Get up or hit snooze? Coffee or tea? Elevator or stairs?
We make hundreds of choices before we even sit down at our desks in the morning. They are so rapid-fire and subconscious, the choice is barely noticeable — only the outcome seems to matter.
I don’t know about you – but there was a time when I enjoyed the illusion of control, yet I was quick to throw it away when it suited me to do so. I remember many years walking into work – already tired. Burnt out. So over the day that I couldn’t muster up the strength to be more than mediocre. I would walk around saying “I’m tired,” or “Is it happy hour yet?” or “This is surely the best I will ever have in my work life.” I would set myself up for failure (another choice, whether we recognize it or not) by disassociating with pleasure, with challenge, or excitement. I’m ashamed to admit it… but I would fetishize unhappiness because it seemed easier, more relatable. Less hassle, less trouble, less work.
It’s damn easy to blame our circumstances, rather than ourselves. “I can’t change this.” Or even better… we walk away (I know this one well): “Fuck it.” Then we romanticize the other — a new city, a new job, a new boss, a new title, a new office space, a new life. That grass on the other side? Greener for sure!
Because if it isn’t… where does that leave us?
Don’t get me wrong – every now and again, we try to shift. We listen to TED Talks and rousing speeches for small moments of clarity or inspiration. We feel pumped — ready and willing to change. But internally nothing has shifted. We are still the “victim” in our heads. And so the cycle continues.
Any of this sound familiar?
Now for the good news. Companies — startup and mature — are challenging the victim mindset. From leaders to newest hires, they are tasking everyone to engage in deeper reflection and push past the “default” setting of apathy and disconnection.
The biggest enemy today’s companies face? Employees who feel unfulfilled, unrecognized, and underutilized.
Smart companies know to combat this enemy by investing in coaching programs and mentorship opportunities, enjoying a 25% higher retention rate for their best talent, with a staggering ROI of 7x their initial investment for their efforts.
But how are they creating this shift from “blah” to “hell yeah”?
By recognizing that cynicism is a choice. A powerful choice that can make or break the best people, talent, and companies. We know from research (and buckets of firsthand experience) that coaching and mentoring combat that choice by promoting learning, excitement, and stimulation to employees at all levels of an organization. It attacks the “victim” threshold by rewiring the brain at the basic level.
As the notable neurosurgeon James R. Doty has said about ‘re-wiring the brain’: It’s like, suddenly, you realize that you have been wearing glasses that have been fogged up. And you take them off and there’s a vibrancy, the colors are different. The interaction is different. And that’s what being present offers you.”
No, this isn’t the matrix. It doesn’t require brainwashing or “drinking the Kool-Aid.” It’s simply transforming the way employees see the world around them. Not only at work — but in all instances, interactions, and events in their lives. It’s presence.
Studies have shown that nearly 80% of our time is spent focused not on the present, but on regret about the past or anxiety about the future. We’re actually borrowing trouble – which seriously limits our possibility. We only have so much brainpower or space to devote to each day — and we’re hardly giving it 20%. Not ideal.
Perhaps what’s so scary about this line of thought is rather than imagining ourselves battered and blown about by circumstance, we realize we have autonomy; we can exert a measure of control over our days.
And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the way you CHOOSE to view it) with this autonomy comes responsibility. No more blaming the job or the boss or the place. It’s us — we’re choosing to live and work this way:
We have exactly the life we’ve chosen to create.
The employee of the future asks themselves, “What’s possible in this challenge?” rather than “How did I get here?” “Why is this happening to me?” or “I’m just here for now until something better comes along.”
It won’t be easy. Our victim will be confronted and scared — fighting like hell to stay in control. Our victim assures us that we’re safe if it’s everyone else’s fault — if we aren’t responsible. It gives us space to kick back, wallow in our suffering, and point fingers.
Those days are coming to an end. No more wasting 80% of your attention, resources, power, creativity, and drive worrying about what has come before and what will come next.
Instead, the idea of being a warrior for your life (because that’s exactly what responsibility calls forth in us) becomes empowering. And fully owning what shows up becomes the place to play: good, bad, perfection, mess, fun, boredom, fear, and love.
Don’t get me wrong… it takes extraordinary courage to be responsible for your life and work. Along with small incremental shifts: Forgoing the snooze button. Choosing to take the stairs. Stepping up. Putting in the effort. Deciding that whatever life and work you want to do in this world is yours to choose — and then doing the hard work to create what you want.
Victim, cynicism, and suffering are choices. So are badass, optimism and empowerment.
What do you choose?
Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Survey on Coaching, 2011 & Deloitte Research Brief, 2012