I’ve always feared mediocrity more than failure. I have never wanted to be average; never wanted to be regular; and never wanted to be powerless. But at the age of 22, I began to wonder if I’d have to accept that this is exactly what I would become because I was surely feeling despair. At that young age, I read somewhere that 70% of people would never achieve their potential in life. Though I don’t remember where I saw it, I’ve never forgotten that statistic. That message got – and still has – my full attention.
I was scared as hell.
Like so many of you, I started behind in life without access to resources, influence, money or power. I didn’t have an “in” anywhere, and I knew I would have to fight (really scrap), grind and push my way through the line. I was frustrated, and I was scared as hell that the 70% statistic would end up describing me one day.
I just couldn’t let it go. All I could think of was what could cause seven out of ten people to fail to realize their potential. What is happening in life that this statistic could be true? And if it was true, I knew that it was really bad for me because – at that time – I was already starting to feel that everything (life itself) was stacked against me. At that young age, with my whole life in front of me, I was starting to feel completely powerless to change my circumstances. I was starting to feel that I had no choice but to accept my place in life, even if it felt like a substandard place.
That was a sad moment for me, and even now – after all these years – I still find it to be the saddest thing in the world for anyone to believe. Telling yourself that you don’t have a choice and that you are powerless to change your circumstances is the saddest thing in the world. Actually believing it is even worse.
The saddest thing in the world that people tell themselves.
Whether they say it to justify mediocrity or use it to excuse staying in a job or career that they hate, it is the saddest thing people tell themselves.
I don’t have a choice, and I am powerless to change my circumstances.
This is sad because the more you internalize the message, the more helpless you truly become. The message creates such a defeatist attitude. When people spend years believing this, they might start to display a victim mindset whereby they feel truly powerless to change practically anything, including their jobs and careers.
There are people all around you who show that they really don’t believe they have choices. Many people actually believe they are completely powerless, and they announce it in so many different ways. All you have to do is listen to the messages they put out into the world to know that they are struggling and may have already fallen into that 70% category. Statements like these are dead giveaways.
Statements that show a defeatist attitude and victim mindset.
What do you think when you hear people speak like this? Do you speak like this?
- Look, you just don’t understand; my boss is horrible. How am I supposed to make a difference in here with a culture like this?
- How can I be expected to perform better when my boss is always on my case, and you know I don’t have any resources?
- I am not even growing at this company so why should I bring my “A” game when no one even cares. I could do better, but they don’t ever give me a chance to shine.
- If I had (better connections, supportive friends, more money, more education, a better staff, a better spouse, etc.), I’d be able to do more in life and achieve my goals.
- I didn’t have the chance to (work on that project, apply for that job, get that degree, fill this space with any number of things), but if I had the chance, things would have turned out differently for me.
- You know I hate my job, but I didn’t have a choice; no one else was hiring, and, of course, quitting my job is not an option.
- Some people just have all the luck. It’s not fair that nothing good ever comes my way.
- I have dreams that are important to me, and I am going to get on them next year (this is the eighth year he has said that).
- It must be nice to have family with money and connections; it must be nice to have the option to go after what you want. Some people just have all the luck.
- Sandra tried it, and she failed. If she couldn’t do it, I know I can’t so why should I even try?
What do these ten statements have in common? They all display a sense of powerlessness about being able to change anything. They display a victim mindset, and it’s abundantly clear that the people saying them really believe that someone else must be responsible for the pain or problems in their lives. And since someone else is responsible for creating the problems, someone else must be responsible to solve them.
You have choices, and you have the power to change your circumstances.
When I hear powerless language, I just want to grab people up and remind them that they do indeed have choices, and they have the power to change their circumstances. Something inside of me wants them to know they are the person they have been waiting for. Something in me wants to yell to the mountaintops “own your power.” I remember what it felt like when I thought I might not have choices. I remember how powerless it felt to think my circumstances would always be dire. I remember, and I will never forget.
If you’ve ever been there and had to make difficult choices, it’s time you help others. If you understand the challenge to change a mindset, share your story with others. If you own your power to change your circumstances and shape your career, help another person understand that he can too. If you can relate to what I’ve shared here, let it compel you to help others realize their potential.
Look around you. What can you tell colleagues when you see they feel powerless? How can you inspire others to own the power they have and create a better life and build a better career?
Take steps to change your thinking and become a high performer.
Organizations recruit and promote high performers who contribute to organizational success. In order to change your mindset and achieve higher levels of performance, I recommend you take these action steps, or use them to help others that you know are struggling.
- Show up in your life and accomplish something, anything. Accomplishment leads to more accomplishment and success leads to more success.
- Put one foot in front of the other. The hardest part many times is just starting and ignoring that thought in your head that says “this is too hard” or “I can’t do it.”
- Reflect on what outcomes you want to achieve, and set some corresponding intermediate goals. Change your behavior to achieve your goals, and celebrate after each accomplishment.
- Create a personal and professional mission statement and direct all your energies to realizing that mission. When choices/decisions are not in alignment, course correct immediately.
- Be aware of language and word choice and work to remove/eliminate negative and victim language/words from your vocabulary.
- Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who regularly overcome obstacles and accomplish goals.
- Challenge yourself to move outside your comfort zone. Growth lies in challenge. You should rest in your comfort zone but strive to live outside of it.
- Luck is about preparation meeting opportunity so be ever diligent in your preparation efforts. Commit to life-long learning and professional development, and seize the opportunities when they come. Heck – even better, go forth and create some!
- Be disciplined, be consistent and stay focused. Goal achievement is what the most disciplined, consistent and focused people experience. High achievers are not led around by their feelings. Instead, they are led by their decisions and apply a discipline that holds themselves accountable to those decisions –even when they are not in the “mood” or just don’t “feel” like doing it.
- Read, sing and dance when you feel like it and – especially – when you don’t. You can only pull it out if you have already put it in so spend time putting in inspiring, uplifting and validating information.
What compels you?
A core theme – mantra really – of my personal and professional life is “own your power.” I live it, talk about it, write about it and teach on it. I have incorporated this message throughout the consulting, training and coaching work I do. The fear of failing compelled me. The fear of mediocrity compelled me. That 70% statistic compelled me.
What compels you on your journey? What drives and motivates you to own your power to take charge of your life and shape your career, indeed your destiny?