Every problem leads to one of two choices

Some say life is a struggle. If it is, every problem we face leads us to one of two choices. Either we choose to be victorious or we choose to be a victim. Either we choose to be responsible for the life we create or we shirk our responsibility by blaming others for our failures and unhappiness.

Those who choose to be victorious don’t find life to be a struggle. They find it to be exhilarating. They don’t encounter PROBLEMS; they merely face THINGS THEY WISH TO CHANGE. When they find something blocking their way, they look for a way to get around it or to overcome it. In a word, they look for, and find, solutions. On the other hand, those who choose to be victims are experts at looking for excuses. They almost delight in finding others to blame for their self-inflicted misery. Let’s take a look at two real-life examples.

Carl is in his fifties and claims he wishes to recover from a long string of failures. To this end, he enrolled in a college course to update his skills. One day, when the instructor was writing on the blackboard, he shouted from the back of the room, “Write larger! I can’t read what you’re writing.”

Carl was miffed when the instructor ignored his pleas. A few weeks later, he complained to his classmates, “I’m afraid I’ll have to drop out of this course. I have bad eyes and our teacher writes too small. How can I take notes and learn the material? Our instructor doesn’t seem to care about my ‘disability’.”

“Why don’t you come to class early so you can get a seat in the front of the room?” suggested a classmate. “Because the bus in my area runs only once an hour. If I took the earlier bus, I would arrive much too early.” replied Carl. “Get a pair of glasses.” another classmate advised. “I have a pair,” said Carl, “but they are not very helpful.” Exasperated, another classmate asked, “Well then, why don’t you get a pair of opera glasses?” Carl had an answer for that too: “I can’t afford opera glasses. I can barely afford to pay the bus fare to get here.”

Carl had an answer for every question. Although he could never find solutions for whatever was troubling him, he was proficient in finding excuses for his inaction. He was convinced he had certain ‘disabilities’ that warranted special treatment. The world should conform to his ‘special needs,’ he reasoned.

Kyle Maynard is an entirely different breed. Born with stumps in the place of arms and legs, he believed it was his responsibility to adapt to the world rather than demanding the world change for him. The challenges that Kyle has to face make Carl’s pleas for special treatment embarrassing at best and laughable at worse.

Despite the enormous obstacles facing Kyle, his lack of arms and legs did not prevent him from learning how to write and type. Neither did it prevent him from becoming a defensive lineman on a football team, a university student, and the top wrestler in the state of Georgia. Though still a university student, you can add to his list of accomplishments author, world traveler, and motivational speaker.

No Excuses” is the title of Kyle’s book (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2005), and it points out the difference between him and Carl. Kyle realizes that making excuses holds us back while assuming responsibility moves us forward. He understands that responsibility is empowering, and the more of it we take on, the more we will be, do, and have what we want.

Problems, difficulties, challenges, or whatever we choose to call them, shouldn’t stop our progress. Rather, they should cause us to ask the following three questions. 1. What do I want from life now? 2. What is preventing me from getting what I want? 3. What am I going to do about it?

The answer to the first question introduces purpose, direction, and meaning to our lives, for when we know what we want to be, do, and have, we have goals to achieve, mountains to climb, and a reason for being.

The answer to the second question is the first step in finding a solution. After all, we cannot solve a problem until we admit that we have one.

The answer to the final question comes in the form of steps we can take to defeat our difficulty. It is a road map, an action plan that, as long as we follow it, will take us where we wish to go.

Those who choose to be victims can usually answer the first question because even they know what they want most of the time. However, they blind themselves to the truth when it comes to the second question. For instead of looking for solutions, they doggedly search for excuses. They blame anything or anyone else for their problems. They refuse to get involved in finding a solution because they are, after all, victims. Their answer to the question, “What am I going to do about it?” is “I am going to do nothing. I’m going to stay put. Even though I’m unhappy where I am, I’m not going to change. I prefer to have the world change, and I refuse to do anything until it does.”

If there is something in your life that you wish to change, but are finding it difficult to do so, you may find it helpful to understand the five steps of change.

1. In the first step of making a change, we will feel AMBIVALENT. That is, we will both want to and not want to change at the same time. That is perfectly natural. You see, although we WANT TO improve our lives, we DON’T WANT TO experience the immediate, though temporary, discomfort that usually accompanies making a change. So, when you find yourself hesitant, don’t get discouraged. Rather, understand the cause of your hesitancy, focus on the benefits that change will bring, and force yourself to take the right steps.

2. You begin the second step of change when you answer the third question (What am I going to do about it?). For the second step of change is one of preparation. In this stage you outline the steps you need to take to get you where you want to go.

3. The third step is implementation. That is, you carry out your plan by taking the necessary steps.

4. The fourth step is broadly called maintenance. You check your progress and make corrections when needed. Reworded, you make sure you stay on course and are headed for your target.

5. The fifth step or stage of change isn’t experienced by everyone, but is important to understand. It is the step called relapse. You may suddenly find that, despite your initial progress, you have slipped back to your previous state. Like step one, relapse is a natural event. It is to be expected. Although not everyone experiences it, many people, if not most, do. So when it happens, just pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and say, “I’m not going to get discouraged and give up now! I refuse to choose to be a victim! I choose to be victorious, so I’m getting back to the program of change and regaining control over my life!”