When we talk about owning our lives, often it’s in the context of taking responsibility for our hard choices and our mistakes. We own our problems; we own up to things. That’s what we should do, of course; but perhaps out of modesty, we tend not to claim as much ownership of our successes and our joyful moments. And I’m wondering if that reluctance to own our good fortune might skew our perspective toward seeing life as made up largely of hard choices.

That’s not to say we ought to brag at great length about our successes, but a little more balance would be helpful. Even our common word choices such as “good fortune” suggest that when things go well in our lives, it is all just luck, and we had very little to do with how it turned out. When we make gratitude lists or otherwise remind ourselves to appreciate our blessings, it’s all about passively receiving gifts, rather than asserting ownership. God made the sunshine, we didn’t. Well, okay, fair enough—but what about our choice to enjoy the sunshine rather than complain it’s too hot? Don’t we own that?

Because we filter all of our experiences through the stories we tell ourselves to explain them, we do in fact own everything that happens in our lives, even the stuff that seems completely random at the time. We choose what part each person and event plays, how significant they are to the plot, and how much emotional weight we give them.

Often we don’t consciously realize that we have so much control over our internal narratives because they are drawn, in large part, from the common stories of our culture. Unless we actively cultivate the habit of considering how we frame our experiences in our minds, we may not even realize that other perspectives are open to us, and then we never reach the point of choosing one story over another.

It’s not always easy to reframe past experiences in more positive terms, especially when many years have gone by and we’ve put large amounts of mental energy into those old familiar complaints, such that our thoughts automatically slide along them like wheels on a well-greased track. But there are always multiple ways of looking at every situation, and taking responsibility for owning our lives means taking the time to consider and wisely choose among our options.

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