My son and I have taken a few trips down the Musconetcong River in an inflated two man boat. The first two trips were successes. On the third trip, I completely misjudged the river conditions. We ended up popping the boat, walking much of the trip (in and out of the water) and my cellphone ended up getting waterlogged. The trip was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. As usual we were dropped off at the river several miles from our house and then left to make our way home. The low water levels did not become a true problem until we were about a half hour into the trip. At that point, it is too late to turn back. Luke and I had anticipated a few bumps along the way but we got a full on shipwreck and I’m so glad that we did.
Neither of us enjoyed the trek that we made down the river. Half of the time we were in the boat, half we were out and eventually when it popped we had to walk the river without an exit to the road for a while. Regardless of our poor circumstances, we kept chatting and dealing with small problems as they arose. It was not the trip that we wanted but that didn’t mean that we had to hate it. This was not taking lemons and making lemonade. This was slogging and knowing it was slogging but moving forward anyway and not lamenting it. It was something that had to be dealt with.
All too often life hands us poor circumstances. In the natural world, lamenting your circumstances gets you nothing. It is only in our overly cushy society that complaints do much to improve a situation. Generally speaking, the world is not interested in your comfort, preferences or desires. It gives you circumstances and you can choose to whine or choose to move forward. A shipwreck is not particularly a death sentence or even a negative occurrence, unless you decide that it is.
Boxing and all of its martial cousins are disciplines based on the idea of avoiding physical attacks while trying to make contact with your own. Practitioners such as Bruce Lee took a philosophical approach to the art of physical combat. In no way am I putting myself into his category. The thought that I want to convey is a slightly more modern predicament that the metaphor of fighting may best explain.
So imagine if you will that in a boxing match, that some of the opponent’s punches gave you more energy. The object would no longer be just to avoid punches but also discern which ones were helpful and allow those to land. Despite the ridiculousness of this concept in terms of real boxing, it’s easy to see that the best boxers would be able to max their potential by taking positive hits and dodging the negative.
At the moment, you have millions of punches coming your way from a ton of “opponents”. Almost like a battle royal, your life has an absolute melee of people and organizations who are trying to punch you in the face with their opinion, product, idea or service. It’s not all bad but evaluating it all can be difficult. Here are some steps to help you from feeling punch drunk as you make it through your day.
- Avoid the Negative Corner – There are some places where you know that you’re going to be hit repeatedly by people who do not have your best interest in mind. There are billion dollar industries whose sole purpose is to distract your attention as often as possible and hit you with “BREAKING NEWS”. Just because it’s happening now, doesn’t mean that it is important or better yet that it is important to you. Your Twitter feed, e-mail, Facebook, TV, the gossipy coworker and others are not based on important, just recent.
- Pay Attention to the Source – Some sources will almost always negative and others will almost always be positive. The amount of positive missed and negative endured from these consistent sources will be negligible. Keeping a default position of avoid all or accept all may be the best position to keep decision fatigue to a minimum. For those wild card sources, usually the most important question to consider is WHY? Why is this person taking a swing at me, to help or to hurt?
- Decide on the Power of the Punches – Since we’re dealing with information here and not actual physical contact, the amount of pain that you feel is dictated by you. So you can take the sting out of a punch by making it less significant. Our perspective often dictates our reality. For example, eyebrows are usually raised when I say that “Fear is a positive emotion”. People take it as solely negative but if they focus on the signal rather than the sensation, it becomes clear. Fear is sending a message to help protect you from some perceived threat. That system is there to help, not hurt you. Unfortunately many of us have our feelings on autopilot rather than recognizing the influence/control that we have over them.
So today as you brave the modern world and all of the jabs, hooks and sucker punches that it throws at you, remember that you’re not defenseless. The world does not have to knock you senseless. You can keep your wits about you and set up a system that protects you. After all, you’re fighting for your mental life. The only way that you get to control it is by keeping up the defense against those who are trying to take your control away.
So keep your guard up and only let in the hits that will help you.