In my previous blog, carrying on my recent theme of how we can deal with the challenges that Covid-19 has brought with it, we talked about the Stockdale Paradox which, simply put, states that we need to have faith that we will prevail AND confront the most brutal facts of our current reality. “Life is difficult” as M Scott Peck said, and we need to accept that it is, otherwise we will always find it difficult! (For more meat on the bone, please refer to newsletter of 7 April 2020).
Coincidentally, I received an email recently from an organisation that bases their teachings on Stoicism. Being stoic, as you may know, is about being calm and almost without any emotion so when you are stoic, you don’t show what you are feeling and you also accept whatever is happening. I guess Admiral Stockdale was stoical.
In the email they referred to various sayings that we have, like “it never rains but it pours”, meaning that things do go wrong and often all at the same time. So, if you only prepare yourself for a few surprises or shocks during your lockdown period, you are likely to be unpleasantly surprised. It may be worse than you think down the line. Once again, I guess this is what Admiral Stockdale was talking about when he said we must confront the brutal facts.
In the end, we are back to what I shared in my blog two weeks ago: we can’t control whether it rains or pours and spending time worrying about it is self-disempowering. We need to focus on what we can control in these times – one of the things we can control is how we react to the challenges (the brutal facts) that we face. We can only accept them, that is be stoical about them, for it is only when we accept that life is difficult, to repeat Peck’s message, that we transcend the difficulty so that life is no longer difficult.
So let’s all care deeply for ourselves, and especially for each other, at this time, but let’s do so, not subjectively as we so often do, but objectively. In responding to the challenges around us in this way, we are focusing on what we can control, namely ourselves and our responses, and we are being useful to others at this time. We begin to transcend the difficulties that life brings.
Isn’t that a wonderful, stoical meaning that we could all embrace especially at times like this!
One last thing: I used to think that the term “dispassionate” was the opposite of passionate so I subconsciously banned it from my vocabulary. That was until I saw Peter Block’s definition some ten or twelve years ago – for him “dispassionate” means “caring deeply with objectivity”.
Be dispassionate today!