Practicing Extreme Ownership and Finding Your “Why”: The Key to Long-term Success

By Tim Hanway MS CSCS ACSM
In today’s day and age, most people have become familiar with the ‘SMART’ goal system. This stands for
  • Specific,
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time based
The common knowledge shared is that as long as an individual’s goals are sSMART, success is virtually guaranteed!
However, the truth of the matter is not so simple. How come so many people continue to “fall off the wagon”? They experience short-term success before succumbing to their previous habits.
When it comes to successfully modifying lifestyle behavior and achieving both the results and sustainable change they so desire!

Emotion versus logic in behavior

The answer to this paradox may surprise you. So much of what drives behavior and behavior change comes not from the logical, rational part of our brains, but rather, the emotional centers of our minds. The parts that effectively govern all aspects of how we experience the world.
So why then is this fact so important?
If you can hack the emotional centers of your brain, you can create compelling goals that are deeply tied to your own values, thoughts, feelings and emotions.
You will be able to create powerful goals that can be further refined using the ‘SMART’ acronym. This results in the perfect combination of clear, strategic goal-setting combined with emotional driving forces.

Responsibility for behavior

As a consequence, the first-step to attaining success in every aspect of your life by cultivating these newfound goals comes down to one simple rule or principle. That is accepting 100% responsibility for your life.
Yes, you heard me right: As soon as you accept 100% responsibility for every aspect of your life you will be amazed at the things you accomplish.
However, ignore this vital step and it is virtually impossible to enact the lasting change that leads to truly great things.

Principle One: Practice Extreme Ownership –

Two people that embody this principle are world-renown author and entrepreneur, Jack Canfield, and world-famous Navy Seal Commander, Jaco Willink.
What sets aside both men apart from others is their acceptance of taking 100% responsibility for their lives and the effect that this has on goal achievement.
To understand the concept of extreme ownership, you must first acknowledge your behaviors all come down to choice. Virtually every decision you make in your daily life (i.e. from the company you keep to the habits you enact daily) come down to choices you make.
Yes, that’s right; choice.
Everything from the friends you surround yourself with to the foods you eat, the job you keep and spouse you share a life with all come down to choice.
Now, isn’t this a simplistic and naïve viewpoint of the world you might ask?
The answer however is a resounding “no” when you really take a moment to pause and think about it.
For example, you can choose whether or not to organize your shopping. Then, you can have a greater likelihood of purchasing and preparing healthier foods. You choose whether or not you set aside money to hire a trainer.
Have a problem sleeping? You can set your alarm clock under your gym bag to reduce the likelihood of sleeping in.
Now are all these choices obvious?
Of course not, but that is not the point. By simply accepting 100% percent responsibility you know that the answers are out there. Finding the right people and systems to help and support you are likewise within your control. This creates a liberating sense of possibility and empowerment.
Yes, just like so many others, you can cultivate change too. It is going to take work. It is going to be hard and it may mean putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.
You might upset people (i.e. like telling your friends that you won’t be joining them for your usual Thursday ‘Happy Hour’ for the forseeable future).
The fact remains however that the choice is fundamentally yours. Once you accept this, it is possible to realize how much is within your control. This results in plans and action.
Get the ball rolling and it is much easier to move! However, you need to realize first that the ‘ball’ really is in your court…

Principle Two: Get to “Why” –

Once you take extreme ownership and acknowledge the way to get over the ‘finish line’ is to find your “Why.” This concept was originally popularized by the famed author and speaker, Simon Sinek.
The “Why” paradigm is one that acknowledges the power of emotion in shaping behavior change. By tapping into emotion and the limbic system of the brain it is possible to create compelling goals. Goals that truly pave the way for everlasting change.
For example, in the health and fitness world, a popular goal is to simply “lose weight.” You can attempt to add some substance to this goal via the SMART system.
The goal is repurposed into something such as:
“my goal is to lose 10 lbs. by March 1, 2019 by strength training and performing interval training an average of 3x per week for the next 3 months.” 

Emotion & Logic in Goal Setting

However, although the latter has much more substance, there is still a key component missing. Namely the driving emotion behind it.
Why do you want to lose 10 lbs. by March 1st?
If the answer is something vague like “to look better” than the likelihood of sticking to this goal (no matter how concrete) becomes diminished. To fix this, your driving emotion needs to be unveiled.
A better goal that addresses your “Why” might instead be;
“In order for me to feel as confident, energetic and handsome as I did my senior year of high school when I was the Varsity football captain, as well as improve the quality of my married life by fitting into the suit I wore to my wedding five years ago, my goal is to lose 10 lbs. By March 1, 2019 which I will do by strength training and performing interval training an average of 3x per week for the next 3 months…” 
What does the above accomplish? Simple! By providing a story, a narrative and a visual focus, the goal now becomes something that is rooted in emotion and value. Losing weight in this case represents confidence, energy and vitality. It is no longer simply a ‘means to an end’ which is what categorizes so many goals.

Practice Extreme Ownership & Find Your Why

In summary, by practicing extreme ownership and reframing your goals to always encompass a ‘why’ statement, you too will be able to unlock latent potential in your abilities, commitment and purpose.
So, keep the SMART acronym, but tell your story and review it constantly. This is how the most successful people in world enact lasting change and the beauty is that this is entirely within your control.