For me, the most difficult situations always seem to have the same characteristics.
In tough times, the future is always worse in my imagination.
In this video, take a look and see if you don’t agree. My imagination is one of my greatest strengths – creativity is an important part of the work that I do.
But imagination can also create self-inflicted wounds, personal damage and unnecessary grief, when thinking about the future. That pain can be particularly acute, in a difficult situation. Or when dealing with difficult people.
Of course, if challenges are coming from your imagination…that means those challenges are actually…. imaginary.
Surprisingly, those imagined circumstances can seem pretty real!
The antidote is always a shift in perspective. Once you have that new perspective, you can be immune from your own mental misalliance, and focus on the issue at hand.
There’s the famous story of the man who finds himself trapped in the desert, after a plane crash. He starts off across the hot sand, and he’s afraid that he’s going to get a vicious sunburn. Then he’s afraid that he won’t be able to find water. Or food, or shelter. What if he gets bit by a snake? Thinking ahead, he realizes that he’s all alone, that no one may find him across the great expanse of the desert, and he is paralyzed with fear…
While all of these thoughts have a practical application, they are all focused on one thing: the future. When faced with a difficult situation, the hero of this metaphorical story focuses on what might happen. What could happen. What possibly might occur.
Just the same way that you or I might react, when feeling trapped, or limited, or isolated. Luckily, I’ve never been in a plane crash. But I’ve had plenty of plans that have crashed. And burned. Many times.
Ever felt that way before? And then, have you ever noticed how those thoughts (of the bad stuff that just happened) tend to cascade, until you can’t think straight at all? It’s as if the frustration, fear and futility all multiply exponentially, filling your brain with a waterfall of anxiety!
It’s like the time when you lose your glasses, and you’re getting frantic that you can’t find them, and you are re-tracing your steps and kicking yourself for misplacing them…when suddenly, your wife says, “They’re sitting on top of your head!” All the fear and frustration was imaginary. But didn’t it feel real – and really really frustrating – at the time?
While all of these thoughts have a practical application, they are all focused on one thing: the future.
I’ve been there – lost in an imagined future, and unable to take action in the present.
While it can be useful to consider multiple alternatives in a difficult situation, any possible future always starts at the same place.
The future always starts right now.
And if your mind is overwhelmed by multiple future alternatives, each one more imposing and displeasing than the last, how can you really think clearly about your situation?
My point is not to dismiss the importance of planning, or the ability to look at multiple options. But many times, the ability to move forward is the biggest challenge of all.
And acting with clarity, in the midst of adverse circumstances, is often elusive. But that clarity is what’s required, above all, especially when faced with intimidating challenges.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation, and you are feeling isolated because you lack resources…ask yourself the five words in the video up above.
Getting unstuck, and moving away from that metaphorical plane crash behind you, requires a fresh perspective.
Don’t get trapped in your imagination, because a solution could be just one thought away. Find out how to make room for that kind of clarity, no matter what your circumstances, see how quickly your situation changes.