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woman on top of mountain, spreading arms, victorious
Complaining about your circumstances to others doesn't help you scale the mountain. Building emotional agility and internal discipline around how you think about your circumstances will help you make better choices and get you where you want to go..


What is it that makes us tell our ‘victim story’ instead of a victorious one? Why don’t we tell the story where we are in the driver’s seat of our choices and how we handle what comes our way?

One of the more famous psychological experiments that was done in the 1960s had to do with learned helplessness. As defined by psychologists, Learned helplessness is a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to believe that it is helpless in a particular situation. It has come to believe that it has no control over its situation and that whatever it does is futile. Thus, the human being or the animal will stay passive in the face of an unpleasant, harmful or damaging situation, even when it does actually have the power to change its circumstances.”

How often do you feel this way? How often may members of your team and employee population feel like this? If a situation has seemed hopeless to you, how do you think others think about it? In the face of hard times, when it seems that there is nothing you can do to move the ball forward even a little, it’s easy to just ‘lay down and whimper’…to become a victim of your circumstances when in fact you are really being victimized by the way you're thinking about your circumstances. Yet, the expectations don’t stop do they? You still must deliver…somehow, some way.

It’s Not About the Circumstances

It is important to keep in the forefront of your mind that you always have the power to make choices in the midst of circumstances to get you to a better place: to safe ground, achieved goals, healthier lifestyle, etc. You may not like the options before you. Assessing them or creating new ones and making a choice is still yours to make.

You see, circumstances you find yourself in don’t determine your ultimate success. That is determined by how you deal with it. And what you do with it will largely depend on the meaning you make of your circumstances. What stories do you begin to create that trigger emotional responses in your mind and body? This leads to your judgement and the formulation of filters that sort your choices for action. You can be a victim of some event or action against you; Whether you are victimized going forward is up to you. We do not control everything that happens around us; we do control how we think about what we experience and therefore respond. If we come from a place of fear, we have already lost. Because when we invest fear in something, we make it real and are at its mercy. If we become the observer of what is happening and can activate sound thinking, we immediately put “it” at our mercy. I’m suggesting that you choose to make peace with the reality of what is going on and search for the opportunity that is there. This is a way to find the best way through it.

I know what you’re thinking: “See bad times as an opportunity?” Sounds nuts right? So, let me ask you this: How is being resistant, fighting, fuming, worrying and complaining about what you don’t control working for you? Why not try something different for the next 30-60 days and see how it goes. What have you got to lose? What haven’t you tried yet? I mean what have you really committed to doing that would shift your trajectory toward a positive direction? Remember, the things you do consistently will have a bigger and quicker impact than that which you do inconsistently. Don’t just try. If it doesn’t work first time out, keep trying. As a matter of fact, keep at it as long as you’ve been keeping at complaining about what’s not right in your life right now.

Lead the Way

Mind you, embracing and being grateful for things that aren’t going well doesn’t make them go away. What that shift in thinking does is allow you the opportunity to be the master of what happens next. Where you come from in your thinking will determine how you handle what you’re facing in the most advantageous way for you and those for whom you are responsible. As a leader, people are at your mercy to rise above the noise, confusion, fear and lead by example. In so doing, you will spark positive energy in others to carry that bucket for and with you and be ambassadors of new thinking and higher results with their teams despite circumstances. Know this: People want to succeed. They want to be victorious. They also need some guidance to get going in the right direction sometimes.

How Can You Go from Victim to Victorious?

1. Press pause. Take a breath. Be the objective observer of what is happening and what you are feeling. Create some space around it. Is it a lack of will or is it a lack of ability that is keeping you stuck?

2. Write down how you think about it, feel about it.

3. Ask yourself:

“What is this about really?”

“What haven’t I considered yet?”

“What opportunity may I be overlooking in this situation?”

“How am I thinking about this?”

“Am I clear about what the issue really is?”

“What hand does my thinking have in what is going wrong here?”

“When things have gone right, how was I thinking and being?”

“Is there anyone else who could collaborate with me on this?”

“What actions are within my sphere of influence and abilities to put into motion?”

“What is one thought I can focus on right now that will immediately improve this situation even one degree?”

4. From a big picture standpoint, if you were to make the transformation from victim to victorious, what impact would that have in other areas of your leadership? Team? Life?

Remember, when we are in the midst of fear, we begin to give circumstances power over us and we start telling ourselves stories. These stories become our reality which then determine how we view our options which guide our actions. These stories can be limiting or liberating depending on where we place our thinking.

What story are you telling yourself? A victim story or a victorious one? You choose.

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