Our lives have changed so much it’s difficult to recall what we assumed was normal just a few weeks ago. Perhaps the greatest frustration is the situation we find ourselves in was not of our choice. It is important to understand that although the virus has stripped us of many of our basic freedoms and assumed rights (i.e. jobs, social activities, travel, etc), we still have total control of our thoughts and how we choose to confront the current situation that has been forced upon us.
If we reflect on the life of United States Navy Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who served during the Vietnam war, there are some invaluable lessons to be learned. As a result of his aircraft being shot down, Commander Stockdale was the most senior officer held captive in Hanoi prison in North Vietnam. For seven years, he endured the most severe levels of brutal torture from his captors as a result of his senior ranking. From the beginning of this unimaginable period of his life, Stockdale formed a mindset that would allow him and many of his fellow prisoners to prevail. In his bestseller ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins later deemed this thought process as The Stockdale Paradox. This being evident through Stockdale’s ability and mindset; despite his world of living hell, he found a way to survive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with the belief and vision of its eventual end. He summed this up perfectly following his release;
“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.”
When asked who didn’t make it out, Stockdale answered, “Oh that's easy - the optimists.” He went on to explain that they were the ones who wouldn't accept reality and would pin their hopes on being out by Easter or Christmas etc. As the months and years ticked over with no release in sight, he chillingly finished his explanation saying, “they died of a broken heart.”
Right now the world as we know it is so much different to the one we knew a month ago. And if the last month is anything to go by it is impossible to predict what both the near and distant future will look like. We have very little control over external circumstances other than to follow our Government's advice. We do have total control of our thoughts though, and how we choose to deal with the challenges that lay before us. Face the current facts while maintaining a belief in your ability to endure. This time will pass and a new way of life will evolve.
Practicing mindfulness is a valuable tool in these times. Stay present and dealing with each day as it comes is very important at the moment. It is only natural to hope and wish that this terrible situation will come to an end. Just don't let it break your heart.