How we deal with life’s difficulties may be far more important than what we do to create life’s successes. Success isn’t inevitable, but difficulties are.
When the difficulties of life surprise someone, they often spend much energy on denial, complaint and anger. These emotions are natural and often initial, but many become stuck in them.
Jay Redman didn’t.
In a passage from the book Duty by Robert Gates tells about Lieutenant Jason “Jay” Redman, a Navy SEAL who had been shot seven times and had undergone nearly two dozen surgeries. Jason kept a hand-drawn sign on the door to his room at Bethesda Naval Hospital. It read:
ATTENTION. To all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere. The Management.”
In this manifesto, there is no suggestion that Redman is stuck. He’s come to terms with his situation and formulated his response going forward. He doesn’t ask for sympathy or pity; in fact he refuses them.
This contrasts starkly to the sale professional whose world has crashed down because of a lost major account. Consoling himself with too many cold beers at the end of the day is a form of acquiescence. Pouring out his woes to sympathetic sales professionals may be cathartic, but ultimately is a defeat of his purpose. Even if temporary, the difficulties of the day have defeated him.
In light of Jay Redman’s powerful stance, I hesitate to offer steps or solutions. They seem trite when compared to his victory. Yet there are principles that apply as much to us who suffer less severe difficulties as they do to wounded warriors like him. The brevity of these ideas don’t diminish their usefulness, nor take away from the gravitas of the problems and difficulties that so many face.
1.Spend less time asking “Why?” and more time asking yourself “What now?”
2.Be appreciative of those who offer condolences. Emotional support can give us strength we wouldn’t have on our own.
3.If necessary explain your situation, but don’t whine about it.
4.Change what you can and accept what you can’t.
5.Remember that there is no guarantee of fairness in this life.
6.When self-absorption threatens, turn your attention to helping others in their challenges.
7.Never forget to be grateful for what you still have instead of focusing on what you lost.
My friend Gloria passed away many years ago from a very rare disease after a life full of more bad luck than any other I’d observed. While she achieved much success and enjoyment, many bad things beyond her control befell her.
Shortly before she died, a grieving friend held Gloria’s hand and asked, “Why you, Gloria? You’re one of the nicest, most giving people I’ve ever met.”
Gloria smiled and wisely replied, “Why not me? Everyone has difficulties. Why should I be any different. I’m strong, I have faith, so why not me?”
I’ve read stories of others who reached a similar conclusion. I am most affected by my good friend’s perspective that has outlived her.
Why not me? Why not you?