Friday, February 08, 2008


Someone asked me recently to give my opinion on why their life wasn’t ‘working better’. I responded with what I think is likely your number one issue as well…

Ownership. You get ownership all wrong.

You think you own what you don’t. And you seldom own the things you should.

Many of us don’t own our houses, our cars, or our possessions. (The bank or the credit card co owns them.) Nevertheless, we act like we do. Even if we didn’t finance our possessions the further point here goes deeper than just dollars. In a classic understatement I would point out that there is simply too much energy, emotion and attention paid to our possessions. Yet, we love possessions. Because…

We are possessive.

Meanwhile, what happens is the stuff ends up possessing us.

To borrow from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club or Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich or Gandhi or Jesus.

And then there are the things we should be owning and spending our energy on… our motives, problems, needs, wants, blindspots, our issues and our faults. These are the areas we should be working on.* Yet, we divert attention, we create excuses. We look the other way. Because…

We don’t easily own our faults.

Have you ever tried to get someone to own up to something they did wrong? I have. I have three children. With children though, excuses are expected. They haven’t developed the maturity yet to understand that the sooner they admit fault, ask for forgiveness and try to work on their problems the sooner life starts to ‘work better’ for them. But, of course, that’s the problem… many adults haven’t learned this either. Getting them to own up to something is like backing a wild animal into a corner. Many of us would rather die with our excuses than own them.

This is all a part of our DNA. Remember some of the first conversation recorded? God says to Adam after he eats the forbidden fruit, “What were you thinking?” (And Adam thinks to himself, “I don’t know why I did that. I should just admit it and ask for forgiveness. Man, I feel really bad.) But then he opens his mouth and says, “The woman you put here with me… she made me do it.” Adam in a few short words blames God and then Eve rather than owning up.

Well, you see where this is all going. It’s time to take some inventory. What are you owning? What is owning you? What excuses are you making? If you want life to ‘work better’ you’ll have to wrestle with all this. It’s worth it!

* Oh, I should mention here that I’m not talking strictly about strengths and weaknesses of your personality, giftedness or aptitude. Marcus Buckingham has a lot of great stuff to say along these lines that I agree with whole-heartedly. What I’m referring more to is the inability to admit culpability in why your life is not working better. Hope you see the difference in the two.


doug said...

I would agree ownership is a problem ... I would add a boring life - there is nothing to do in this town mentality ... Less words and more love provides an entrance into a significant life ... A life that embraces and experiences more ... Good to catch up with you His Blogness! dsmith

Jonathan Foster said...

hey, ds thanks for the comment. "less words and more love..." i like it. there's an old adage that says it's more difficult to live one day well than write a book. i think that's along the same lines...

ok, keep it real in caly (ok, i really don't talk like that. i just wanted to sound cool)