When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. – Elon Musk
When the Unthinkable Happens
Do you like surprises? If you are like me, you probably would reply with, It depends. Surprises are dependent on why the surprise has happened and its impact on your life. A surprise can be defined as something unexpected that impacts your life positively or negatively. A welcome surprise would be a gift especially if it was something you really needed or wanted. Then there are surprises or unexpected events that we prefer not to experience. Again, the impact creates a distinction. For example, a car accident, a job loss, health diagnosis, end of a marriage or relationship, or the loss of a loved one unexpectedly, can unravel our lives in unprecedented ways.
Such crises cannot be planned. As abrupt as they are, they are part and parcel of life. Although excruciating, the hardship these negative surprises create and pain they inflict can teach more about life than the positive surprises we experience. How do we live in the middle of the unthinkable without falling prey to its sweeping devastation in our mental and emotional faculties? Often, we turn to coping systems that do more harm than good.
Not developing a positive system for dealing with the unthinkable can relegate us to destructive patterns of thought, emotion, and action. Addictions are largely the result of creating coping mechanisms that numb us to the pain of the unthinkable. And as the current pandemic has shown that the unthinkable is possible, there has been an uptick in addictions. But for all the numbing agents available, pain cannot be ignored or silenced. Suppressing, instead of processing the thoughts and emotions from pain, is like pulling the pin off a grenade, putting it in your pocket, and hoping it doesn’t go off. It must be dealt with otherwise a blow-up is on the horizon. In the middle of the unthinkable such as the pandemic we are still living through, here are four ways to live in the middle of it.
Don’t Check Out
When our routines are suddenly upended, it seems natural to check out mentally and follow the path of least resistance. Staying present, while difficult, can keep you from spiraling downward and crashing. When we remain present in difficult circumstances, we maintain a total effort approach in what we aim to accomplish.
The consequence of taking the path of least resistance is being held captive in a loop of regrets, setbacks, and hurt. All the while, forfeiting the experience of growth that emerges from trying circumstances.
Staying present is the only way to rise to the challenge when the odds are stacked against us. A check out mentally serves to keep us stagnant. A best practice to staying present in the middle of difficulty is taking inventory of what you have.
No organization survives without knowing its inventory. Poor inventory management can cripple business operations. The same applies to our lives. When the unthinkable happens, we can be left feeling impoverished, wondering how we can make it through trying times.
How do you take inventory? By giving ample time and space for reflection. It gives you the opportunity to breathe and avoid the mental and emotional suffocation that happens when we get overwhelmed. Without pausing to reflect, the ability to forecast, which is a crucial life skill, lays dormant. Reflection and forecasting are two sides of a coin. Reflection is taking stock of where you are and what you have at your disposal to move forward. Forecasting is planning where you are heading to and how to get there in light of where you are and what you have. As both work in tandem, they develop in us a laser-like focus on what’s important in life.
Focus on What’s Important
In 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed in the Florida Everglades, killing 101 people on board. The cause of the crash? The pilot and crew wrongly focused on a burnt-out landing gear light bulb and failed to notice the autopilot had been inadvertently disengaged. By the time this was realized, it was too late.
I am sure the landing gear light bulb was important. But at that moment, of greater importance was keeping the plane in the air. What is important to you now? Certainly, there is a litany of things vying for your attention, but ultimately, you hold the vote on what is classified as important. Find it, and stay focused.
Find Your Solid Ground
Life has been shaky in the past few months. It seems the only thing we are sure of is uncertainty itself. We have been bombarded with a full share of news that has rocked us to the core. And we are only in June.
Can we handle any more? The stress and strain that the first half of the year has put on us individually and collectively are enough for an entire year. When so much happens in such a short time span, solid ground is essential to avoid a total meltdown.
This solid ground for me has been my relationship with Jesus Christ. He has been my sufficiency through thick and thin. As I have lived like everyone else through the pandemic, I have been dependent on the daily grace and mercy that Christ has given me. As a person of faith, this solid ground has kept me from sinking in the mire of coping systems that feel good in the interim but are destructive habits in the making. Do you have a solid ground or anchor that can sustain you in the middle of difficult times?
Final Thought: Many of us were not ready for the odds that we are now facing. But whether the odds are relational, financial, economical, racial, health, business, career or otherwise, determine that, if the goal is of great importance, step into each sphere of responsibility with laserlike focus. Stay present. Take inventory of what you have at your disposal. Locate your solid ground. And by all means, sidestep the landmines of destructive coping systems.
Keep on Keeping on!