I have written nearly 150 posts over the last several months, and most of them were designed to teach you an important life skill or lesson. It occurred to me the other day as I was lying in bed, that while I have presented each of these pearls of wisdom as standalone ideas, in practice you frequently have to employ several of them at once to achieve success. In fact, you will find that a synergy is created by coordinating the use of several of these techniques that will amplify their effectiveness. Additionally, some skills can be combined to make up for each other’s weaknesses, as happens when you combine the will to never give up with knowing your limits, for example. A few days ago, I was faced with a situation that serves as a great case of how you can use several skills at once to best accomplish your goals, and I am going to share this experience with you today to illustrate how important this is in overcoming adversity and finding success.
In the following story, I have marked every life skill I reference in bold to show you how many different skills I use in this one scenario.
Recently, I went out to the pharmacy to fill several of my prescriptions. When I got to CVS and dropped them off, the pharmacist said that it would take 30 to 45 minutes to get them all ready. I was ready for this as I had set my expectations to this trip taking a while, so I went across the street to McDonald’s and had lunch while I waited. After 45 minutes had passed, my nurse and I returned to the pharmacy to pick up my medications. The pharmacy tech talked to me as if I was mentally challenged, but I kept my cool at his judgment of my mental abilities, and thanked him for his assistance. I got back in the Drotarcade, and as we were backing out of our parking space, I heard this terrible, grinding sound. After a little inspection, we discovered that every time we turned the steering wheel, there was a grinding noise that came from the driver-side, front wheel. It was quite obvious from the sound that something was really wrong, and we were now faced with the question of whether the van was safe to drive home, and if not, how do I get back to my apartment?
As you can imagine, this was an extremely stressful situation to find ourselves in, and I will admit that I almost let my emotions overwhelm me, but I was able to avoid this emotional hijacking and maintain control. I knew that before I would be able to solve this problem and navigate through this difficult situation, I would have to get myself centered and in the right frame of mind. So, I took a little trip to my “happy place,” took some deep breaths, and reminded myself that I was strong and intelligent enough to overcome whatever life throws at me. After this brief, mental pep talk, I was ready to address the first question at hand, “Was the van safe to drive me home?” Neither my nurse or I knew much about cars, but I remembered seeing an Auto Zone as we were pulling into the pharmacy. We called over there and explained our situation, playing the “Wheelchair Card” heavily, and one of their mechanics was more than happy to walk over and take a look. After examining my vehicle, he said that, while he could not be certain, that it was probably safe to drive the two miles home, but that we shouldn’t get on the highway or drive very fast. We thanked him profusely, and then we began trying to make the tough decision of whether to risk it or not.
We now had to make a decision between two equally bad options, risking driving home in my van and trying to find another way home while towing the van. I took a few minutes to try to come up with a creative solution to get me and my wheelchair back to my apartment. The two possibilities I came up with were not very attractive options. One idea was to have an ambulance take me home, and then put my wheelchair in a pickup truck. This would be a lot of work and wear and tear on both my wheelchair and my body. The other alternative was to try to use the handicap taxi service, but typically they require some advanced notice in order to provide service. Of these three choices, we decided that driving the van home nice and slow made the most sense. Neither my nurse or I was very comfortable with this, but we controlled our fear and mustered up our courage to give it a go. Fortunately, our perseverance and determination paid off, and the Big Green Monster got us home in one piece.
In this one scenario, I have counted about 21 different occasions when I used one of the life lessons that I have previously written about on my blog. I am sure that I could find more too, if I really thought about it. This entire story occurred over a span of about three hours, which means I was using a life skill every eight minutes. I hope this helps you see how frequently you can combine and employ multiple skills at once to help you overcome difficult situations. I would also like to point out how the order that you apply these techniques is important. When the problem first started, I didn’t immediately start thinking “How do I get home? What am I going to do?” Instead, I first got control of my emotions and feelings, so that I would be able to maintain an objective state of mind in solving my problem. By using this “inside-out” approach, where I first work on my internal world before working on my external world, I was able to think clearly and effectively to find a solution. If I had not taken the time to first get myself under control, who knows what kind of decisions I would have made. Using these internal skills first, allowed me to use more of my other, external tools later, which eventually helped me to get through this tough situation and back to my apartment.
While each of the ideas I have discussed are powerful and useful on their own, in order to get the most out of these life skills you need to learn to use them simultaneously. By combining the right skills, in the right order, you can increase their effectiveness exponentially. This can allow you to turn a difficult situation that you could not succeed in with only one or two of these techniques, into a situation that is easily managed by appropriately applying a larger set of skills. Some of these life tools work together naturally, and you are probably already combining certain skills without even trying, but it is also important to look for ways to put these ideas together to make them more effective. Take a few minutes to do a mental walkthrough of a difficult situation you have overcome and think about all of the times you use one of your life skills (like my story above). After congratulating yourself for using so many of these techniques, go back over this scenario and look for areas where you could have used an additional skill to better achieve your goals. By doing this short, mental exercise every so often, you will start to find creative ways to mix and match your arsenal of mental techniques, which will make them more effective in the future. This will help you to overcome adversity when it arises and live a happier, more successful life.