Get a Life!

Be a hero, not a victim

A new book encourages employees to respond to adversity with creativity, not self-pity

“Be the hero you want to be.” An Army recruiting poster? A new reality TV show? No, it’s an approach to changing the way you look at problems with your boss or employees.

In his new book, “Be the Hero,” executive coach and author Noah Blumenthal describes how employees who focus on their own pain and feel victimized by it blame others for their problems. He tells the fictional story of an employee having problems at home and difficulties with a boss to provide examples of how to change your perspective.

What we tell ourselves about ourselves, the people we work with and the events that occur make us either victims or heroes. But our attitudes toward people are more often based on the stories we tell ourselves than on what those people actually did.

If we blame others and paint them as angry or inconsiderate people when we tell our stories about them, we see others as villains and ourselves as victims. Blumenthal’s point is that changing from being a victim to a hero requires changing the stories we tell ourselves. In short, it requires looking at people and situations differently.

“When things go against you, that is your greatest opportunity to act like a hero and shine,” Blumenthal wrote. Heroes act in ways that improve their situations and those of the people around them, especially in the face of significant challenges.

The book’s main character is Jeff, an employee who feels his boss is too critical of him. However, a friend prods him to look beyond his own pain and consider what might be happening in the boss’s life. He tries to get Jeff to come up with stories about the boss’s pain to engender more empathy for her situation. For Jeff, shifting his frame of mind includes considering whether he might be the source of his boss’s pain.

When you feel empathy or care about someone, you are more willing to listen and help. Those are qualities that lead to success.

“To be a hero means resetting our thoughts and behaviors towards others, towards our situations and towards ourselves,” Blumenthal wrote.

One way to recalibrate is to think and act as heroes do. Although victims feel trapped and unable to change themselves or the world around them, heroes come up with ideas and take action.

When things go wrong at work or in our personal lives, we tend to focus on those negative events. We take for granted, overlook or ignore what is going well. However, when we begin looking on the brighter side, we can feel some gratitude. For heroes, positive feelings can lead to successful actions.

The Web site www.be-the-hero.com/hero.html includes a quiz to help you determine whether you think like a victim or a hero. It also offers ideas for managers and tips for employees.

So when you’re facing challenges, try asking yourself: “What would a hero do?”

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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