At a recent all-hands meeting, the president of my college introduced us to The Oz Principle and The Steps to Accountability. Essentially, the take-away is that whenever you encounter a problem, you need to take ownership of that problem immediately. Once you own it, you need to solve it. Once you’ve devised a solution, you need to carry that solution out.
See it. Own it. Solve it. Do it. It sounds so simple. Watch this 2 minute video as one of the authors explains.
While this principle was introduced to us as a way to be more effective educators, I totally see how this principle applies to healthy behavior as well.
First of all, we must engage in above-the-line thinking, knowing that we are in charge of our actions. When something in our environment presents us challenge, we can’t play the victim. Let’s look at something that happened to me just recently.
I volunteer each year to judge Phi Beta Lambda events at the state level. This involves grading some submissions sent to me by mail and judging performances in-person at the state conference. It is tradition for judges to receive a small gift of thanks for their efforts.
Last year, my gift was a Phi Beta Lambda duffel bag with a note of thanks attached to it and a pocket filled with candy. Was I a victim? Was this an attempt by some evil entity to sabotage my weight loss goals? Was the intent of this gesture to derail me? Hardly. Somebody was trying to be nice and give me a treat.
Acting accountably, I made an effort to give away the candy to somebody else. I asked a nearby judge if he would like to take the candy, as it wasn’t something that I wanted. The judging coordinator, who had prepared the gifts, encouraged me to indulge. Was I the victim here? Was the judging coordinator out to lead me astray?
A below-the-line thinker would say Yes! Yes!!!! This is just how it always goes! I try to set some reasonable goals, but people are constantly trying to knock me off course. They deliberately put junk food in my path. When I politely turn it away, they insist that I indulge. I’m the victim of these hateful creatures.
You may be a victim, but I am not. In this case, while the other judge was picking the candy out of my gift bag, I engaged the judging coordinator briefly by sharing an abbreviated version of my weight loss journey.
“I really appreciate the thought that you put into making these gift bags, and they’re a highlight of my judging experience each year. You probably don’t know this about me, but I’ve lost over 250 pounds through diet and exercise over the last year and a half. While candy used to be a treat for me, it’s more of an obstacle than a reward at this point on my journey. I hope some day to have a more balanced relationship with candy, but, for now, it’s best I keep my distance from it.”
Before the judging coordinator could respond, I continued, “Let me show you a photo of myself that I keep on my iPhone from Labor Day 2011. It’s the least flattering photo anyone has ever taken of me, but it shows exactly where I’ve been. I never wish to return there, and making sure candy doesn’t come home with me is one small step that I take. I sincerely appreciate your putting together these gift bags, and I promise you that I will be using this duffel at the gym. However, I think it’s best that I let my colleague take the sweet treats home to his children.”
I saw the problem. Candy was in my custody.
I owned the problem. I’m not a victim here. I’m an adult. This candy in my custody is a problem, because I’ll probably not make the best decisions if left alone with it.
I solved the problem. I arranged for someone else to take custody of the candy.
I “did it,” meaning I implemented the solution. I gave away the candy.
Furthermore, I defended my solution in a calm, kind manner. So many times, it’s easy to forget that the folks around us aren’t living in our heads. They don’t approach situations from the same background or with the same baggage. This is true for people from differing faiths, prosperity levels, cultures, and even geographic regions.
I encourage you to live accountably. Make good choices, as my dietitian says. The Oz Principle is a great tool that I’ve re-purposed, and it’s working very well for me.