Unwavering confidence AND discipline to face brutal facts
Last issue, I shared about being optimistic. Yet, there's plenty to be pessimistic about. Enter the Stockdale Paradox, a great example of the genius of the "and".
Be radically optimistic AND brutally honest. Why?
Builders of success that lasts exemplify the Stockdale Paradox.
Meet Admiral James Stockdale:
- Highest-ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam from 1965-1973. He was among the few who believed rescue would come but never despaired when it was much slower than he hoped.
- Tortured over 20 times during his eight-year imprisonment
- Lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.
- "Despite the pain and torment inflicted upon him, he led a resistance movement among the prisoners, crafting a covert string of communications that reached the CIA."
- He saw this as the defining event of his life and in retrospect, would not have wished it to be any different.
When we encounter significant, substantial problems, we are perplexed with long standing opposition and arduous challenges. In these situations, solutions come through unwavering faith that we can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be.
Think it's impossible?
Well, we need a foundation undergirding unwavering confidence.
We need to develop a practice in dealing with the most brutal facts of our problems and challenges.
Both of these elements require definition of our identity and purpose. This means putting in the hard work of developing leadership and management of our soul. What is this labor I'm talking about?
Stockdale learned from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus that his main business was to maintain control over his moral purpose; he went so far as to say, "My moral purpose is who I am."
What is this moral purpose?
It is the choice before choices. It precedes every day decisions and governs them, mostly without conscious thought.
It is that which governs our body, mind and will.
It is our soul, and its organizing principle.
If our soul is well, it's organizing principle will align BELIEFS AND DISCIPLINE to integrate positive meaning, thoughts and actions.
The soul is the integrator and generator of the "and". It is the radical source of lasting success.
Our soul thrives and works the way it should when we die to cravings and behaviors driven by fear and insecurity. Thus courage and confidence find their source in having enough, being enough, doing enough.
On the other hand, our soul's fatigue and ineffectiveness are evidenced by:
- being bothered more than we ought to by annoyances
- less resistance to cravings of the body; favoring short-term fixes and pleasures
- inability to make decisions, especially ones that positively define you in difficult circumstances; less courage to tackle priorities that matter most
If these chronically plague us, our soul is fatigued, restless, lost. We're fragmented, dis-integrated.
When our soul is not well, we find identity in external things; it's easier. But doing so, we are not giving attention to the business of maintaining our moral purpose. We lack a choice that healthily governs other choices.
Without a life giving organization, we become impatient. Always in a hurry, our soul cannot find a home, a place of deep belonging. What we build, even if successful, will not last.
DISCIPLINE TO FACE BRUTAL FACTS
Too often, we do not effectively care for our will, mind and body. As a result, our souls dwindle away. Reversing this begins with eliminating beliefs [of scarcity] that cause us to neglect wellness at this level.
- There's never enough.
- More is always better.
- And this is just the way it is.
When I operate with these lines of code, I am going to rush. Then, being hurried disables me from being fully present with God, myself and others. I cannot appreciate and enjoy simply being.
We need to slow down. As Dallas Willard put it, "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry."
Slowing down enables me to observe beauty and experience peace that become evident when I believe the truths of sufficiency:
- There's always enough.
- Less can be better and more.
- Things can change; I can get better.
The significance of being enough over doing enough is a gift from God. Whole hearted acceptance liberates me from the need to hurry.
Choosing to view our circumstances and even ourselves with sufficiency transforms our other choices. We can choose to be radically optimistic and brutally honest. We do not have to be oppressed with the choice of one over the other.
We are free to express value rather than attempt to be judges who determine value, especially of other people and their lives.
If we take sufficiency's perspective to heart, we will change our actions. We will commit and persevere through the discomfort and pain of going against the grain of scarcity.
Over time, unwavering faith and the practice of facing stark realities reshape us. We become builders of success that lasts.
What will your 2018 look like with a vision that is radically optimistic, implemented with brutal honesty, organized by the belief that there is enough, and you are enough?