I've been busy coaching leaders over the last few days that are all trying to come to terms with the Covid-19 reality and trying to develop strategies to work with and lead their teams. This is really tough for everyone as we face an unprecedented moment when strategic headspace and expoloring possibilities has never been so crucial.
This morning I was listening to one of my favourite George Harrison songs and it got me thinking about a story I heard a while back.
Have you ever heard of the Stockdale Paradox?
I came across this story for the first time back in 2009 when I was doing my ICF coach training and it was introduced as a lesson in why confronting reality, while mainitaining a healthy sense of optimism, is vital to success. In today's VUCA world this is more relevant than ever. Admiral Stockdale was an American pilot in the Vietnam war. He was captured and made into a POW. He spent 8 gruesome years in a war camp in Vietnam (dubbed the 'Hanoi Hilton') while being tortured almost daily. Stockdale was held in solitary confinement and suffered horrific torture the including having lights in his small cell kept on 24 hours a day and being forced to sleep in shackles.
How did Stockdale make it?
After he was able to escape, he explained how he survived and why both optimists and pessimists were the first ones to die in the camp.
The paradox goes like this:
You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
AND at the same time…
You must confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
The first part of the paradox and it covers the optimistic side of life. It explains that in order to survive any challenging period in life, you need to have absolute faith that you will manage to conquer it. This goes to serve not only the people in war camps but also those who face any difficulties. This part of 'keeping the faith' can be applied to any part of your life. whether it’s about losing a job, a traumatic experience, going broke or at the end of a relationship you need to have strong faith.
“It too shall pass” or, as George Harrison said in one of my favourite songs in the world "All things must pass".
If you don't know this song yet - look it up, turn it up and take a break.