Written by Debra DeVilbiss
It can be hard to make a difference in the world when we’re feeling undervalued and squelched. We feel like we’re on the bottom rung of life and everyone else has it better. But in truth, low man on the totem pole is a powerful position for our personal growth. To see it, though, we might need to switch gears.
Seth Godin said, “When a car is switching gears, the engine is providing no forward power. And it’s more difficult to steer, brake or otherwise control the forward motion of the car as you change it from one gear ratio to another. And yet, the only way to effectively switch gears is to do it while moving. “
A change in the gear ratio shifts our perspective. That shift in perspective is often the very thing that changes our life for the better.
How that works
Perhaps you’ve worked in a low-wage job. For many of us, that’s how we started our working life. And with all the recent economic downturns, it’s possible many of us are in low-wage jobs right now.
When we’re in a low-wage job, we end up doing the things no one else wants to do. In other words, we’re low man on the totem pole. It all rolls downhill and we’re left to pick up the pieces. We’re often not appreciated, are we?
In that moment, we have a choice. One choice might be to hate that job and choose the perspective of a victim. We could feel oppressed and resent the tasks assigned to us.
Resentment causes us to do things that really don’t help, like consistently arriving late to work, performing tasks in a sloppy manner, or muttering under our breath when things don’t go our way.
Emotions are contagious; that behavior invites even more victimization. When we believe we’re a victim others will treat us as such. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t stop until we switch gears.
Expecting those around us to treat us differently without an internal shift on our part will not work. To shift gears while in motion requires making different choices.
Creating those choices is up to us. We have to choose consciously in each moment, while we’re still in motion.
The most powerful internal shift we can make is to embrace the notion that we are the creator of our circumstances instead of a victim of them.
If you think about a totem pole, the bottom-most figure is the one that holds everything up. In reality, the low man on the totem pole holds the most important position. Without that base, the whole structure crumbles.
Another shift might be to look at the menial tasks differently, perhaps as learning opportunities. That choice would engage our curiosity and stimulate our creative juices. Creativity enlivens us; it helps us to think differently. When we realize how our contribution matters, it’s easier to shift gears.
Shifting our internal state to creator and away from victim will create new choices.
Actions follow inner state
Shifting to a creator mindset may seem like an internal thing that can’t possibly matter in the real world. After all, we’re still in a s*it job that doesn’t pay squat.
When we choose the creator perspective, our inner state shifts. We move subtly from resentment to curiosity.
Rather than arriving late, we show up on time. When the grungiest job is assigned to us, we do it without the muttering and foot-dragging; instead, we wonder how we could perform that task with less misery.
That shift now impacts the emotional soup surrounding us in the workplace. Remember, emotions are contagious. Rather than attracting more resentment and misery, we begin to attract opportunity.
It can be difficult to draw a one-to-one correlation from our internal shift to external serendipities that change our circumstances, but they are there.
After shifting gears, our creator state radiates to those around us and the positive energy attracts something new and perhaps wonderful. Who knows, we might inspire others to do the same, and then what would our circumstances be?
When we shift gears from victim to creator, we shift our world.
Bring your Dream to life! When you engage your creativity, you shut down the head chatter, work from your heart and feed your soul.
Through 20+ years of coaching career changers, I have learned that yes, we need a livelihood, something to live on, but we also need something to live for.
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