One of my coaching clients recently shared this story with me – and it clearly demonstrates the power of the equation made famous by Jack Canfield:
E+R=O (Event + Response = Outcome).
Several years ago, my client was vacationing with friends and they decided to go cave diving. Now – this is an activity that is not for the weak-minded or the claustrophobic. They were in full scuba gear, under water (of course) AND under ground. Imagine swimming in the dark, surrounded by water and rock. The four men were navigating a tunnel and my client was bringing up the rear. As he was maneuvering through the tunnel, he got stuck on a stalactite that impeded his movement.
I want you to think about what this must have felt like in that moment. It is cold and dark. Your friends have gone ahead and have no idea that you have been left behind or that there is any kind of trouble. You’re stuck in a tight space with limited mobility of your arms, and on top of that, you are underwater. You have no method of communication, and a limited supply of air. What would you do?
Finding himself trapped in this literal hole, my client realized that he had three options:
1. Panic – and die
2. Do nothing – and die
3. Calm down, find a way to get free, and live.
Which option do you think he chose?
When the panic died down and he had evaluated the situation more rationally, he was able to focus on the problem at hand. If there was a way he had become stuck, then by undoing that motion, he could get unstuck. That is exactly what he did. Using small, controlled, subtle movements, he was able to free his gear from the obstruction, and by changing his positioning as carefully as he could, he was able to clear the tunnel – living to tell the tale.
What do you do when faced with stressful situations? Do you panic? Do you shut down? Either of these responses will result in death – perhaps not literal death, but the death of the dream, goal, objective, or purpose that you were pursuing up until the point of crisis.
There is an inherent lesson in my client’s story. The Event was that he found himself stuck. This was his crisis point. If Events alone determined our outcomes, I wouldn’t be telling you this story today. My client would have died in that cave, and I never would have met him. What determined his outcome was his response.
It is important to note too, that he could not change anything about the event itself. He could not somehow magically drain the water out of the cave. He could not move the rock wall to make the space wider for him to get through. The only thing he could change or control was HIMSELF.
This is true for you as well. When you are faced with crisis (financial, mental, physical, or relational) your response will decide how things work out for you. If you panic in the face of challenges – your outcome will be very different than if you rationally seek solutions to your problems. When you find yourself “stuck” in an impossible situation, remember: you have three options. Panic – and die. Do nothing – and die. OR calm down, find a way to get free, and live.