A Coaching Power Tool Created by Hayley Summers
(Life Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
Are you getting what you want or taking what you get?
Taking what you get
‘Taking what you get’ is a passive response to your life and the world around you. It is believing that you have no control over the events in your life and that what you get is decided by external circumstance and other people.
With the external ‘take what you get’ focus, when you are successful you usually attribute it to luck or other people. When you fail you look for somewhere to place the blame.
When you ‘take what you get’ you give up your power. You believe that all the power in your life lies outside of you. This disempowering position can lead to despair, lack of motivation and a defeatist attitude.
The advantage of ‘taking what you get’ is you don’t have to take responsibility when things go wrong or for any of your failures. In a ‘take what you get’ mindset you associate responsibility with burden, with taking the blame when things go wrong. You think it is uncomfortable, you would have to admit when you get things wrong or when your choices put yourself or others in an undesirable situation. Responsibility may mean making difficult decisions.
When you decide to ‘take what you get’ you give yourself permission to blame someone else or external circumstances. Your partner, your boss, your mum, your friend, your kids, the bank cashier, the babysitter, the weather, the bus. Blame frees you from responsibility.
But there’s a catch…
When we blame someone or something else we give up control. If we don’t take, at least some, responsibility for a situation we are completely powerless to do anything about it. And we all know powerless is not fun. Powerless makes us a victim, it makes us feel frustrated, resentful, not motivated and pessimistic…and it makes us stuck.
I played Ultimate Frisbee at university, and after a few years out I decided I would try to restart my frisbee career. After just one set of trials I injured my back and was unable to attend the following trials, this was the end of my (very brief) frisbee season.
Cue blame. Typical, stuff like this always happens to me, how could I have known this would happen, what am I supposed to do now?
Cue frustration, anger, resentment, pessimism. Cue being a victim.
Getting want you want
The opposite of ‘taking what you get’ is ‘getting what you want’, it’s a pro-active response to your life and surroundings. It is believing that you have control over your life and that what you get is dependent on what you decide you want.
With the internal ‘get what you want’ focus, when you are successful you attribute it to action on your part. When you fail you take responsibility.
When you ‘get what you want’ you believe that the control over your life lies within you. This is an empowering position to be in. You feel like you are able to change your situation.
In my Ultimate Frisbee example I started out by blaming external circumstance for what had happened and I was completely powerless. But then I thought about how I could be responsible for the situation. I realised that my injury was probably, at least in part, due to not being fit enough. So why wasn’t I fit enough? A few months previously I had made the conscious decision to train less as I wanted to spend more time on other areas of my life. So I started looking at these other areas – my business, coaching, writing and relationships – they had all seen extra progress because I had spent less time training. And that’s when it dawned on me. I was not a victim of circumstance. I made the decisions that led me to that situation. I am in control of my life. With this realisation, the frustration, anger and resentment passed. Sure, not being able to play frisbee this year was disappointing, but the trade off is one that I chose. Now that I have accepted responsibility for the situation I can do something about it, I can train more if I want to.
Start by just noticing where you taking a ‘take what you get’ attitude, where are you trying to shift responsibility? These might be areas of your life where you are feeling frustrated or disempowered.
Notice where you are getting frustrated or feeling disempowered, this might be indicative of where you are in a ‘take what you get’ mindset.
Be brutally honest with yourself, are you actually responsible for what’s happening? Or maybe just partly responsible?
Consider the options that would open up to you if shifted to a ‘get what you want’ perspective. Usually when we think of the power we would gain by taking responsibility it becomes a worthwhile thing to do.
Taking responsibility for certain things will be a very novel concept for some clients, they may never have been asked to do it before, they may have people in their life who take responsibility for them, such as a parent, older sibling or partner. Introduce the concept by demonstrating the possibilities. Don’t ask them to shift straight away, but explore with them what they could do from a get what you want’ perspective. Explore the power that comes with responsibility and change the perspective of responsibility to a powerful one.
It may be worth exploring why the client is reluctant to be in the ‘get what you want’ mindset, there are probably some limiting beliefs there. Are they scared of what will happen if they do? Are they scared of failing? Addressing the underlying issues will make it easier for them to take responsibility.
Once the client’s perspective of responsibility has been reframed start exploring where and how they can move into a ‘get what you want’ mindset in their life. Encourage and acknowledge any responsibility they take, however small. Explore the power they have now that they have taken responsibility.
The language our clients use can give us clues about where they are giving up their power. Watch out for phrases such as “this always happens to me” or “I can’t” or “this has happened to me”.
- Explain every way in which this was not your fault.
- Explain every way in which it was your fault
- If this was in your control what would you do about it?
- What would this situation look like to an outsider?
- What would have to happen for you to feel more powerful?
- What is the worst that could happen if you took complete responsibility for this?
- What would be the best result if you took responsibility for this?
- What aspect of this feels out of control?
- How does it feel to have power?