Although the attribution to Winston Churchill cannot be supported, there is a saying I recently ran across which summarizes many of the struggles we face on a daily basis:
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Perspective is crucial in most dealings, but even more so when one is going through extended periods of difficulty. Even an optimist will eventually flag under the weight of consistent struggle. At some point – and the point varies greatly with each person’s priorities, temperment, and intentions – one needs to take a step back to look at the big picture.
Right now is difficult. We’re not disputing that.
The foundational question is:
Do you want to get through this, or do you want to find a new situation?
This question of intent is vital because it changes the impact and the answers of the questions which follow. Fundamentally, if you want to be in a different situation, then your effort is best placed on that rather than on impacting your current situation. Why? Because getting through difficult times is a lot of work.
If you cannot leave your current situation despite an overwhelming desire to do so, then it also impacts how you handle things. You may need to make the best of a bad situation, but the situations where you invest your time and energy need to be different if you’re simply looking to survive long enough to get out than if you’re looking for ways to thrive and fundamentally change your situation.
Once you’ve come to terms with intent, look at the details.
- Why are things difficult? Is it a side effect of something good, such as rapid or extensive growth? Or is it because of something bad, like mismanagement? The two are not mutually exclusive, so the question may need to be fine tuned – How much of the difficulties being faced are the result of something good vs. something bad?
- Are the bad contributing factors something which can be dealt with? Often the answer is Yes – even when, at first glance that doesn’t appear to be the case.
- If they can be dealt with, is it worth the effort? The answer to this one is sometimes No.
From there, the questions and decisions are more nuanced.
- What opportunities do you face. What pitfalls do you need to avoid?
- How can you improve your situation?
- Who can you enlist for help?
Each of these will spawn a myriad of additional questions specific to your situation, but let these be the foundation to help you determine where you need to apply yourself.
Take the time periodically to step back and gain perspective. You’ll find that you’re in a shifting landscape and the perspective you need today may not be the right perspective a month from now.