A few years ago we purchased a vehicle for my wife. Although it had been previously used, it was beautiful, well-maintained and immaculate. I couldn’t help but notice how quickly the ownership mentality produced a new set of rules, especially for the kids: No eating in the car. No dog in the car. Pick up after yourself. Don’t slam the doors. The list was long.

It was a stark reminder that pride of ownership changes you from the inside. Her reaction to a “new” vehicle hit the reset button on her desire to keep well-maintained that which she owned.

And so it is with anything we own, so long as we’re convinced that we actually own it.

One of the hardest things entrepreneurs struggle with is developing an ownership mentality.

Employees have a boss or manager to hold them accountable. If they’re late for work, the boss writes them up. If they’re late enough times the boss fires them.

Even though these are negative motivators, they work because our brains are wired to avoid pain and discomfort. The consequences keep us in check.

It’s no secret that the most successful employees take ownership of their jobs. They act and operate as if everything within their stewardship (tasks, systems, personnel, outcomes) was a micro-company within the whole organization. A micro company of which they are the CEO. Here are some of the signs:

  • They go above and beyond the employee mentality around them
  • They own up when they make a mistake
  • When needed, they come in early and stay late to get their job done
  • They are motivated and driven by their own merits rather than an external tangible reward
  • They feel the loss when mistakes are made, especially when the company’s bottom line is negatively impacted

As an entrepreneur, nobody holds you accountable. Most of what you do can go without any immediate consequence. If you’re “late” to your desk, who cares? You decided to watch one more Netflix show instead of making sales calls? Crickets. Your prospective clients will not call asking why you didn’t reach out. Instead, the world quietly moves on as if nothing has happened and with little to no immediate consequence.

Your success depends on your ability to push yourself forward when there is no other outside force pushing you.

A common trait of successful people is they like to own things. They own homes and cars and investments. But they also own their schedule, their commitments and their actions. They develop an ownership mentality because with that comes accountability and self mastery.

At the heart of accountability is ownership. And like new cars, what we own, we value. Here’s the key: our thoughts produce feelings, which in turn create our actions.

Let me offer three key areas of your life that are in desperate need of your ownership mentality.

First, own your environment.

Look around you and notice the things you worked hard for. Things for which you sacrificed and saved. Next, consider how you care for them compared to how you care for other, everyday objects you didn’t work for.

Once you understand the value of those things you’ve owned, apply that line of thinking into everyday situations to improve your physical environment. For example, on your way through a parking lot, you may pass by a piece of litter. If it was yours, you would be more likely to pick it up because you feel responsible for it. You own it. But since you don’t actually own it, it’s easy to walk by with no guilt.

“Someone else littered, not me.”

And while that’s true, that mentality does not serve you or the world around you.

As you walk into a room, pretend you “own” that environment. Your furniture, your walls, your water cooler. Imagine the people in the room are your team. When you “think” like you own the place, you will “feel” more confident, resulting in higher quality “actions.” With some practice, you can turn everyday, unremarkable events into opportunities to make an impact on your world around you.

Granted, this is not a license for arrogance. The entire experience takes place quietly and unannounced, other than to the audience in your mind. But this new way of thinking results in a level of confidence you cannot duplicate on your own.

Second, own your thoughts and feelings.

The two are interconnected. In fact, your feelings come from your thoughts.

Every day, you live in both your internal world and your external world. When someone says something to us, it comes from your external world. How you receive it, however, is internal. It’s entirely up to you.

Imagine if you wore a display screen on your chest. Everything you think and feel on the inside has now become public display. When you have a bad attitude, the world knows. If someone offends you, they see it loud and clear. No more hiding or pretending you are something you’re not. Most of us constantly live in a state of conflict between what’s going on in the inside and what we show on the outside. We often don’t say what we think out of fear we may offend.

Marrying the two worlds means being 100% true to yourself.

Rather than seeking to change things and people around you (which is impossible anyway), focus instead on what you can control: what goes on inside you. If you’re feeling shame, guilt, inadequacy or any other number of negative emotions, consider the thoughts you were having that led up to that feeling. Own it by acknowledging it and then by replacing the thought with something better. Keep that new thought and its corresponding feeling will eventually follow.

Force yourself through the process at first and eventually, you will exit the emotional roller coaster and gain more control over your feelings.

Finally, own your outcomes.

Ultimately, as the owner of anything, the buck stops with you. It’s the nature of ownership. If your team does not have ownership mentality, the first place to look is within you as the leader. Few things are more problematic in business than leaders who refuse to accept responsibility for problems in their organizations.

Maybe you’ve had a bumpy past, full of failure. Maybe you’re not happy with where you are today and you’re wondering if you’ll ever break the cycle. When you’re stuck in this rut, your past becomes the crystal ball that determines your future, ultimately giving you more of what you want.

Instead, own your past. Accept that it is exactly what it was supposed to be, based on the information and person you were at the time of each decision. Accept that your failures have made you what you are today and then accept that tomorrow is a blank slate you get to write today. Starting now, you can choose an entirely different set of outcomes by choosing an entirely different way of thinking about your life. Mattercards are key at helping people make this mental breakthrough.

Whether you’re a large company owner, an entrepreneur, an executive manager or an employee, you can benefit from ownership thinking. And it’s easier than you may think. Start by creating the habit of mentally “owning” your world around you.

After all, it’s likely nobody else is owning it.