There are times when it seems that all forces are against us, regardless of our greatest intent and effort. Like the ancient Greek mythological king Sysyphus, we continue to push our boulder up the hill only to have it roll down again and again. Fortunately, Zeus hasn’t locked us in to our fate quite as interminably.
We get choices Sysyphus didn’t have: we can (a) change the path, (b) change the boulder or (c) leave the hill altogether.
We sometimes say that leaders have to be accountable and have to take control of their situation. While this sounds great, in reality it’s more complicated than that. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are times where circumstances well outside of our influence intervene in our plans. Enough of those circumstances and we start to feel like a victim rather than a victor. And leaders who act as victims aren’t leaders for very long.
“C” stands for “Circumstances.”
Imagine an algebraic formula like this: C+A=R. (Yes, it spells “CAR.” I lived in Detroit for a long time!). “C” stands for “Circumstances.” Circumstances in this case are those things over which you have no control and perhaps very little influence. For most people, the general economy is a circumstance. Weather and natural disaster are circumstances. Your long-term supplier changing their credit terms is a circumstance.
While we may spend enormous amounts of time worrying and complaining about circumstances, the fact is that there is no payback for our energy because we can do nothing about them. Circumstances, in our equation, are a given. We don’t always get to pick.
“R” represents Results, the outcome of the equation. We know, or at least should know, what we want the Results to be, regardless of the circumstances. We can’t always control Results directly…they are the outcomes of other elements. Spending a lot of time defining the desired results can make sense, but “wishing” them to appear is fruitless.
What we need to do is solve for “A.”
In other words, we have Circumstances that are given and Results that are desired which leave us only one part of the equation we can directly impact. These are the “Actions.” Actions are those things that are completely in our control. We can choose to do anything…or to do nothing. While it may seem like Circumstances force us into Action, the fact of the matter is that we decide what we are going to do. And we often make that decision looking at the Circumstances rather than the desired Result.
Starting now, work through your own equation. What are the Circumstances that are important in your case? Consider those as given and move on. What are the Results you are trying to achieve? Consider those as outcomes and keep them in focus. Now, empower yourself to take ownership of the part of the equation that is yours. What Actions will you take, in light of the Circumstances, that will move you at least closer to your desired Results? Victims get stuck in the circumstances, but leaders take action toward results. Taking any kind of action will impact the formula and in so doing move you closer to your goals.