Here is what I have been thinking about a lot recently: There is a huge gap between our thought process when things are going well versus when things are bad. My observation is that we don’t put in enough effort to build skills or acquire tools when things are going well… and when things are bad, we desperately crave for these same tools that we didn’t spend time acquiring. Let me explain…
Over the past two months, I have seen repeated examples of crises that have stemmed from, what I now regard as, a neglect to being prepared. I have also observed that we usually don’t spend enough effort building our competency and polishing our tools during times of peace.
What questions do you ask when you are unprepared to handle a situation?
When faced with a dire situation where I feel I am unable to cope or figure out a solution, a question I ask myself is: “What skills, knowledge, tools or awareness do I wish I had that would’ve helped me cope with the current situation better”? The problem is, even when I arrive at an answer to the above question, I am not in a position to use that answer right away. It takes time and peace and patience and practise to learn something and to acquire new tools and when I’m in the middle of a tough situation, that is hardly the time to put in effort to prepare.
If now now, then, when is the next best time to invest energy into learning? The next moment you have some peace - no matter how temporary. I really can’t stress how important this is. I feel very sad when I observe people struggle with coping up and figuring out what to do, but who won’t put in the effort to bring about some change in the way they view or do thing or feel about them. There are no instant solutions and most learning takes time and effort and that can’t be put in overnight.
Hence, if we are only motivated to put effort into learning, or expanding our thoughts and horizons when things go bad, then we will never be prepared! We will always struggle to cope. We will not learn new lessons. We will not make new mistakes. We will not be able to avoid repeating past mistakes.
Whether its your website that got cracked or server which went down or friend who let you down or customer who did something unfair… there is still something we can do about each of these situations. While the situation (and the outcome) itself might not be of our choosing or in our control, how we treat it, learn from it, handle it or feel about it is completely our choice.
And so the tools and skills that I’m talking about are not just those specific things that we can do to pre-empt situations and avoid failures. I am also talking about learning that enables us to handle unforeseen and undesirable outcomes in a graceful manner that might enable us to have more tranquillity in our lives.
The next time you have peace in your life…
So the next time, you have a some peace in your life when you are not fire fighting or handling a failure or a challenge, think about the last 3 difficult situations where you wish you had the ability and tools to handle it better (based on your own assessment of “better” - no one else’s). And then do whatever it takes to build those skills, acquire those tools and absorb the learning.
Discover / read essays and books, listen to podcasts and talk shows, expose yourself to contrasting views that provoke you to think and make decisions and judgements for yourself. None of these will require you to take permission from anyone else. None of these are expensive or require you to be somewhere you can’t be. Most of these options don’t involve depending on others. Hence, they are simple to get started with.
There are no right ways to doing anything. There is no universal prescription or formula that I or anyone else can give you that will work in every situation. The sad thing will be if we are not able to / ready to invest into our own well-being and take charge of how we feel about something or deal with something.
Conversely, it would be wonderful to have a feeling of greater control. It would be wonderful to feel equipped to handle seemingly tough situations with poise. It would be quite an achievement if we can realise how we can invest into our own personal, technical and spiritual growth all the time.