1 Simple Mindset Shift to Reclaim Active Ownership of Your Life
Note: (In this story, I will refer to some neuroscientic and psychological terms. Where these come up, I will link them to easy to understand explainations of the term for those who are not yet familiar. Have no fear, it’s nothing crazy. Feel free to ask me for more information @ltullidge on instagram as well if this piques your interest)
Take a moment and ask yourself these two questions:
Is life happening at you or for you?
Is life happening to you or in response to you?
Think about the minute, yet impactful differences those prepositions hold. Changing one little world alters the entire meaning of the concept in question.
What these questions are truly asking you is: are you the active owner of your life or the passive recipient?
Do you shape your mindset, choices, perspective and ultimately life based on learning, growth and what serves you? Or does life happen at you, where you lack all control and are left to just wait for life to throw something at you and respond when it does?
This question. This one seemingly inconsequential choice. These little prepositions. They are the key to reclaiming active ownership of your life.
What is active ownership?
Active ownership, in the simplest terms, is being in the driver’s seat of your life. You are steering. You are choosing your speed. You are choosing your direction and, ultimately, your destination.
It might sound simple, pedantic even, to believe that simple shifts in the way you speak or think can have a profound impact on your life.
But Markus Zusak, author of the poignant novel The Book Thief, sums up the power of this simple magic in three profound words.
“Words are life”
The words we use, the language we apply to our thoughts, dialogues, beliefs, and choices shape the very way we show up and interact with the world. They create our foundation for how we receive, react, respond and build within the world.
“In my religion, we are taught that every living thing, every leaf, every bird, is only alive because it contains the secret word for life. That’s the only difference between us and a lump of clay — a word. Words are life, Liesel. All those blank pages, they’re for you to fill.” — Markus Zusak
It is not just the words themselves who yield the magic to shape our world. The true power sits in the intention behind the words. Our language is a reflection of our neurological state + pathways.
How does this work?
Without going to deep into one of my favorite black holes — neuroscience + psychology…our minds are the engine that create our unique reality, the very world around us.
We hardwire filters in to our brain to help us process unfathomable amounts of information in the blink of an eye. Whether something is processed as good/bad, safe/dangerous, seek/avoid, etc is decided by our thoughts + perceptions. Our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. Our actions become our reality.
In another sense, (and to highlight the power of our thoughts) our thoughts determine our habits — how we allocate our time throughout each day, and our motivations — the direction in which we set our resources. Our habits and motivations determine our actions — what we actually do in a given day. Our actions determine our future — the accumulated outcome of actions day over day.
See at the base root of both of these flows is the choice of thought.
So how can you actually harness thought to reclaim the driver’s seat in your life?
Yes, yes the big picture self-empowerment can be powerful and mindblowing, but now you want to know what do you actually do now. And how does it work?
If you want to change your mindset from life is happening at you to life is responding to you, choose ownership of your life.
Start by observing your thoughts, your perceptions, the filters you put on to the world around you, and, most importantly, observe the filters you put on your life.
Are you using language that takes responsibility for your life? Or leaving the accountability to the world around you?
For example, you and a friend have an argument and you end up yelling. Did you yell because you were triggered and chose to yell? Or did you only yell because your friend yelled first? Was it your choice or were you “forced” to only respond to what your friend did first.
Another example, someone bumps in to you on the street. Do you try to have a little empathy for the fact that it was probably an accident and maybe you can be a bit more alert next time? Or do you feel attacked/angry/upset that someone did that to you even though you were completely innoncent minding your business?
See your filters. Accept them. And then here’s the real secret: choose the positive ones anyways.
Even if you are fuming that you were just bumped on the street, take a moment. Tell yourself a positive perspective of the situation or even a simple one word mantra. Perhaps “compassion” or “my day is great no matter what life throws at me.” Whatever suits you. Even if it feels fake and artifical.
The key here is your choice. You are actively choosing to send your mental energy down a positive pathway. That choice changes the wiring and functioning of your very brain. (Give this book a read to learn more on neural pathways and mylination)
These positive mental choices fuel your move back into the driver’s seat. Not knee-jerk reacting to life as its thrown at you, complaining about how life is unfair. You receive what comes in from the world (outside your control) and respond in the way in which you choose. You build your thoughts and therefore your life to respond to your choices.
Does this sound woo woo and new age? Yes. Can I picture you rolling your eyes right about now? Yes. But does this actually work? Hell yes.
And guess what? It is proven neuroscientifically.
“By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.” — Dr. Andrew Newberg
Consciously choosing a positive word has direct impact on the development + information outflow of your parietal lobe. Your parietal lobe executes many key jobs within the brain. One of its main responsibilities is processing the sensory inputs from the outside world. In common speak, it’s the reporter on the outside world for the rest of your brain. It’s giving you constant news updates that shape how the rest of your brain reacts.
Starting to see where the magic happens yet?
If your parietal lobe is tinted by a victim/passive recipient mindset (“life is happening to me.” “There’s nothing I can do.” “Fate is in charge.”) then it will process all information with a tint of fear + reactivity. Ready to point the finger of blame or feeling helpless in the onslaught of the world. Every subsequent decision made upon the parietal lobe’s “report” will be tinted as well by this coloring of victimization.
But you aren’t a passive recipient of life are you? Even that previous paragraph highlights how life is of your making — it is a choice to play passive recipient.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s comfortable, “safe,” convenient, even necessary sometimes to be able to blame the fates for losing your job, heartbreak, that car accident, a bad day, etc. To give yourself a momentary repreive from accountability and to curse the universe for your stroke of bad luck. Hell, we all need it some times.
(Sometimes the cognitive dissonance is too great in the moment and our brains are not yet ready to process what happened and our role in it. This is human and understandable — the key here is that we do not remain permanently in this state of deferred accountability.)
And also to be clear, I am not saying you are the master of the universe, you are not Brahma forging the world into existence with your sheer might. There are things outside your control. But how you respond is within your control. The filters through which the parietal lobe processes data is within your control.
In the words of Epictetus, “we cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
So want to move back from passenger to driver? Start with the simple change of choosing ownership in your thoughts. Invest in your parietal lobe’s positive reporting. And choose to see life as a response to you.
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Liza Tullidge is a serial entrepreneur, investor + advisor focused on reengineering business + individuals to build a better planet. Find out more about Liza + her work at www.lizatullidge.com