A video from this past winter of Gary Vee’s got me thinking. The world is full of victims. And really, much of the direction of the country as a whole is going because of how many people in their lives that they are a victim – more to the point – a victim of their circumstance. Here’s that video:
Just this past weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with a friend of mine from the Muncie area. As we were talking, he made it clear that he felt that his place in life made it hard for him to progress in life. Having a disability from a past job and not feeling like he could be retrained to do something else due to his age, he seemed adrift in his career. Just bobbing up and down in the sea of life and letting whatever currents that be take him with them.
I asked him, “if you had an ideal life, what would it look like?”. He said “You know, I haven’t really thought about that because it seems like it would be too far out of reach.”
I then asked him, “How do you think that the Olympic athletes are there doing their thing? Do you think they thought that being there was out of reach?”
His response was, “No. But they had people that helped them get there. They knew the right people.”
“Interesting.”, I replied. The conversation continued after that for a bit… but I could tell that I got his mind spinning a bit.
Formal Education Can be a Waste of Time
Now, if you’re not familiar with the Muncie, Indiana area – it used to be full of manufacturing jobs. However, since those jobs have all but left the country, there are many people who are still displaced and trying to figure out what to do with their lives. (A bi-product of this loss of jobs has been the rise of drug use in the area – including, but not limited to, meth.)
When I worked at Ivy Tech for a few years, my students were mainly a mixture of kids just out of high school and these displaced individuals. I’m glad that they were there. Whether they were there because they got some money from the state to be there (school loans that might later hurt them) or they actually realized that education IS a way to move forward. I loved these adult learners – but I hated that I wasn’t getting the opportunity to teach them important things that would help them actually move forward in their lives.
Seriously. How is Algebra going to help them? They need a whole reworking of how they see the world. Not the knowledge of how to find the equation of a line drawn on a grid!
Even when I first went to college, I was hoping that it would teach me skills that I would actually be able to apply to having a successful life. Instead all I was taught was code, equations, and facts. While it applied to me getting a job, it never applied to real life.
When I graduated, I pretty much had the same perspective on life that I did when I entered. I just had a higher vocabulary. (Which, funny enough, ostracized me from everyday folks outside out of academia. Later, when I did start teaching at Ivy Tech, I had to become more relatable and adjust my speaking patterns again.)
I can attribute my new perspective on the world as starting during my active years in LTD. That was the first time in my life that I had positive and successful people around me. I learned from them how to start learning how to live a better life myself. And the biggest thing that I learned was that I needed to adjust my own victim perspective. (Soon, with the passing of my mom, I also realized that the mindset of a victim can actually kill. She had several things wearing on her at the time and anytime I hear people stuck in life with little options, I really feel their pain. It usually brings me back to what she was going through.)
7 Steps to Retaking Control of Your Life
So, how did having these people in LTD specifically help me get out of having a victim mindset? Well, you’re in luck. I’m going to share you a list of steps that I can look back on and see what I did to start getting to point where I am today.
Become aware and realize when you’re playing the victim card.
Like any other “normal” behavior, blaming others for your misfortunes can become a habit and even an addiction. Like any other addiction, we need to be able to admit that we need to make a change in our own life before we can actually do it.
Realize why you actually do it.
- You might want attention and validation. You can always get good feelings from other people as they are concerned about you and try to help you out. On the other hand, it may not last for that long as people get tired of it.
- You don’t have to take risks. When you feel like a victim you tend to not take action and then you don’t have to risk for example rejection or failure.
- You don’t have to take the sometimes heavy responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own life can be hard work, you have to make difficult decisions and it is just heavy sometimes. In the short term it can feel like the easier choice to not take personal responsibility.
- It makes you feel right. When you feel like the victim and like everyone else – or just someone else – is wrong and you are right then that can lead to pleasurable feelings.
- As with any other bad habit (or addiction), being aware of what you’re actually doing is will give you the ability to start thinking about those actions rationally. It’s when you’re aware of your actual choice that you can start thinking about taking different actions.
It’s Ok to Not Be a Victim
Anytime we think about doing something different in our life, we always wonder what others in our life are going to think. If you’re a gamer, you’re going to wonder what your gaming buddies are going to think. If you’re an alcoholic, you’re going to wonder what your buddies at the bar are going to think. The list goes on.
