Damage Control: Choosing to Serve

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Damage Control: Choosing to Serve

“The miracle is this — the more we share, the more we have.” ~ Leonard Nimoy

Mindset is fluid

The pressures and demands of our day impact us as we struggle to answer two questions:

  • Will I choose to be powerless or powerful?
  • Will I choose to give or to take?

Two dimensions, power and purpose, define four types of mindset and we shift between them throughout the day.

  • The Victim Mindset: Powerless-Taker
  • The Bystander Mindset: Powerless-Giver
  • The Controller Mindset: Powerful-Taker
  • The Thriver Mindset: Powerful-Giver

Surveys from a variety of the organizations I’ve worked with confirm that our mindset is in a constant state of flux. Mindset is not a one-and-done sort of a decision. The decision to be a powerful-giver has to be made over and over again throughout the day. If all is well, it is easier to feel empowered and choose to give. When your boss is a knucklehead or you have to pick up the slack for a slacking co-worker, the choice can be quite different.

One of the most significant obstacles to this process is even to realize that it is going on. We make these decisions automatically and out of habit. Most of us have a default mindset that we slide into when times get tough and, for most of us, it is not to be a powerful-giver. It takes conscious work to decide to become a powerful-giver.

This is the first of a three-part series about how to shift from the various mindsets to become a powerful-giver: A Thriver. In this article, I will take a deeper look at the Controller Mindset.

Permanent markers can leave a stain

It is essential to remember that it is counterproductive to use mindsets as a way to permanently label people because that increases the likelihood of closing our minds and shutting down our hearts. People are much more complicated than just the four mindsets. However, being aware of different mindsets allows us to recognize them and then transition back to the Thriver’s Mindset.

Why we choose to control and why it matters

When we choose the Controller’s Mindset we operate from a scarcity perspective believing that we need to hunt and gather or grab and hoard to be sure that we have enough to survive. We reason that if we give to others, we will not have enough for ourselves. Unfortunately, although we gather enough to survive, we can fail to live.

When we choose to use the Controller’s Mindset, our motto becomes, “Someone has to look out for number 1.” The consequences can be devastating: poor patient outcomes, loss of respect, impaired team cohesion, decreased impact, squashed morale, and increased employee turnover.

Shifting purpose on purpose

To shift from the Controller Mindset, we only have to shift a single dimension: Purpose. The change is from taker to giver. The consequences are enormous. When we do so, we experience fulfillment and a world of abundance. The change is contagious. I have seen this happen over and over again when I’m deployed to natural disasters around the world. Those that are the most fulfilled are those who, despite tremendous loss, continue to put others first — the powerful-givers.

Shifting from the Controller’s to the Thriver’s Mindset

So what do you to avoid operating from the Controller’s Mindset? There are six steps that are helpful:

  1. Recognize the mindset. This actually can be difficult because we tend to choose our mindset on autopilot. Using mindfulness can be very helpful, but it takes practice.
  2. Respond to yourself with kindness. Self-criticism isn’t helpful.
  3. Pause to consider the risk of putting yourself first vs. putting others first. What do you have to lose?
  4. Recall situations where you or someone else had success putting others first.
  5. Make the conscious decision to take a risk and put others first.
  6. Journal the results to support yourself next time.

Call to action

Throughout the day we will constantly be faced with two choices: Will I be powerless or powerful? Will I be a taker or a giver? As we recognize this and spend more time in the Thriver’s Mindset as an empowered giver, we have the opportunity to transform ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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