I recently heard of a good friend’s trials, and it reminded me of this past post. So, here we go again. You may have heard the story of Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist who lived in Austria during the time when Hitler came to power. When he was captured, he was stripped of everything – and he was thrown into one of the death camps. With peoples identities stripped, their humanity challenged and put in the most horrid of circumstances, Frankel was able to make some unique observations about men.
What Frankl saw was prisoners face unimaginable terror, abuse, mental and physical torture and death. What Frankl saw was some men turn in to animals. The survival instinct took complete hold of some and they became what their captors were trying to force them to be – almost non-human. What he ALSO saw was prisoners risk their own lives taking care of each other, bolstering each other’s spirits and sharing food with many when there was not even enough for one. He saw the very best in people in the most terrible of situations. He also made the claim some – amid unimaginable horror – achieved saint-like attributes. What was the difference? Frankl points to attitude.
Even in the most dire situation known to man-kind, your attitude can drive you to saint-like attributes. Quite harshly quoted by another: “Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or your rejection of the natural laws.” So, what are we talking about here?
We’re talking about how you mentally manage trials. Your personal happiness and feelings of success – or failure – depend mostly on your attitude towards the trials you face. When some people face trials, they drop in to a victim mentality. Questions like, Why me, or why now, or, what have I done to deserve this can be a common result. We’ve all done it before. But there’s a problem with thinking that way. Asking those types of questions means you are THINKING about those types of questions – and it allows the victim mentality to dominate your thoughts. This can sap your energy and rob you of the experiences you can receive.
This is in contrast to the GET mentality. Instead of asking, why me, or why now, or, what have I done to deserve this, try asking GET questions like: What do I need to do, what do I need to learn, what can I change, and who can I help? These types of questions bring action. They help you create a “GET” plan.
Of course different kinds of trials will require different actions. If it’s sickness it may require ACTIVE patience. But that’s a plan, right? If someone has done something hurtful to you or your child sometimes the best thing to do is to WORK to forgive those that have offended. That’s a plan, right? If YOU have created the trial due to something you did, you should CORRECT your actions or behavior and move in a new direction. That’s a plan, right?
Other trials may just simply be a natural part of life and come when you are doing everything as right as you know how. Don’t be discouraged. Be active in your approach to creating a plan.
I think the key here is to have a plan and ACT on that plan. When you have a plan, you no longer feel as if you are managing chaos. Chaos quite frankly – cannot be managed and is depressing. Depression cannot be an option. A plan – even if it’s hard – creates order and gives you a feeling of control.
I recently had a discussion with a co-worker whose wife was going through a long period of illness. After a few weeks of this I was getting worried for him because he was starting to look tired and a little – well – a little depressed. Then we had this basic discussion. A few days later he came back with a different look on his face. His wife was still ill, but he had taken the time to create a plan (not a plan to heal her mind you) but a plan to manage the chaos that was going on in his life.
He decided that if she NEVER got well, he had to have a plan to deal with her illness and all that it entailed. It was still hard – but now there was a sense of stability in his life. It was still hard – but now he had more order and a feeling of control. He was no longer a victim.
Here’s what I have found in my life. When I am able to work a plan, the trial is no longer a trial. I KNOW what to do. Then I can focus on GETTING everything I can from the experience. This process also allows me the opportunity to THRIVE in difficult situations.
I don’t have to be able to see the end of the trial. There doesn’t even HAVE to be an end to the trial. As long as there is a plan I can now work at learning and growing and thriving in the situation.