Albert Schweitzer’s life spanned both world wars; this guy KNEW adversity. (Fortunately for him, he was able to become a French citizen after WWI.) I think he’s speaking here about training- preparing for life’s inevitable big challenges by consistently overcoming everyday obstacles.
Now, I am fully aware that even my biggest challenges pale in the face of war and famine, and I try to never let a day pass without reminding myself of that. However, eventually even those of us who live in the richest and safest country in history will certainly face events that rock us to the core. When someone dear to us dies, when unemployment hits, or when hostile forces attack our soil- we will respond how we’ve practiced to respond!
I didn’t do so well during the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Turns out I'm not unique, right? Few of us did, each for slightly different reasons. For me, I was incredibly frustrated since I believe we were forced to react in ways that weakened us individually and collectively, instead of being encouraged to strengthen ourselves and our communities. But that’s another topic.
Looking back, I realize much of my own unhappiness resulted from being in uncharted territory: I hadn’t any practice with real hardship in my personal life. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to put aside my anger and frustration and realize again that in the big picture, this was hard, but not nearly as hard as, say, the Holocaust!
Fortunately, I remembered we can use everyday ‘obstacles’ to prepare us for the bigger ones. Some that come to mind are tech failures, financial surprises (in the wrong direction), relationship struggles, and pretty much anything that happens at the gym!
My husband, who is an archer, strives for ‘perfect practice’ when he shoots his bow. This doesn’t mean every shot is perfect, but that he is actively concentrating on the components of the process and making certain they are as accurate and efficient as he can make them, every time. This way, his efforts turn into ‘brain memory’, not just muscle memory, so that eventually hitting the bullseye becomes second nature.
We can also develop this type of brain memory for handling tough times. If we ‘train’ this way, then hopefully when the next war, the next financial crisis, the next panic over threats real or imagined occurs, we can draw on that strength which can overcome adversity!
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