Tuesday, July 26, 2011


“Things do not change; we change.”
~Henry David Thoreau

 Magic Light by Robin Robokow

This week, my focus is CHANGE. 

Yesterday we decided on an area for change. Today we begin the CHANGE process. 
In order to do something you must be something.
~James Stockdale

Admiral James Stockdale was the highest ranking military officer in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for seven years. He was brutally tortured over twenty times and wrote a moving memoir about his captivity in his book titled In Love and War.

In Jim Collins’ brilliant book, Good to Great, he relates the story of Admiral Stockdale. A couple of surprising points were made about surviving these brutal conditions. The first interesting observation that Admiral Stockdale shared was when Collins asked him who didn’t make it out of the camp? Stockdale stated that the answer was easy – the optimists.

He said the optimists would always say, “We’ll be out by Christmas.” Then, Christmas would come and go. Then, they would say, “We’ll be out by Easter.” Easter would come and go and this thought process would repeat itself year in and year out. Stockdale said these people died of a broken heart.

On the other hand, Stockdale said that he survived by deciding that he would prevail and turn this into the defining event of his life.

Collins relates what he terms The Stockdale Paradox:
“You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Read that statement again because it holds power for creating true, lasting, and meaningful CHANGE.

Based on the Stockdale Paradox, I offer you the first steps to making lasting CHANGE. 

1. Assess your current reality with brutal honesty
This is not easy. You cannot sugarcoat your need for CHANGE. You cannot think to yourself, “It’s not that bad. I’m doing okay.” If you’re not exercising or eating like you should, then you need to be brutally honest about how you are cheating yourself from a life with your family down the road. If you’re in bad shape, call it like it is.

We can live in one of two worlds: reality or fantasy. Sometimes it takes a difficult or trying situation to wake up to truth. Don't wait for one of those situations - CHANGE now before you are forced to.

Oftentimes, real truth in our lives comes from someone else. So, maybe, we need to ask our spouse or close friends about reality. We might be surprised. 

2. Have faith in yourself that you will prevail
Sometimes having faith in ourselves is more difficult than assessing the current reality, but it is so important. Many times at the outset of a CHANGE effort, we start thinking about all the times we’ve failed before. Or how many times we’ve started something and quit.

Remember…forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself.

Be gentle with yourself. Personal growth is holy and sacred ground and it is hard. Love yourself and believe in yourself.

So, your work for today is to think about your idea for CHANGE and walk through these two thoughts:
1. Where is your current reality?
2. Can you believe in your ability to make this change? 

Tomorrow, we will narrow down our focus and set a small, specific goal to move forward with your CHANGE.

I leave you with a 2 minute, 35 second audio clip of Jim Collins talking about Admiral Jim Stockdale. It’s worth the listen. Click here to access the audio clip. 

QUESTION: Why is it so hard to truly assess our current reality? Please leave comments below.


Ryan said...

This REALLY good stuff, Jason! I was JUST thinking about the eating/exercising situation this morning. I was on a week of vacation last week and it's been really difficult to get back on track. I felt like a failure yesterday and was questioning if I could re-start. ThenI was like, "Hey, instead of being depressed and disappointed i myself, why not use that as motivation to be determined and dedicated to eating right and exercising again STARTING NOW??"

Being brutally honest with ourselves is so hard. We'd rather ignore it and minimize the issues in our life than do the work of making things better. Even though we know the work will be worth it in the end!

Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to the rest of your thoughts on this topic!

Anonymous said...

Love the quote and your comments. I just finished serving 2 1/2 years time for a crime I did not commit. I lived that quote in order to make it and today I am a free woman. I was not only declared "not guilty" but incapable of such a hideous crime.
Having a true picture of your reality as well as maintaining your faith in yourself and your source of strength combined, it is amazing what we can survive!

Jason said...

@Ryan, The "brutally honest" part is definitely the hardest for me. I have such a way of dancing around the real issue. Thanks for the comment.

@Anonymous, thanks for sharing. I guess we really are way more resilient that we believe...sometimes I think it just takes the circumstances to teach us. Thanks for the comment.