Also realize that you’re going to struggle with it yourself. You may have spent hours each week with thinking and talking about how wrong things have gone for you in life. Or how people have wronged you and how you could get some revenge or triumph over them. This whole new thinking process is going to be new to you. It’s going to be tough, but in the end it’ll be worth it to be free.
Now you have to fill your life with new thinking that may feel uncomfortable because it is not so intimately familiar as the victim thinking you have been engaging in for years.
Take Responsibility for your Life.
Stop waiting on other people’s approval to live your life. As much as you might think growing up, you’re not your parents, and they’re not you.
Growing up, if we’ve had good parents, they’ve programmed into us that we’re capable of doing anything with our lives. However, over time we might start feeling that we’re not living to their standards. (I know that’s something that I’ve struggled with in the past.)
From this, we start developing self-esteem issues. We start believing that we’re totally capable of living a good life, but for whatever reason, it’s not happening.
We might lash out on other people, we might drown ourselves in other types of addictions to avoid the pain that we’re feeling.
This damages other vital parts of our lives: relationships, ambitions, and other achievements. Obviously, this isn’t a good thing.
Until we take take responsibility for our own lives, this pain of ours continues. If anything goes wrong in life, take responsibility for it – unless your life is literally threatened then you should probably blame the other guy. 😉
(Side note: Also forget what other people say if you’re having issues there. You don’t need to be part of a group that disrepects you as a person.)
Have Gratitude for What you do Have.
I can almost guarantee you that you’re probably upset about where you’re at in life – with something. You might have thought that you were going to be farther in life than you currently are. Maybe you thought you’d be married by now. Maybe you want to have kids and you don’t yet. Maybe you actually have a successful business now, but you don’t own the Jets yet (looking at you, Gary. 😉 )
The truth is that there’s a thing called “The Missing Tile Syndrome”. We all have it and need to deal with it regularly. The best way to deal with it is to appreciate that all the other tiles in our lives are in place. That maybe we have a loving family and that we have a good job to pay the rent or mortgage. Or that we can travel anywhere in the world that we want to at any time.
Having a journal can help immensely with this step.
Forgive Those who Trespass Against You.
At this point, you’re starting to realize that you’re not perfect. That’s great! But you also have to give others the benefit of the doubt too. The truth of the matter is that no one has time to worry about your life more than they worry about their own. So they’re going to piss you off from time to time because they’re just trying to do their thing.
Forgive those that cut you off in traffic. They might be having a really bad day. Forgive those that cut in line at the fair or Disney World – they might actually have a VIP pass. (Is that an actual thing?)
The point being is that you bring on this negative energy onto yourself when you have these feelings. You want positive energy and forgiving does that. Start thinking about other people’s perspective when they seemingly are picking on you. (Unless again if your life is ACTUALLY threatened… then you might want to go into self preservation mode.)
Turn your focus outward and help someone out.
There’s a saying, “People don’t care about what you know until they know that you care”. But the problem is that people really don’t know who you are (because why would you have ever shown them the real you?) or they don’t know you’re trying to make a change to be a better person.
Action speak more than words. So if you’re true intent is to ultimately feel that you’re not a victim, there’s nothing more that will show this than actually being of service to other people.
Really, when you’re known as being a server and later a servant leader, that’s when you really know you’re no longer a victim – you’re a victor.
Sometimes You’ll Need to Give Yourself a Break.
Sometimes you’re going to have relapses in your feelings about yourself and your new decisions. It’s part of what makes us human. In entrepreneurship, it’s called the entrepreneur emotion rollercoaster.
Sometimes you’re going to love what you do. Sometimes you’re going to wonder if it’s worth your trouble.
When I’m on the bottom of this rollercoaster, I’ll remind myself that I’ve done the work to come to this point and realize that this is who I am and no one can take that from me.
In your instance, you might simply need to realize that it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being happy. Sometimes other people are going to crap on you on rainy days. Just remember that they’ll get theirs and there’s nothing you should do to speed that process up because you’ll look bad in the process (again, unless it’s about actually surviving… then take them out or escape. We don’t want anyone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome).
Below, I’d love to hear from you! Let me know how these work out for you if you get a chance to use them in your life too. Or maybe you’ve gone through a similar process? Let me know if I left anything out!