How to Stop Being a Victim and Own Your Career

I heard the soft shuffle as the man behind me took his place at the counter. The clerk greeted him by name with a smile and he responded in kind. His hair was white and his voice was raspy and tinged with defeat. She asked him about work and I watched as his already sagging shoulders drooped lower and he told her that things had been busy. I watched the exchange as he related that he was simply trying to hold on until he could retire. The clerk commiserated with him as they each expressed gratitude for employment even if there was no joy in the work or job. So palpable was his despair that it seemed to give off its own scent.

My stomach clenched as I listened to two people who had trapped themselves in a prison of misery. It was not the situation that pained me but the reality that each had handed the keys to their happiness to someone else. Sadly, they are not alone.

None of us has any control over the economy, unemployment, health care, politics, energy pricing, the housing market or even our bosses. We spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the uncontrollable rather than putting that energy into the things we can control. If you have 1-2 years left until retirement, and decide to stick it out in a less than perfect job, it is a choice, not something that is forced upon you. You are in control of your decisions and your career. People surrender their freedom to the uncontrollable and life is no longer lived but it happens to you.

Let me be clear, a failure to be in charge of your life makes you a victim. You are allowing yourself to be held hostage, bound by things and people until you are rescued. You are your rescuer, throw off the chains and live in freedom.

Admittedly, life throws us curve balls and things do not always work out our way, but here too we have a choice in how we respond and how we choose to move forward. We can cry and moan and allow bitterness to wrap itself around us like an ace bandage or we can make choices, and decisions that change our circumstances.

The sad old man was not wrong for sticking it out until retirement. He was wrong in not realizing that he was making a choice; a decision that made sense for his life. He chose and there was no need for sadness or anger because the power was in his hands. Instead, he felt trapped and approached his days like a prison sentence.

My heart breaks for those who are bound by this mentality. I have been in situations where others called me a “victim” but I refused the label, I always had a choice and I refused to give anyone but God power over my life.  You always have a choice, even in the face of the laws of the land.

You cannot do anything about the economy but you can make choices in how you respond. You can control your work environment, your choice of career, the direction of your business. Spend time directing the controllable, making choices that will help you attain your goals. Toss out the victim card, and man up, your life is waiting.

Have you ever fallen into the victim trap? What did you do to rebound?

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