Victim Thinking

One of the most valuable concepts we teach in Own It! is how to identify and replace “victim thinking.” When we think of a victim, we naturally think of someone who has been hurt or injured by someone or something else. In this sense, the person who is injured appears powerless to avoid harm. They seem to be in a position where they have no control.

Though it’s true that we cannot control many of the circumstances of our lives, one thing will always be up to us: how we react.   

In 2012, Serena Williams was competing in a tennis tournament in Munich, Germany when she stepped on a piece of glass one day when she was having lunch at a local restaurant.  The injury sidelined her for the rest of the year and part of the following season.  When she finally came back, her game was not the same and she suffered a series of terrible defeats.  Many people said she was finished being one of the top players on the circuit.

But Williams persisted; she tried to get her rhythm back, but she just couldn’t get a win.  If Serena Williams thought like a victim, she could have thrown in the towel and blamed everything on that shard of glass.  But putting blame on her circumstances would not change them. 

Instead, she went and saw a new coach who told her lots of things she needed to change and relearn.  Again, Williams could have played the victim and decided she didn’t want to learn new things, that a player of her caliber shouldn’t have to learn new things, and she could refuse to start over.  In other words, she could think like a victim.  But thinking like a victim would never make her a better player.  Serena chose to go to work instead.  She took 100% responsibility for her outcomes, rebuilt her game, and regained the top spot on the circuit.

Many people put themselves in a “victim position” emotionally by how they think.  When we think we have no control or power over how we feel or the results we are getting, then we are at the mercy of the people and the circumstances in our lives.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that you have to wait for other people or situations to change in order to feel better or get different outcomes in your life. 

Own It! teaches youth that they are 100% responsible for how they think and how they feel.  This is the best news they could ever receive, because it also means that they get to control the outcomes of their lives.  They don’t have to wait for anybody or anything else to change.  It’s all up to them. 

Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “For young people growing up in otherwise unfavorable circumstance, values pave the road out of poverty. The tragic truth is that the language of “victimization” is the true victimizer—a great crippler of young minds and spirits. To teach young people that their lives are governed—not by their own actions, but by socioeconomic forces or government budgets or other mysterious and fiendish forces beyond their control—is to teach our children negativism, resignation, passivity and despair.” 

A significant point needs to be added his statement: victim thinking is subtle.  No one does it on purpose.  None of us gets up in the morning with the intention of dodging responsibility or sabotaging our own success.  We are blind to many of our ineffective mental habits.  And most of us, especially our youth, have never been taught that there is any other way to think. 

In three decades of work with people in all sizes of businesses, I have seen time and time again the dramatic changes people make once they learn that victim thinking is only a habit and a choice.  This applies to students as well as adults. 

For young people, on the cusp of adulthood with their futures of unlimited potential ahead of them, becoming aware the symptoms of victim thinking and then learning the tools of a tough-minded owner can make all the difference in the world. 

One high school student who completed the Ownit! mindset training course related his personal breakthrough in these terms: “I learned how to do what twelve years of schooling could only ever skim over: to succeed on my own terms.”

At Grand Key Education, we think there is power in these ideas:

  1. Our FEELINGS are only ever created by our THOUGHTS.  How we feel is not the result of other people’s actions or the circumstances in our lives.  When teens can understand that they are the creators of their internal world, it gives them the power to change it.  For many of them, this is the first time they have ever realized they had a choice in how they feel.
  2. The RESULTS in our lives are determined by us—by the way we THINK, FEEL, and ACT—and not by anybody or anything else.  It’s not luck, it’s not your upbringing, it’s not your access to education, it’s not the government or the school district or your parents or your economic situation.  You are the only factor in the results of your life.  If you don’t like your current outcomes, you get to choose to change them by how you think, feel and act.  Again, for many teens, this is an amazingly powerful realization and opens up a world of possibilities that they did not know existed. 

Fundamentally, we become Tough-Minded Owners by deciding to take 100% responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions; and we become undaunted by difficult circumstances of every variety because we know that we always control all the outcomes in our lives. 

Own It! provides an interactive, online course that teaches and applies these principles in a lasting, impactful way.  There is no other course like it.  Share it with the youth in your life and empower them to create the lives they’ve always wanted—regardless of any of their circumstances.  Everyone deserves to have the opportunity and the tools to be a victor!

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