My eldest brother, who is a wise man in his own right, recently reminded me of a kernel of wisdom from which we can all benefit.
The quote was attributed to the illustrious Captain Jack Sparrow, although this may not have been its original source. Even if it isn’t original, it is a good source, and I can hear the captain (or rather, Johnny Depp) saying it.
The quote is this:
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
It is one of those concise, pithy statements I wish I would have written.
The more one thinks about it, the more one realizes it is true.
This is not to suggest all problems are created equal. Many things we think of as problems are really minor irritations or inconveniences.
Other problems can be extremely challenging and may even pose real and immediate danger.
If we step back for a moment, and look at the way different people handle problems, we are likely to see that, in many cases, our attitude about a problem can be more important than the problem itself.
Life is going to sling all sorts of obstacles into our path as we make our way along the road of life, and there isn’t much we can do about that.
We can, however, decide how we are going to react to those obstacles.
I read a lot. Some of what I read involves news stories from the local area and around the world.
Some of these involve tragic tales of misfortune. Things like natural disasters, crime, accidents, and medical problems happen to people every day.
I am not referring to minor inconveniences here; I am referring to the big, black, ugly catastrophes that can seem to blow one’s world apart.
Sometimes I wonder how these people summon up the courage to get out of bed in the morning.
But they do get up. They get up and go about their business as best they can.
Some even laugh defiantly in the face of destruction.
Their house may have just been blown down by a tornado, but they are still alive. They focus on what they have, not on what they have lost, and they roll up their sleeves and get on with their lives.
Other people, through injury or illness, suddenly find themselves physically unable to do things they were able to do just days or hours earlier.
Instead of worrying about what they can’t do, they focus on the things they can do, and set about the business of getting by in their new circumstances.
The downturn in the economy has left a lot of people unemployed or under-employed.
Some of these people have taken on two or three jobs with no benefits just to get by.
They are doing whatever they need to do to take care of themselves and their families.
They don’t make excuses, they make adjustments. They figure out what they need to do, and they go out and do it.
There are plenty of people out there who have endured tragedy and overcome obstacles, and we don’t have to look far to find them.
The challenges they face may be different, but the spirit and the attitude with which they choose to address these challenges are the same.
The problems may be beyond their control, but their response to those problems is very much within their control.
The real survivors are the people who have decided they are not going to let problems that are not of their making get them down.
Most of us will be kicked around by life at one point or another.
When that happens we can choose to whine and complain, and sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, or we can get up, dust ourselves off, and get back in the fight.
I admire people who have overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, and still greet each day with a smile.
They may be dealing with pain or hardship, but they refuse to surrender.
These people have made up their minds that they are going to attack life head-on, not just sit back and let life happen to them.
Those are the people I want to be around the ones who roar back at the approaching storm and hold things together with their bare hands, no matter what life throws at them.
The captain was right. The problem is not the problem. Some people’s attitude about the problem is the problem.
If, for example, we find ourselves at the edge of a cliff atop a peak in the Rocky Mountains, with a hungry member of the ursus arctos horribilus clan approaching, we might find fate has dealt us an ideal opportunity to try flying, a skill we have often admired but never attempted.
Alternatively, we might find ourselves forced to walk the plank above a sea of shark-infested waters, and think to ourselves what a nice day it will be for a swim.
The future may appear bleak, but giving up solves nothing.
We only need to look around us to see examples of people who demonstrate how attitude matters. If we follow their lead, nothing will keep us down for long.