Right Where I Want to Be
Have you ever lost your job? Been laid off, fired? Have you had a relationship in which you were deeply invested end suddenly? Have you ever dropped the ball when given responsibility for something? Have you experienced something which when it happened felt like it was the worst thing that could happen? Did you think your world was coming to an end? Did you think it was something which would affect the rest of your life in some negative way? When we’re fired or suffer a break up, our initial impulse may be to question ourselves. We ask things like what did I do wrong or what is wrong with me? These questions lead us backwards or down into depression. We doubt our decisions. We question our abilities. We get lost in what Scott Adams affectionately calls Loserthink.
Assuming your experience was sometime in the past, how do you look at it now? Is your view the same today as it was then? Is it reasonable to suggest that the further you are from the event that originally troubled you, the less you are concerned by it now? How is it that the same event when viewed from two moments in time can mean very different things? Is it just the passage of time that provides perspective? Is there something we can do which helps us interpret or reinterpret events constructively sooner, even in real time?
Right Where I want to be is a Chapter which explores the idea that we are little more than the stories we tell ourselves. We should, therefore, tell ourselves better stories. How we interpret or perceive a situation has a significant influence over how we will perform or adapt to a situation. The same facts can be interpreted in different ways which, in turn, lead to varied responses. To give ourselves the best chance at making the best of our circumstances, we should be telling ourselves a story that helps us instead of one that hurts us. The stories we tell ourselves are something that is within our personal control. The interpretation of our circumstances we make can inspire us or weaken us. Our choice.
UFC 250 took place in Las Vegas in early June, 2020. One of the prelim fights involved a Featherweight battle between a wily veteran and a striving up and comer. A brother of the up and comer had passed away unexpectedly just days before the fight. The brother, only 18 years old, died in his sleep. The fighter had the weight of this tragedy as a massive distraction in the days before one of, if not the biggest, event of his life. Unfortunately, this is a story that has occurred many times in sport and life. We encounter an unexpected difficulty that shakes us to our core. The natural reaction is to want to fall to our knees, crumble, and just soak in the sadness. However, Cody Stamann used the sadness to double down on his discipline and focus and commit to going forward. He used the pain that was occupying every ounce of his body to compel himself forward. He continued to prepare with the support of his team. He battled through a gruelling fight, suffering exhaustion, being battered and bruised for three five minute rounds to be rewarded with a victory by decision. The victory wasn’t the judge’s decision, but his efforts in handling himself with dignity and composure. The respect for his character was shown by opponents, commentators, and viewers from around the world. The emotional catharsis he let go immediately upon the end of the fight reflected the difficulty of bottling up and deferring intense emotions for days. Stamann was able to tell himself a story to help him move forward when faced with deep devastation.
The stories we tell ourselves can follow the questions we ask ourselves. When faced with frustration, what is our likely perspective when asking questions like “Why does this always happen to me? Why can’t I figure this out? What is wrong with me? Why are people always taking advantage of me?
Why wallow in your weakness when you can shift your perspective to one that empowers, emboldens, and explores constructive actions? Contrast with questions like “How can I use this situation to get better? When have I faced a similar challenge and succeeded? If I haven’t faced this circumstance before, who has successfully faced it and what can I learn or apply from their experiences?
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston works in the ironically named Ministry of Truth. His job is to, when directed, dig up past historical records and news articles and edit these to reflect the “new” truth. We’re not suggesting that we rewrite our histories in a way that things didn’t happen, but that we work to reinterpret the meaning or significance of these events such that we can use them as stepping stones to progress.
The poet, John Milton, wrote “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” We can interpret things in the worst possible way and make ourselves and those around us miserable or we can choose to accept the circumstances as they are and try to interpret them in a way that can be helpful for us. We should work to question the thoughts we have, seeking to answer, how does this help?
Reframe for gain, not for pain. Nietzsche offers us a recommended default definition for difficulties. He wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The idea is that we benefit from struggle and challenge. We want to lean in to difficulties. At a minimum, adopting this posture puts us in a position to best manage the circumstances we’re facing.
It’s not a ruse, you get to choose. Embrace your place. Interpret events from the perspective that you’re right where you want to be. Doing so is accepting your agency, responsibility, and puts you in a position to put your best foot forward.