Pay Attention to Reality, but don’t lose Heart

Have you been known to say things like, “this too will pass,” or “it will be easier next month” or “once we get through the summer we will get back on track”? It is pretty normal to manage the present anxieties and issues by telling ourselves they will go away soon. The problem is, what happens when they don’t?

What happens when the fires are still burning?

One of my long-time favorite leadership books, Good to Great, has an interview with the General Stockdale, which Jim Collins calls the Stockdale Paradox. This is worth your reading today:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

I didn’t say anything for many minutes, and we continued the slow walk toward the faculty club, Stockdale limping and arc-swinging his stiff leg that had never fully recovered from repeated torture. Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”

“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.

“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

(Read the full excerpt from Good to Great by Jim Collins here: https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/Stockdale-Concept.html)

Being in the moment is important. I am a person that perseveres through hard times, like we are in right now, by looking ahead to something that offers a break. Maybe a trip somewhere, or time with friends and family. That is hard to do with any level of confidence these days. We plan, but we also cancel plans depending on COVID. Who’s really in control of their calendar?

The invitation to a deeper faith that I hear from Admiral Stockdale really gives me hope. I pray it does for you as well.