Monday, August 19, 2013

The 13th Principle of Overcoming Adversity

Last week, I wrote about The 12 Principles of Overcoming Adversity and was overwhelmed by the email responses to it.

While I haven’t gotten through the many emails I have received, a significant percentage of respondents had a question in common that I would paraphrase as follows:

After years of a good, great or successful Life, these things are hard to believe in when Life suddenly seems to get stuck.  Why is this and what should I do about it?

I remember reflecting upon this in my Life when I wondered why things suddenly seemed to stop moving and then I came across something that answered the question for me.

Of the many times I have made presentations, there were a couple of times when the coordinators of the events checked out my background (which is not unusual).

However, what was interesting was that when I arrived they were startled to see that I was perhaps 20+ years younger than they expected.  Each time, the coordinators made comments along the lines of expecting someone much older and how I had obviously compressed a lot of living into my Life.

And so when I became “stuck”, I wondered why someone with so much “success” had suddenly “paused”.

That was when I came across this quote by John O’Donohue which contains a hint to the 13th Principle of Overcoming Adversity:

“Many people who are secretly weary of work have never taken themselves time, or taken time out or away from work, to allow their spirits to catch up”.

<substitute any word for “work”, depending on your own circumstances>

This statement was a punch between the eyes for me.

While my early Life was a whirlwind of success by many people’s standards, I never slowed down to ask questions like:

What does this mean?

What can I do with this ?

Where do I want to take this?

And I never slowed down to express what might have been a better expression of gratitude.

As T.S Eliot wrote in “Four Quartets”:

“We had the experience but missed the meaning”

With that realization, it occurred to me that my “pause” was the Universe / God’s way of saying “You must understand the lessons from your Life up to now in order to proceed”.

And while many of my professional projects have checkpoints to determine how the project should continue, I had missed this principle when it came to my personal Life and how it should continue.

So to those who feel stuck, perhaps the downtime is actually not the negative event that you perceive it to be but is in fact breathing room - a pause to provide your mind and soul with an opportunity to catch up to where you are physically.

This pause can be a double-edged sword.

You can dwell upon the “pause”, increasing your frustration level and tearing yourself apart to figure out why your Life has taken an unwanted detour.

Or you can say thank you for the downtime, take the time to learn the lessons from your past, express gratitude for those lessons and then decide what your next adventure looks like.  While a sense of urgency may tell you that it is insane to roll with this pause, it has been my experience and the experience of many I have spoken to that if you fight the pause, the resistance gets greater.

However, that does not mean that you stop taking action altogether.

I would compare this experience to getting caught in a riptide (which I have personally experienced).  You don’t swim against the riptide since eventually you will become exhausted and drown, fighting against a force much stronger than you are.

And if you stop swimming altogether, you drown also.

However, if you swim parallel to the shore, you eventually swim free of the force that threatens to drag you out to sea and you can make it safely to shore ….. ready to resume the Journey that is your Life.

And so to those who expressed frustration or anxiety over being stuck, I offer this.

The next adventure in your Life might be new success on the existing Path of Life or it might involve embarking upon a whole new Path.

In order to continue on the Journey, the knowledge from one’s past must be understood and appreciated without fighting the process required to accomplish this.  In order to reach this understanding, the desired execution of your Life sometimes needs to take a breather while your soul / mind / sense of understanding catch up to where you are.

Life is calling you to swim parallel to the shore for a little bit instead of swimming against the tide.

Be grateful for that opportunity, embrace it and take advantage of it.

The next step of your Journey requires it and won’t happen or will be delayed until you have learned the lessons required to set out again upon the Path.

And therein lies the secret of the 13th Principle and what you are called to do with it for yourself and others once you discover it. 

In service and servanthood,


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