A subscriber who has read The Leader’s Digest “for about the 6th or 7th time” (he’s going to know the book better than me!), sent an e-mail asking about the section in the book entitled “Steering the Course” (page 59), where I discuss the three choices of Navigator, Survivor, or Victim. This discussion is always one of the high points during my presentations and workshops. He asks:

“In your experience, when a person chooses to move forward from victim to navigator, do they make a stop at survivor or in most cases is it a case of straight to navigator, so to speak? What sort of time frame has been about the average in your professional experience for a person to make this transition in their life? Also, how do you link the three steps together when trying to get people from the victim mentality to the navigator mentality?”

Navigator, Survivor, or Victims are modes or thought patterns we go through when dealing with difficult changes, adversity, or crisis situations. Generally, these all involve loss of some type – health, money, status, loved ones, relationships, jobs, etc. How we habitually explain those losses to ourselves make up our explanatory style. It’s all too easy to put on our Victim glasses and explain these negative events in ways that make us feel helpless, hopeless, and persecuted. The key is how long and often we use Victim explanations, versus Navigator explanations. In Navigator mode, we are hopeful, optimistic, and opportunistic. We are looking to make the best of a bad situation or even figure out how to capitalize on, or use the loss as catalyst for effective change.

How long it takes us to move from Victim to Navigator mode is extremely variable. It depends upon the size of the loss, our perceived power/control over the situation, and our habitual explanatory style. The first step is awareness of our Victim thinking and the desire to change it. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be riding the Bitter Bus around Pity City from Pity Party to Pity Party for a very long time – possibly the rest of our lives. If we do want to change, it may take a lot of work, help, and time to make a habit out of seeing the possibilities (rather than just the problems) and becoming more optimistic and positive in outlook and approach – acting like a true leader.

Earlier this year I published a longer article on this approach, entitled “Navigating Change and Adversity.”