You Are a Victim Only When You Choose to Be

In a follow-up email to a coaching client, I wrote...
"The discomfort you're feeling is the discomfort of being in unfamiliar territory. You now find yourself in an entrepreneurial start-up environment where you're expected to lead without being granted the formal authority to do so."

His Previous Role

  • traditional environment
  • long-standing, HISTORIED organization
  • multi-layer hierarchical structure
  • well-defined roles & reporting structure 
  • office-based workforce

His Current Role

  • entrepreneurial environment
  • start-up organization 
  • flattened hierarchical structure
  • ambiguous roles & reporting structure
  • remote workforce
In this situation, my client had two choices.
As he struggled to adjust as a leader in this unfamiliar environment, my client certainly had the option to view himself as a victim of circumstance. As a way of letting himself off the hook, he could carefully avoid acknowledging any ownership of anything he was doing or not doing to contribute to his current situation. In doing so, he could feel sorry for himself and exaggerate his innocence by pointing fingers at others and making excuses for his struggles. 

(This option was tempting as it is an easy one to put into action and one he had already employed several times before.)

But let's get real...rarely are we purely a victim of our circumstance. And even in those rare instances when we truly are, we still don't have to assume and fully own the victim role. That's a choice.

There are countless stories of individuals who have been dealt some pretty crappy hands. But... because they refuse to live life as victims, they've made the difficult decision to persevere. In other words, they viewed their situation as a challenge-to-be-solved and assumed the role of troubleshooter.

And that of course, was the other option my client had...
...to choose the role of troubleshooter by adopting a problem-solving mindset and owning responsibility for his response to the struggles he was having as a leader in this new and unfamiliar environment.
  • As a troubleshooter, he could choose to view his current environment as having a dual purpose. It wasn't just a place to show up, work, and get things done. It was also his laboratory for personal growth and development - a place to test new ideas, approaches, and strategies for leading without authority and still getting work done through others.
  • He could then lean into the tension he was feeling between his current reality and preferred reality by engaging in trial and error (iterating, tweaking, and evolving) to make incremental progress toward the growth and performance outcomes he desired.
Fortunately, he choose the latter option.

We're complex creatures navigating a complex world with challenges around every corner. When facing those challenges head-on, there will be times when we fall down (or get beaten down). Whichever it is, it doesn't really matter because your choices remain the same. There will be those who make the difficult choice to get back up and persevere while others take the easy route - feeling sorry for themselves and falling comfortably into the victim role.
The next time life gets difficult which role will you assume?
Because I promise...it will...especially if you're driving towards anything of any importance. And remember...the option that will likely serve you well in the long-term may not be the one that is easiest in the short-term.

Keep your eye on the long-game, my friend.
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October 24, 2019
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