Recently, I wrote the following in a follow-up email to a coaching client who, six months prior, had taken on a new role with a new employer:
"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."
In my follow-up email, I went on to say, "You have two options. You can assume the victim role and choose to feel sorry for yourself while making excuses and blaming others for your struggles. Or, you can put on your big boy pants, assume the role of problem-solver, and take full responsibility for what is within your control which is, of course, your response to this difficult transition. The choice is yours."
I had to follow up and say this because in our earlier conversation, my client had already started down the path of playing the victim.
Assume The Role of Victim
This option can be tempting because it is an easy way to let yourself off the hook. But let's get real. Rarely are we a pure victim of circumstance. In most situations, we have some level of ownership in what's happening to us. And even in those rare instances when we truly are a victim of something we had no control over, 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 in the game of life, but because they refuse to live life as victims, they take ownership of what they can control and choose to persevere. In other words, they view their situation as a challenge they must overcome and adopt a problem-solving mentality.
And that, of course, was the second option – assume the role of PROBLEM-SOLVER.
With a problem-solving mindset, I encouraged him to view his current situation as having a dual purpose. His new workplace is more than just a place to show up, work, and get results. It is also a laboratory for personal growth and development – a place to test new ideas, practice new approaches and employ different strategies for leading without authority while still getting work done through others.
I'm thrilled to report he chose this option. He decided to lean into the tension he was feeling and engage in trial and error (iterating, tweaking, and evolving) to make incremental progress each day toward becoming an effective leader in his new environment.
Pulling It All Together
We're complex creatures navigating a complex world with challenges around every corner.
When facing those challenges head-on, we will sometimes stumble and fall because of mistakes we've made or the actions of others. No matter the circumstance, our choices remain the same – assume the role of victim or problem-solver. Some will choose to get back up and persevere, while others take the easy route of feeling sorry for themselves and falling comfortably into the victim role.
The next time life gets complicated (because I promise it will, especially if you're working toward anything important), which role will you assume?
Lastly, I encourage you to keep this in mind. The option that will likely serve you well in the long run may not be the easiest one in the short term. And perhaps short-term pain is exactly what you need to enjoy long-term gain? Ponder that, my friend, and keep your eye on the long game.