In today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack Freed used this quote from John F. Kennedy – “When written in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
We will all face a few crises in our lives or at least situations that we feel are crises. How we react to them perhaps depends upon which of the Chinese characters we see. Do you see only the danger in a crisis or can you see the opportunity. We see and hear on the news almost daily about “heroes” who spring into action to rescue someone who is experiencing a crisis moment – perhaps involving an accident or fire or some other calamity. I’m sure that those heroes see the danger involved, but they choose to take the opportunity to help.
More important for most of us is how we, ourselves, with handle the crises that life throws our way. Those who see only the dangers involved may seek relief by hiding or withdrawing into their own protective shells. It is all too easy to let fear take hold and paralyze us from taking any actions. Maybe we don’t step in when we see bullying taking place or perhaps we cross the street to avoid the person with whom we have a disagreement. Maybe we refused to believe that a mistake that we have made has ended a relationship. In the realm of “fight or flight” reactions, those are all flight responses to crises.
The response that sees opportunity in the crisis is not necessarily a “fight “response so much as it is a “take action” response. These people see the opportunity in the situation – the opportunity to do something in response. People who see opportunity in crises immediately go in to problem solving mode, whether it’s jumping into action and quickly figuring out a rescue plan at an accident or conflagration, or assessing what needs to be said or done to defuse and calm a personal conflict. It’s not so much that they don’t see the danger in the situation (after all the burning car right in front of them is hard to miss), it’s just that the opportunity to help, to do something , overrides their fear of personal danger. They NEED to act – to seize the opportunity.
For most of us, life is quite a bit less dramatic than encountering accidents with people trapped in burning cars or, maybe, having to react in an active shooter incident. Our “crises” are usually the result of interpersonal conflicts or misunderstandings and certainly the “danger” involved is usually not immediately life threatening. For some, however, the anxiety or depression that can result from these crises is life threatening in a very real way. Setbacks or dissapointments may become crises because of their inability to deal with the events that occur in their lives. Those “crises” may represent an opportunity for you to jump in to save the life of your friend or loved one; but, that’s a topic for a future post.
What is a crisis? There is an interesting article on the Marking 91 web site that classifies 8 different types of crises –
- A crisis of malice
- A crisis of deception
- A Confrontational crisis
- A crisis of organizational misdeeds
- Workplace violence
Who knew that crises could be so neatly categorized? Go read the article and see if there are any other categories that you might add.
No matter what the crisis the key thing is how you deal with it. I’ve posted here a few times on problem solving, so I won’t repeat all of the at advice. Just search problem solving to see the posts. What this post is focused upon is the recognition that one is in a crisis situation and the considered decision to deal with it rationally. It is not unusual for crises to occur at a fast pace and perhaps in a confusing environment. That makes it all the more important to be able to step back for an instance, recognize that you are dealing with a situation that requires that you take some action and then formulate a quick action plan. Just that moment of clarity is often enough to snap you out of panic and into problem solving mode. In that moment, you have regained control, not of the situation, but of yourself.
Some people actually think ahead about what they might do in a crisis situation. Airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger said in his post crisis interviews that he had been thinking hew entire career about what to do if the plane that he was piloting suffered a catastrophic failure of both engines. He certainly didn’t think that he would ever have to put those plans into action until the day that he had to land his crippled plane in the Hudson river. I have also posted here in the past about not overthinking (called worrying) about all possible outcomes for some future event, especially those involving personal confrontations. There is a big difference between doing some planning and just plain worrying about things.
So, how will you handle future crises? It is OK to recognize the danger in the situation. That keeps one from becoming foolhardy. Rather, try to keep calm and focus upon the opportunity that is also there. There ae good, bad and ugly possible outcomes in all situations and you can find he good outcome if you just look for it. If you are a person of faith, take heart in this passage from Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Imagine how much better you could handle the crises in your life if you approached each one with the Peace of God in your heart and mind.
Be at Peace and see the opportunities.