Setbacks

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

Everything that happens changes you.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

Life is like the river. After something happens you are not the same person.

That doesn’t mean what happens to you should bring you down, but it should change you.

You should learn from it.

“A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.35

Setbacks should be used as fuel, fuel to get better, fuel to achieve your goal.

Giving up is not an option.

Life will never get easier. It will keep dragging you down if you let it.

However, if you focus on what you can control, you can move forward.

Even in the most horrifying circumstances, if you focus on what is in your control, it doesn’t make it easier, but it makes it tolerable.

Epictetus was a slave for most of his life. He had is leg permanently destroyed by a cruel owner, but he didn’t let that circumstance reduce him.

“They (the gods) made you responsible only for what is in your power – the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burden of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:12:34-35

Now that is easier said than done considering the evil that human beings can do to one another.

Two prime examples are the horrific conditions that Viktor Frankl and Admiral James Stockdale had to endure.

Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. He lost his whole family to the horror. He however did not let it reduce him.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam and spent seven years as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton prison camp.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” — Admiral James Stockdale.

Very few of us will have to suffer the horror that these men endured. Could you?

Many of us melt when we are hit with the slightest setback.

How do we soldier on?

We take it one day at at time. If it’s bad we focus on ten minutes at a time. If it’s really bad focus on the next minute.

Focus on what you control. We do not control what happens to us. We only control how we react.

The Space

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

In that space before we respond we need to take an inventory of our emotions. Acknowledge what they are and take a moment to consider how they will affect our response.

We don’t need to respond immediately. Sometimes, many times, it’s better not to respond immediately.

It’s often better to process how what the other person has said makes you feel. How they made you feel, will be the pivotal thing that colors your response.

Anger, resentment, jealousy will make you do and say things you may not do or say normally. Allowing them to determine your response can destroy the path forward in the conversation.

This idea of using the space to respond appropriately is something I need to work on.

I am too eager to respond especially if someone has made me angry, jealous, or resentful.

I want them to know I’m right, even when I know I’m not.

I need to work on getting it right rather than being right.

Sometimes I feel anger, jealousy, or resentment because I know deep down they are right, and I don’t want to admit it.

“Am I hear to learn something or to prove something?“ – Holstee, Reflections newsletter

Get it right rather than be right.

Everything Has It’s Season

Do your job. Do it well

Don’t worry about the next task or the next job.

Do what needs to be done now and do it with all of your ability.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” -Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Be happy where you are until it is time to move on.

Be happy with the journey.

“We need more confidence without the need for evidence.” – The Daily Coach newsletter

Life is hard enough without trying to live in a time machine, trying to fix the past and predict how everything will turn out in the future. Both are lessons in futility.

Savor the moment. Because what comes next will come no matter what.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Choose wisely.

We can only control how we react to what happens. We can be present and enjoy this moment.

Savor every moment.

Meaning

What is meaning?

The Oxford Language definition is important or worthwhile quality; purpose.

Where do you find meaning in your life? Where do you find purpose?

“What matters therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 108.

Do we ever truly find meaning? Or does meaning change over time?

What has meaning today may not have meaning tomorrow.

“In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only answer by being responsible.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 109.

What are you responsible for? Who are you responsible to?

Life has meaning when you are responsible to something greater than yourself. Everything I do is for my wife and children. How I carry myself. The job I do at work.

I do my job as I hope that the administrators and teachers in my children’s school are doing there’s.

I always remember that every student is someone’s child. Someone loves and cares for that child. It is my responsibility to give them everything I can to improve their lives.

“Choice of attention – to pay attention to this and ignore that – is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences.” – W. H. Auden

Meaning can change from day to day, moment to moment. What has your attention in this moment?

Our attention is dragged in a million different directions. Make sure what you allow to capture your attention is worth the meaning you give to it or suffer the consequences.