Throughout these past weeks, doctors and nurses have gone out of their way to comment on my attitude and what a powerful difference it makes in enduring procedures, recovery, and healing. It’s not that I had an overly positive attitude (as in “everything’s going to be OK”). Instead, I adopted an attitude characterized by surrendering to those things outside my control and trusting in the long-term outcome.
I described this attitude in a blog post I wrote for my work newsletter prior to my leave:
Please know that, as I move forward into the days and weeks ahead, I do so without fear but with gratitude. I draw upon the work of Jim Collins, and let his Stockdale Paradox form the basis for my approach:
I will retain the faith that I will get through this. I will confront the most brutal facts of my current reality, whatever they might be. And, in the end, I will turn the experience into a defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.
What did this look like in action? One example: when a doctor came in to tell me of a serious complication, I didn’t ask, “How serious is it?” or “What are my chances?” – things outside my control. Instead, I thanked her for telling me and asked, “So, what’s the next step?”
In a way, it’s a matter of forgiving life for dealing a bad hand, and then playing it anyway.
Adopting this attitude was not something I simply adopted upon receiving my diagnosis. It’s something I’ve been working on for years – more on that next time.
Today, I look forward to living into the experiences of the day, this week and the weeks following, just as I look forward to eventually returning to work and a “normal” life…whatever that will be.
Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. Khalil Gibran
Here’s an article explaining the Stockdale Paradox and applying it to personal development (read now)