I can still remember the scene. It was many years ago and my dad asked me how things were going at work. I started my list of complaints. “It’s hard to juggle so much.” “The office politics are terrible.” “I’m totally burned out.” “My long commute is killing me.” And on and on.
I was hoping for a little sympathy. Instead, dad gave me a disgusted look and basically said, “Why are you playing the victim? Take charge of your life, for crying out loud. Organize yourself so that you’re not so busy. If you don’t like your long commute, then move.” He then walked away.
I was taken aback. Yet it was exactly what I needed to hear. I was playing the victim. I was blaming other people and outside influences for how I was feeling. Surprisingly, his words made me feel empowered. Yes, I was free to choose my attitude, my level of busyness, my commute, and my response to everything that was happening to me. That small conversation was a big wake-up call and it helped me realize that I needed to make some big changes. Even reinvent myself.
In fact, I find that I have to reinvent myself again and again. If not, entropy takes over. It is so easy to get in a rut, get lazy, and become a victim. I’ve never been a school teacher or administrator, but I interact with a lot of them. And so often I hear that they are burned out, tired, or overwhelmed. Some are disillusioned with the behavior of children, or the lack of parent engagement, or the general direction of education. Others lack the enthusiasm they once had when they first started. Truly, life has a way of beating us down and unless we continually sharpen our saw and, from time to time, strive to reinvent ourselves, it is easy to become a victim of outside influences.
I recently heard the most inspiring speech from a student at Utah Valley University named Raechel. She spoke about the challenges she faced as a college student, including her parents’ divorce, her brother’s death from overdose, and more. This short speech (at the end of this article) is so good that I wanted to share it with you. Please take a few minutes to listen to it.
After hearing about Raechel’s problems, my problems suddenly seemed small. I was amazed by her ability to rise above becoming a victim or feeling sorry for herself to create a great life. It was another wake-up call and it inspired me to make some important changes in my life, including becoming a better husband and father and rethinking my definition of success.
As we have recently begun the New Year, I encourage you to reinvent yourself, to take charge of your conditions, and to make the changes in your life you’ve always wanted to make—whether it be repairing a broken relationship, getting in shape, or becoming a better educator. Yes, change can be hard. But I believe you and I have the ability to change and get better. The 7 Habits provide a great model for doing that. It starts with being proactive and using the 4 Unique Human Gifts of self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will. And, once we have our own act together to some degree and win a Private Victory, we then have the foundation to work well with others and win a Public Victory. It’s inside out.
I wish you my best on making 2019 your best year ever.
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