We were discussing frustrations she had with her boss. I could see she was down. I could tell she was discouraged. She was crashing into road block after road block set up by the very leadership for whom she was working.
And then she said it. She uttered the one word that clearly identified for me that this was an emergency situation…
Do you know that word? Have you said it yourself? Do you know what she was communicating?
We’ve all been there. You know that place where you believe there’s nothing you can do? That place where you believe you’re a powerless victim who can do nothing but resign yourself to the reality that this is the way it’s always going to be. This is a good as it’s going to get.
“Whatever! I can’t change this. There’s nothing I can do to make a difference. I’m resigning myself to the fact that nothing’s going to change. I’m going to keep my mouth shut and put in my time.”
This is a very dangerous place to be. This is actually a life-threatening situation. And the life that’s being threatened is yours. If you or anyone you know is at this place, they’re on the verge of losing heart.
To lose heart is to lose that which drives you. To lose heart is to lose “the fire in your belly”. To lose heart is to fall from passion into passivity; to descend from conviction into complacency.
Your heart is the deepest part of who you are. It’s your place of passion, purpose, conviction, commitment, identity and life.
Uttering “Whatever!” is like the last puff of smoke a smoldering flame expels as it goes out.
“Whatever!” is a verbal tap out; it’s saying “uncle” to indicate you give up.
It’s easy to let yourself get to this place. There is only so much frustration a person can take. Trying to lead by being given responsibility without authority is a recipe for “Whatever!” A bureaucratic or autocratic resistance to change or anything innovative is a precursor to “Whatever!”.
There are myriad conditions setting us on a course that terminates in “Whatever!”, but you cannot afford yourself the luxury of taking that trip. It leads to the death of your passion, conviction and commitment.
Cynicism is brother to “Whatever!” – they go hand in hand. There is a gang of negativity that accompanies “Whatever!” – resentment, bitterness, anger, passivity, complacency, mediocrity, and the like. This is a swamp of bedfellows you don’t want to hang with.
“Whatever!” begins with a core belief: it’s the belief that you have no control, you have no power. However, that is never the case. Let me repeat that – you are NEVER without control or power.
Sure, you may have little or no control over your work environment. You may have little or no control over what market conditions are impacting your business. You may have little or no control over what actions are impacting you, but you always have control over your re-actions to those forces.
You can always choose your attitude. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Frankl said, after having lived through the horrific atrocities meted out upon the Jews in WW2;
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves… Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When you find yourself uttering “Whatever!”, you can choose to change your attitude. You can choose to care. You can choose to contribute. You can choose to keep moving forward in the face of opposition.
I know this to be true because I watched it in my friend. She recognized the road she was on as indicated by her “Whatever!”, and she chose a different path. I have now never seen her so engaged, so committed, so tenacious – in the midst of a situation that has not significantly changed.
But she has. And that makes all the difference.