I was recently at a Buddhist meeting where George Nakamura quoted a story from Daisaku Ikeda. In this story, Ikeda asked the audience to imagine their biggest dream or heart’s desire was within reach. However, there was a catch. Separating them from their heart's desire was a big river. To make matters worse, there was no bridge, no boat and the dreamer (you) can’t swim. What do you do?
Many of us believe we can just imagine, or pray that the river dries up or changes course. However, how often does that work? Another option is to give up or complain about the situation. It’s a common practice, but does it ever improve the outcome? Ikeda said the answer was you either learn how to build a bridge, learn how to build a boat or learn how to swim.
In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, there is the story about Chloe, a talented and intelligent physician who stopped short of her goals due to her victim mentality.
A person with this mindset fails to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they blame others for their circumstances. The victim’s list of who to blame is as diverse as the population itself. Common culprits are: race; religion; society; parents; a bad economy; inferior genetics and an unhappy childhood. This mindset is as dangerous as a double-edged sword. The victim not only feels negative about their current situation, they feel powerless to change it. To make matters worse, they also develop an expectation that things will continue to go wrong. You often hear them whine, “bad things always happen to me.” With this expectation of failure and defeat, they actually draw more negative influences into their lives. Coupled with their passive mindset that “nothing will ever change,” they become hapless bystanders in their own lives. It’s as if their life is a car and they hand over the keys for someone else to drive it.
A significant factor in overcoming a victim mentality is to take responsibility for your actions and circumstances. While it may seem difficult at first, in time it is actually empowering. In one mindset you are at the mercy of others. When you take responsibility for your thoughts, actions and environment, you possess the power to change things for the better. While you cannot control all of your circumstances, you can, control your reaction.
Here are a few tips on how to overcome this debilitating mindset:
•Don’t blame others for your problems.
Lose the victim mentality and take responsibility for your life – bumps and all. Life is not something that is handed to you, it is something you create. Adopt a proactive approach that shifts from “What can I get?” to “What can I contribute?” Next time you find yourself wanting to point a blaming finger at someone else, take note of your hand. While your finger and thumb may be pointing at someone else, three fingers are pointed right back at you!
•Align yourself with people, situations or organizations that can help put you on a successful path.
Ask yourself, “What am I focusing on?” If it’s not positive, redirect your thoughts.
Focusing on negative thoughts and situations is like counting your neighbor’s money. Sure, you can do it (if they allow it) but what good will come of it? It’s not going to increase your bank account one bit, no matter how much time you put into it.
•Take responsibility and find ways to succeed.
If people put more energy into solving problems instead of whining about them, all of our lives would be easier. When Thomas Alva Edison was experimenting with the correct filament for his light bulb, he was unsuccessful more than 1,000 times. Rather than becoming discouraged he is quoted as saying, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a light bulb”. What an enlightened concept!
Victims are often shackled by their inability, or unwillingness, to forgive others or themselves. Harboring resentments, even those that seem justified, do not help the situation. In fact, it makes it worse. Corrie Ten Boom said, "Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me.” We cannot change the past. Forgive others, or yourself, and move on. Your heart will be lighter and you will be able to pursue happier endeavors.
Remember you can learn how to take the necessary actions to build your happiness, or simply let it crumble away. Either way, the choice is yours.