“How much more harmful are the consequences of anger and grief then the circumstances that aroused them in us!”— MARCUS AURELIUS (MEDITATIONS)
The simplest, most common sense piece of wisdom that the vast majority of people fuck up on a daily basis is this: Don’t make shit worse than it already is.
For example, imagine that a global pandemic ravages the world turning life as we know it on its head (oh wait). Now imagine how much harder it would be if you spent your entire time wishing it hadn’t happened (ah shit). Wishing for a different reality (yep, fucked that one up).
Or imagine that you’ve lost your job. Now imagine how much harder it would be if you spent your time blaming your employer for what happened. Pissing all your savings down the drain in anger. Instead of knuckling under and coming up with a plan. Instead of first accepting the hand you’ve been dealt and then putting in the hard yards so you come out the other side stronger.
It sounds simple, not making shit worse than it already is. However not making shit worse is about having the discipline to face your current reality as it stands. Having the discipline to first accept it.
This is why so many people fuck up this simple common sense piece of wisdom. They don’t practise acceptance (which is hard). They don’t first come to terms with what’s happened. Instead of pausing to have a think – instead of then making a measured response – they react rashly, caving in to impulsivity instead.
In aviation we have a saying: ‘When shit hits the fan, first sit on your hands.’ That’s not to say you should do nothing, but that you should do nothing initially. First sit on your hands and have a think so you don’t do anything stupid (like shutting down the wrong engine when you have an engine failure). To make sure you’re clear about what is happening and what your options are (Like Sully who realised they wouldn’t be able to make the runway if he turned back to LaGuardia or headed toward Teterboro).
There’s something else we use in aviation to help us think clearly when faced with any non normal scenario. I believe it works just as well in everyday life. It’s called the CLEAR model. (If you’re interested I wrote all about it here.) It stands for the following:
C – Clarify what the problem is. (Global pandemic has left me unemployed.)
L – Look for information and ideas. (Search for a new job or do an online course to gain new skills.)
E – Evaluate your options. (Apply for jobs or learn a new skill or binge watch NETFLIX.)
A – Act on your decision. (Binge watch NETFLIX.)
R – Review how it is working. (Enjoying NETFLIX. Will continue to watch NETFLIX until I hate myself then reluctantly look for a new job.)
I believe this is a useful model that helps you first sit on your hands and then gain some much needed clarity before making a decision. Because that’s what you need to do. First accept what has happened and then become clear about your options.
Hopefully this model can help you do that today.