We can blame our shortcomings on our upbringing, the neighborhood we came from, our parents, the weather, the city we live in, blah, blah, blah… The crazy thing is that two people from those same so-called adversities can end up at opposite ends of the success scale. One may be in prison, while his twin brother is a millionaire businessman, helping others around him. What is up with that?
The truth is that where you are right now is likely due to the choices you have made. The position you are in may be, in part, due to what has happened to you, but more likely due to how you responded to what happened to you. We often cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens to us.
A key trait found in many successful people is optimism. Most people know optimism as seeing the glass as half full. And when you look at a glass that is filled half way, it is helpful to see it as half full, as opposed to half empty. But what about when your world is crashing around you? If your house is on fire, do you focus on the rooms that are not on fire? If you get a diagnosis of something like cancer, do you dance out of the hospital cheering? Nope! And Nope!
There is something called the Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was the highest ranking naval officer to be held captive during the Vietnam War. He survived an amazing eight years in horrific conditions, being held in solitary confinement and being beaten more than twenty times. He contributes his success to seeing things as they were, not sugar coating them. He was optimistic, and would not have survived otherwise, but he also did not minimize the seriousness of his situation. The men who he called “The Optimists” were the ones that did not make it out. He noted that the men who were the most optimistic, assuming they would be freed in a month, then by the next Christmas, then by Easter, did not make it. Their continued disappointment led to their ultimate demise. They had unrealistic expectations, which crushed their spirits.
The bottom line is this… if you are in bad situation, it is a bad situation! Look at the situation objectively. See it for what it is. It is terribly hard to admit painful truths, such as an inevitable job loss, that you are dangerously overweight, that you are broke, or that your marriage is crumbling. But unless you see the seriousness of your situation, you will not position yourself properly to take action. Lying to yourself does nothing good. It changes nothing!
Author Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, about companies that had become exceptional, coined the term Stockdale Paradox after interviewing Admiral Stockdale. He summed it up the following way: “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. AND at the same time… You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Every great survival story, from those on Mt. Everest to those lost at sea on a raft for months, will include resilient individuals that saw the seriousness of their situation. They maintained the belief that the ending to their plight would be a good one, but did not downplay how bad their predicament actually was.
As your mind tries to lie to you, telling you that you aren’t as heavy as you are, that, over time, you will come to love that job you hate, or that this is the last time they will lie to you, try to see your current reality as it really is. Once you see things as they actually are, know that you can succeed, and go do it!