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Don’t Settle for Excuses!

There’s no question that life is difficult, but the way that you respond to those difficulties will determine whether you’re a victim or a resilient survivor. That continuing choice has little to do with what happens to you, and much to do with how you label its impact on your life.

Robert Half once said, “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” True optimists aren’t looking for excuses or searching for people to blame. They’re busy finding ways to bounce back and make the best of any setback that comes their way. Instead of looking back, they’re looking forward.

Micron Technology and its subsidiaries manufacture and market semiconductor devices worldwide. CEO Steve Appleton, has no room for excuses in driving for the results that mean survival for his company: “Maybe it would be a super world if there were no winners and losers. I don’t think there has been any time in human history where that was true. That’s not the way it is. People in other countries want what we’ve got, and they’re going to go after it. Hey, I’m not going to teach my kids that it’s OK to lose. Somebody is going to want their jobs. Somebody is going to want their standard of living. They need to know life isn’t fair. Wake up and get used to it.”

As discussed in The Optimism Advantage, Tom Denners disability taught him an important lesson: “When I grew up, I had physical problems, but my mind worked well. My mother would never let me feel sorry for myself. She just wouldn’t allow that. You’ve got to realize that a situation is only a situation, and you can’t lose perspective. You can’t let outside circumstances control you. I had an advantage, because I grew up with a handicap. So I think I knew that outside circumstances are just circumstances. I realized that I always had to continue with what I still had left—which was life.”

No matter what life deals you, refuse to label yourself a victim! Depending upon what has happened to you, you might find it tempting to label yourself as a “victim.” But allowing yourself to embrace that label can strip you of the will and the positive attitude you need to overcome the adversities you will continue to encounter. Optimists, by definition, refuse to let what happened to them define or limit their lives.

Be a resilient survivor no matter what you face. If you are still alive, you are not a victim; you’re a survivor. The label you claim for yourself has a direct effect upon how you think and act. It also has consequences in terms of how others perceive and respond to you. “Victim” brings with it an image of continued suffering under the weight of a heavy burden from past experiences that cannot be changed. Addressing yourself as a “victim — and having others do the same — produces feelings of helplessness, despondency and sometimes anger. The term “survivor,” however, brings to mind someone who endures, lives through the adversity, persists and bounces back to make progress anyway. To be repeatedly addressed as a strong and resilient survivor by others encourages feelings of pride and personal empowerment. Being a victim is passive; it leaves you feeling powerless, with little faith or hope. Being a survivor is active; it encourages you to regain control of your life and work together with others to rebuild your future. Being a victim creates pity; being a “resilient survivor” invites respect.

So no matter how bad the economy or your life — don’t let people call you a “victim.” Too many seem to treat “victimhood” not as a temporary problem to be overcome, but rather as an identity to be nurtured. Define yourself instead as a “resilient survivor” and live that definition every day. The best way to overcome adversity is to succeed in spite of it. Victim thinking is a seductive trap that leaves you chained to events that can’t be changed. The good news, however, is that you have the key to unlock your own chains – and it starts with claiming a new label: “I’m a resilient survivor who is ready to get on with my life!” If you want to remain a victim, that is your choice. But if you are ready to change, there are many optimists out there ready to help you do so. We are meant to be masters of our own future, not victims of anyone else’s actions or abuse. But to do that, you have to transform your thinking and your habits to embrace earned optimism.

These may be tough times, but you are earning hard-fought victories that will develop your character and your optimism that will last you for the rest of your life. For now, choose optimism and work to keep your American Dream alive.

(–Adapted excerpt from Terry Paulson, PhD, The Optimism Advantage,)

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