What happens to us is often out of our control. We work hard to ensure security, predictability, safety, and success. No matter how hard we try, or how well we plan, obstacles, surprises, set-backs will occur. Therefore, what happens to us is important, but how we respond to what happens is more important.
At a time like this, where there is so much fear and uncertainty, it is critical to maintain a hopeful and positive attitude. Your outlook is a key factor in staying strong, planning accordingly, and maintaining a healthy environment in your home.
At a time like this, it would seem like the most optimistic people would do the best. You might long to be a true optimist under the current circumstances. I want to share something that I learned years ago, that helped me through many difficult and challenging times. I learned it while reading a book called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins.
In the book, Collins describes the Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer held prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for seven years, tortured repeatedly, and had little reason to believe he would survive. What surprised me was that he said that the optimists were among the first to perish. That made no sense to me.
Here is how Stockdale explained it in the book… “Who didn’t make it out?” “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.” “The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier. “The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
The idea here is that it is super important to never give up, always remain hopeful, and know that you will prevail, but you MUST be conscious and aware of the magnitude and seriousness of your situation. Underestimating your circumstances will lead to disappointment, failure, and potentially your demise. Here is how Stockdale explained it… “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
I have written about the Stockdale Paradox before, but felt it was pertinent right now and worth writing about again. There is big difference between being optimistic and being an optimist. It is critical to be optimistic during these uncertain times, knowing that we will prevail, we will get through, and ultimately be better and stronger because of it. I, for one, have absolutely no doubt about this. But to ignore the magnitude of the situation, underestimate its impact on our families, communities, businesses, and country as a whole, could lead to you being devastated.
No matter what situation you are ever in, recognize the magnitude of the situation, see it for what it truly is, then let an optimistic attitude carry you through the tough times, knowing that you will grow, you will live, and you will likely be much better when it is over. Stay well!