Years ago, a man came to me for counseling. To begin the first session I asked him why he had come. He told a sad story of how his employer had taken advantage of him and then fired him. As he told the details of the struggle, he became very emotional – flushed face, moist eyes, quivering lips. About ten minutes into the session I asked, “When did this happen?” Recently, I assumed. He answered, “seventeen years ago.”
While I was willing to acknowledge and empathize with the alleged employer abuse, I was shocked that he had allowed this one incident to deeply influence his life. He was blaming others for his derailed life.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey develops this terrific thought: “In between stimulus and response is a space, and in that space we make a choice; while we can’t control the stimulus we can control our response by the choice we make.” The “space” Covey talks about is time. When we are impacted by a stimulus, we have time (space) to think about it, and then we choose how we will react.
Though my client had been mistreated and unfairly terminated (stimulus) he had a choice regarding his response; he chose unwisely.
Some people blame their grandparents for their problems; psychologists call this the “nature issue” – DNA stuff. Some people blame their parents for their problems; psychologists call this the “nurture issue” – family of origin stuff. I understand these influences count, but it is our choices that primarily shape our lives.
Years ago I was puzzled by Jesus’ question to the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?” The question seemed insensitive and unnecessary – after all who doesn’t want to be healed? But it was a good question then and it’s a good question today because some people don’t; they prefer to wallow in their pain and find solace in their self-designated identity: victim.
I’ll conclude with another wise thought from Covey: “Until a person can deeply and honestly say, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday’ that person cannot say ‘I choose otherwise.’”
Take responsibility for your life and make good choices.
What? – Accept responsibility for your life; ultimately, your choices determine who you are and where you are in life.
So what? – If you have a victim mentality it will stymie your growth and potential, and you’ll be difficult to live with.
Now what? – Evaluate your past responses to life-stimuli. Did you respond wisely? Stop blaming others for your misfortunes and start making wise choices.
Leaders – Develop in your organization and among your team members an emphasis on making wise choices and the willingness to accept responsibility for them.
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For a humorous take on this issue, watch this video from the Bob Newhart show.