it.