In an early coaching call with a new client, my client shared her vision of ownership.
She wants to own a house, a company, a business.
The Ownership Mindset
It’s the American dream, part of the Puritanical ethic that is embedded in our conditioning:
Work hard. Embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship. Own your business. Earn money. Buy a house. Fill the house with stuff. Buy a bigger house.
The “be an owner” mindset is so deeply embedded into our cultural and personal psychographics that we rarely stop to question it.
Many coaches would accept the client at face value here:
You want to own a house and a business? Great. I’ll help you make that happen.
Good thing I’m also a real estate broker. All bases covered.
Except I rarely take my clients’ visions at face value. No good coach does.
What Do You Really Want?
It’s my job to understand what the client really wants.
Ownership — of a house, a business, or anything else — is not the end goal. It’s a means to a bigger or deeper outcome.
For some clients, home ownership is about feeling settled and a sense of stability. For others, it’s about ties to a community. Some view ownership as a path to freedom.
What did my client want to own a house and a business? What did she really want?
Ownership as a Vehicle For Control
My client isn’t alone. Many people seek ownership as a vehicle to get control over some aspect of their lives.
There’s a pervasive myth that ownership is the path to control.
Owning a home in theory means you can control how you live, what you do with your space.
Owning a business in theory means you control your hours and the type of work you get to do.
In practice, ownership can be an albatross.
Consider that what you own, owns you.
The more stuff you have, the more your life decisions are controlled by that stuff. That stuff consumes your resources: time, attention, money, energy.
What do you do with your dog when you go to work or when you travel? The more things you need, the heavier your bags, the less mobility you have.
The irony is that the ultimate goal of a business owner is to give up control. This is the difference between owning and operating a business.
An owner seeks leverage. She seeks to hire people who can make day to day decisions to free her up for pursuing a bigger agenda.
Control is an illusion, of course. There’s very little in this life that we truly control.
Giving Up Ownership to Get Control
Four years ago today, I gave up home ownership to try living “home free.” In part I was motivated by a desire to regain control of a life that was spinning ever more out of control.
It’s been a rocky journey. There are many crucial places where I don’t have control — and it’s had an impact on my work.
But looking back, I didn’t have this control even as a homeowner. On the whole, not owning a home during this time has given me more options.
What Do You Really Want?
In both home and business, ownership is often a barrier to control. And there are ways to gain control that don’t require ownership.
I don’t advocate a particular path to my clients. There’s no one decision that’s right for everyone.
My job is to help my clients get clear on what they really want, to weed out the potential inner conflicts, and to help them find the most effective way to get it.
There’s nothing wrong with ownership. But if you’re seeking control, ownership may not be your best path.
When the two are in conflict, which do you really want?