Join Fred Kofman for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the player mentality, part of Powerless to Powerful: Taking Control.
- It's easy to see the victim's story in very dramatic situations, like the one John was describing, or perhaps the one of one of my greatest heros, Viktor Frankl, who was an inmate in Auschwitz. He wrote a book called Man in Search of Meaning about how he discovered this notion of responsibility while he was in the most dire circumstances imaginable. Now that calls our attention, but it doesn't have to be so dramatic. It could be something as simple as a colleague not responding a phone call, and us feeling victimized.
How could he not respond? Or one of our children not doing their homework. Oh, she should do the homework. Or our partner not doing their chores. Say oh, she says she was going to wash the dishes and she didn't. Or he was going to take the trash out and he never took-- Or he always gets late and never calls me before. There are so many things at home, at work, with friends. I mean, anything that bothers us. Anything that bothers us. It's an occasion in which this choice is possible.
Will we stop with the story of the victim, feeling out of control and at the mercy of external circumstances or other people? Or are we going to see that as the context? That's the way it is. Just like gravity. You know, why do things fall? Well the things fall for gravity, but not only from gravity. Just like when I ask my kids, why did this vase break? It's all gravity. It fell because of gravity. That's their story. They're not telling me that before gravity took over, they hit the vase with a soccer ball.
That's not the part of the story they want to focus on. So it is true that gravity's there. It is true that, as John said, some really bad people out there and can target us, can do bad things. It's also true that people don't respond to phone calls, or they just don't want to connect with us, or they'll do things that we find hurtful. That is just the nature of things. We are not in control of everything that happens in life. But then in each one of these occasions, we have a moment of choice. We have the moment where we can stop seeing only the part of the story that pertains to external circumstances, and we can add to the picture.
We don't exclude that, that's there, it's true. Gravity exists, it rains, there's traffic, things like that. But we add the part of the story that's within our control. I started saying, "Yes, the meeting ran over but I chose to stay." I was afraid to stand up and say, I'm sorry, I have another meeting and I am going to leave. I did not want to say that to not upset the meeting manager. But the price of not saying that was that I was late to the other meeting. Is that a price I want to pay or not want to pay? I'm not suggesting you always leave the meetings.
I'm saying you have a choice. And if you choose to stay, you stay. And if you choose to leave, you stand up and you leave. But you see yourself in the driver's seat. That is the shift from being a victim to being a player. I call this being a player because you're "in" the game. As a victim, you are watching the game from the outside. When I was a child, I go to watch soccer with my dad in Argentina. And people were like euphoric and excited. Oh we won, we won, we won. Goal, we score, everybody hugging themselves there at the stadium.
And then some bad days it was, they lost. We didn't lose, they lost. It's the players that lost. So in a sense, we all want to be players when things go well, but we don't want to be the player when we lose. It's they lost, somebody else lost. And I see that pattern all the time. I'm suggesting to change that. It's absolutely the opposite. When you win, okay it's fine, celebrate everything. But it is exactly when you lose that it's most important to say, how did I participate in the loss? What did I do to bring this loss about? How did I contribute? Because by making myself a part of the problem, I can make myself a part of the solution.
By realizing how my behavior influenced an undesirable outcome, I can say okay, I'll change my behavior so I can create a different outcome, but I have to see the link first between the behavior and the outcome. If I cut those two and say I have nothing to do with this, well I can't have anything to do with changing this either. And that's why the player is "in" the game, and that's what Viktor Frankl also found out. He was stuck in a concentration camp and he couldn't get out.
But he realized that the lost freedom, the ultimate dignity of a human being, does not depend of where he is. It depends of where he or she puts him or herself. So this spiritual commitment to choose my response to difficulties, is what creates pride, is what creates peace of mind. And that doesn't necessarily create success. Well, it can contribute to success, and in the case of Viktor Frankl, he survived. But he says, the best of us did not come back.
Because many people who acted with full integrity and took the player position, they still were killed. There's no promise that the world is going to work out and things are going to go your way. What the promise is, is that by making this choice of being in the game, you can play fairly, you can distinguish yourself, you can choose your behavior towards success, but also with unconditional integrity. So you display your values, no matter what.