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In the Scheme of Life are You a Wallower or a Survivor?

In the Scheme of Life are You a Wallower or a Survivor?

In life there are generally two types of people and their personalities are revealed when they experience a major turmoil, trial, or trauma in life. People either kick into survivalist mode and find the power within to get through and find the best in the situation or they wallow in self pity because of their circumstances. How you react to the major difficulties in life will show your true colors. You will either show yourself to be a survivor or a self pity wallower. Being a wallower will keep you from being successful, as you will have a tendency to think negatively and not pursue your goals because of a self defeating attitude that comes from wallowing in self pity. In order to be a success in life, whether in love, career, parenthood, or whatever path you choose, you need to recognize your self defeating wallowing tendencies, so that you can eliminate them. Wallowing will only hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams.

Definition of a Wallower

A person who wallows in self pity is a person who ruminates on their life circumstances and prevents themselves from moving forward in life because they hold onto these feelings of self pity. They feel that the world has done them wrong, so they get stuck in the rut of self pity, which is wallowing. The self pity can be generated from a variety of different things.

You have probably encountered a “medical problem wallower” at some point in your life. This person has a tendency to talk incessantly about their medical issues, as if they are the only person who has ever had something physically wrong with them in life. They will complain, talk incessantly, and in some cases even show photos on social media of their medical ailments. All in hopes of pity from others. They wallow in their medical problems, rather than embracing the cure or solution to their problem and moving forward.

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Another example of a type of wallower is the “political wallower.” This is the person who seems to be stuck in a never ending political debate loop. Their world seems to revolve around a political dimlema that may or may not even directly affect the individual personally. They are so hung up on this political wallowing that it overshadows their happiness on a regular basis. You have probabably seen this type of person on social media. This person could improve their levels of happiness and success in life by not debating politics on social media and instead go on living life outside of social media (i.e. take a break from Facebook and connect with people face to face without the political jabber). Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into polical wallowing.

These are just two examples of types of wallowers. You probably have encountered many others in life. Just think of a problem and a person that remains fixated on that problem to their detriment and they are most likely a self pity wallower.

The worst kind of wallower is a universal wallower. This simply means a person wallows about generally all areas of their life. They have a “woe is me” attitude that permeates all areas of their life. This type of person will come off to others as being very negative or a “downer.” In reality, when someone is so fixated on wallowing, there may be a deeper issue such as chronic depression. Professional help should be sought when this is the case.

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This list can go on and on of reasons that people wallow in self pity. The predominate factor in self pity wallowing is that the wallowing stems from a problem or dilemma in life. For some it a legitimate tragedy such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. The question to ask yourself is, “Am I wallowing because of something or someone in my life?” If you are, then today is the time to turn things around. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Start being solution focused instead of being problem focused. Tell yourself you can move on and that you don’t need pity from yourself or others. If you feel you are unable to move past the problem on your own then find a support group or seek professional help from a counselor or therapist. You will thank yourself later for making that decision to move forward and end the wallowing.

Definition of a Survivor

Have you ever met someone and thought they are amazing because in spite of all that they have been through in life (such as the death of a spouse, loss of a child, or being the victim of a violent crime) they seem to come out victorious or at least positive at the other end of things? This type of person has a “can-do” and “will-do” attitude that can almost be infectious. They try to see that their troubles were not “all for naught,” but that they served a higher purpose for their life. This type of person is a survivor. They seek to find the best in a situation or at least recognize that their trials and troubles have molded them into a stronger and better person. They don’t ruminate or wallow on their problems; instead they use them to their advantage.

A survivor is the direct opposite of a self pity wallower. A survivor seeks to find solutions and rememdy to a situation when conflict or troubles arise. A survivor’s mentality means that a person does not get stuck in the past along with a tragedy that may have occurred in their life. They process their grief in a healthy manner and then move forward and focus on the present and future, rather than the past.

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A loss of job, the death of the loved one, a medical diagnosis, or a move to another town can trigger the grieving process, among other reasons. Knowing that the grieving process is just that, a process, can help a person recognize the phases of the grief, so that they can move forward afterwards. Here are the stages of the grieving process according to PsychCentral: “The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.” What is important to being identified as a survivor is that you don’t get stuck in any of these phases of grief. You move through these phases in a healthy manner, so that you can be focused on life ahead and not life behind.

There are also some characteristics that can be generalized among survivors which include having an attitude of gratitude in life, focusing on the big picture of life rather than getting hung up on smaller problems, and they handle their life setbacks rather than just complaining about the setbacks. Most importantly, a survivor is a person who tries to find the meaning or purpose in their set backs and trials that they encounter in life. Doing so helps them remain positive and helps them recognize that their struggles help them become better, stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

What Will You Chose to Be?

You can chose whether to be a survivor or a wallower. That choice will be presented to you when you are thrown into difficult life situations such as divorce, death of a family member, loss of a good job, or any other major life tragedy. You need to decide how you will handle those encounters before they hit you, so you can mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to survive rather than wallow in self pity.

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You may be a wallower simply by thinking, “yes, I get what you are saying, but you don’t know what I have personally been through.” I don’t need to know. Anyone can become a survivor regardless of how awful their circumstance or tragedy. Here are numerous great stories and examples of survivors: http://www.howlifeunfolds.com/lettersofpeace#authors.

If others can survive horrific situations and use it to become great people, then you can too. It’s all about making up your mind to be a survivor and not stay in a wallow of self pity. Self pity is not love. Love is telling yourself and others that they can rise above tragedy, loss, and horrible circumstances to become better, stronger, and more resilient.

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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