Facing the Brutal Facts of Current Reality
I wish there was technology that would allow me to feed you pages 83-87 of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. It’ll be hard for me to nutshell it.
He tells the story of Admiral Jim Stockdale, the highest ranking officer at the Hanoi Hilton prison camp during the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973. Collins had a conversation with Stockdale, asking him how the survivors survived and why the others didn’t make it out.
Collins asks him, “Who didn’t make it out?” Stockdale responds…
‘Oh that’s easy,’ he said. ‘The optimists.’
‘…They were the ones who said, “We’re going to be out by Christmas.” And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, “We’re going to be out by Easter.” And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.’
‘This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.’
Obviously, none of us share Admiral Stockdale’s dire situation. Yet the lesson remains. One of the keys to success is facing the ‘brutal facts of your current reality.’
Yesterday you drew your battle lines. You decided on the various areas of your life that are worth fighting for.
Today, I’d like you to face the brutal facts of the current reality as it relates to those battle lines. This isn’t meant to be a discouraging exercise. It’s simply meant to give you an honest starting point.
Pick Two Key Battle Lines
Since we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves, I’d like you to pick the two most vital Battle Lines from yesterday’s exercise.
- Pick one area where improvement can be measured easily in numbers (finance, health, something else that might have a goal within that lends itself to being neatly defined)
- Pick one that is a little more difficult to measure: Marriage, parenting, spiritual life, or personal/intellectual growth, time management.
Action Item (10-15 minutes for each):
Pick two Battle Lines. Describe your current reality.
Here’s a suggested approach:
- Write that Battle Line on the Day 4 worksheet.
- Sit in silence. Think about what your situation currently is. Just meditate for a moment. Pray. Ask God to clarify the nitty gritty of where you are right now.
- Write: Take a few minutes (5 to 10 is plenty) and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Describe in as much gory detail as you’d like your current reality.
I’ll throw myself under the bus using my own personal health/weight situation:
I weigh 214 pounds. I started 2013 at 210 and at times was as low as 202. This tells me I’m not very disciplined on the whole but I’m capable of being disciplined. I struggle with consistency in my morning workouts, sometimes because of lack of discipline, sometimes because I prioritize prayer/quiet times ahead of exercise.
My health, according to my doctor, is decent. My blood pressure is fine, not stellar. I drink too much coffee and, at times, have an extra beer or glass of wine that isn’t necessary. I mostly eat well during the day, but at night I over-snack after dinner unless I’m joining my wife in Weight Watchers point-counting.
I have a few more bullet points, but we’ll leave it at that. You get the picture.
A couple principles to keep in mind:
- Do not beat yourself up. We’re not hurling insults at ourselves. But we don’t need to pretend either.
- Gently coach yourself: How would you describe yourself if you weren’t yourself? Be kind. Be gentle. But be honest. Be brutally honest if that’s what it takes. Face the facts.
As you have time, I suggest you go through this with the other Battle Lines you have on your list.
A final word…
This can be tough work. When I first tackled this process, I took two full days and locked myself in a room. To sit and describe exactly where I stood felt gutsy. This type of honesty, even if it’s just between you and yourself, can be tough depending on where you are and where you hoped you’d be at this point in your life.
But I wouldn’t have called it a Challenge if it were all unicorns and chocolate rainbows.
Preview Day 5: Be of good cheer. Tomorrow we get to dream again and appeal to our hopeful imaginations: We’ll create a vision for a preferred and ideal future in each of the two Battle Lines you selected. Pretty soon we’ll be getting back to our list of goals.
Don’t forget to click a social media button below and share this post if it’s helpful to you. Also, you can find links to each day’s post and worksheets along with other helpful resources here: 2014 Starting Well Resource Page.