The work that I do with my leadership coaching clients often focuses on the power of choice. My clients like talking about the concept of choice as they aspire to be more focused in what they choose to do and how they choose to do it. Often, however, in situations where my clients do have a choice, they erroneously believe they have no choice.
There are certainly things you cannot choose. You can’t choose not to get multiple sclerosis or choose to win a million dollars in a lottery. You can’t choose someone to love you. However, if you were to list all of the experiences in your life and weigh each of them equally, you would find over 98% of these experiences resulted from a choice you made. I’m not diminishing the importance of the remaining 2% – I’m merely pointing out the number of choices you can make.
At first, you probably don’t feel that 98% of your activities are the result of a choice. This is because you don’t realize how many choices you make every day. Whether it’s to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock a third time, to brush your teeth before you take a shower, or have one packet of Splenda in your coffee rather than two, by the time you leave your home, you are a choice-making machine.
Victim Mode and the Power of Choice
You make so many choices, you may not even realize that some things that you did today were a choice. Or you may believe that a decision you made today was not up to you. Many of my clients find themselves in a state commonly called “victim mode.” They believe that the outcome to a situation in which they had a voice was not up to them. They believe they “had no choice.” When you are in victim mode, you will say something similar to one of the following, usually in a defensive tone:
- “We had to miss the meeting. We had no choice.”
- “I had to fire Sue. What was I supposed to do?”
- “We don’t have a choice on this. We need to pick Option A and move on.”
When you are in “victim mode,” you abdicate your ability to make a choice. Perhaps you’re abdicating your choice to another person or perhaps you’re just “going along” with someone else’s decision. Maybe you’re protecting your need for status, self-worth, and contribution. Whatever your reason, you believe that you did not have a choice when, in fact, you did have a choice.
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