Do you think like a Victim or a Creator?

A college class was told they would need their textbook in class. Their college bookstore hadn’t ordered enough copies of the book and ran out. Two students were unable to get their text before the first day of class. The instructor asked them to get the text by the 2nd week of class. When the class next met, the instructor asked them if they had the text.

The first said “No, I do not have the textbook. I was not able to get it because the bookstore didn’t have any more. They said they ran out. It was their fault, not mine”.

The second student had the text. The instructor asked if she’d gotten it from the bookstore. She said:

“No, they ran out”

“Well, then where did you get it?” the instructor asked.

“I called a nearby college bookstore” she replied.

“Oh, so that’s where you got it” the instructor said.

“No, they didn’t have it either” she said.

“Then where did you get it?!” the instructor asked.

“I next called several other college bookstores in our region, ones farther away from our campus. But none of them carried this book. So finally I went online and found used copies available for much less. I used the savings to pay for 2-day air shipping, and got the used book by 2nd day air, for about the price the new book was at our bookstore” she concluded.

What the first student had said – “it wasn’t my fault, it was the bookstore’s fault” – was, indeed, true. However, it was not helpful to her cause. At the end of the day, she did not achieve her goal (obtaining the book). The second student did not ask “Whose fault is it I don’t have the book?” but instead asked “What can I do to get the text I need?”. When her first answer did not lead her to her goal, she asked the question again, and again, until she finally achieved her goal.

Skip Downing, author of On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life, calls the first student’s response a Victim response. A Victim response seeks to find blame for a negative situation. A Victim response is generally unhelpful to reaching one’s goals.

Dr. Downing calls the second student’s response a Creator response. The Creator asks “What can I do to achieve my goal?” or “What can I do to make this situation better?”, rather than seeking to lay blame for how the situation came to be. Those who think like a Creator are more likely to reach their goals and be successful in life.

As we enter a new year, consider making a resolution to stop using Victim language, and to think like a Creator instead. Resolve to ask “What can I do to make this better?” instead of “Whose fault is this?”. Resolve to ask “How can I reach my goal despite this situation or obstacle?” instead of complaining about the situation.

Rather than continuing as a Victim, resolve to become a Creator.

For further information on this topic:

This true story above was shared with me by Jonathan Brennan, facilitator of the On Course for Student Success workshop. I highly recommend this program to educators, who may find further information at The program is aimed at college educators, but I believe it would be equally applicable to High School teachers.

Students may be interested in Skip Downing’s book, On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life, or in taking any study skills course at their school that uses his text and program.

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One Response to Do you think like a Victim or a Creator?

  1. Lynda Hoggan says:

    Great commentary for anyone who teaches to share with their students! I call it “taking action on one’s own behalf” – and I’m a believer.

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