Here’s an experiment. Do it at home, in the kitchen. Fill three small pans with water and place them on high fire. Get a carrot, an egg and some ground coffee. When the water comes to boil, place the carrot, the egg and the coffee each in one pot.
Let them sit and boil for about twenty minutes. Now, fish the carrot out and feel it. You will notice that it is soft. Pull the egg out of the pan and break it. You’ll notice it is hard-boiled. Last, sip the water from the third pot. It is actually no longer water, it is coffee.
You now turn to me and say sarcastically: “Wow! Now, you’ve taught me to cook.”
But, as you know, this experiment was actually a metaphor. Each of the 3 things faced the same adversity – boiling water. Each reacted differently.
The carrot went in strong and hard. With adversity, it became soft and weak. The egg had been fragile. After sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened and stiff. The ground coffee beans, on the other hand, reacted to the adversity of hot water by changing the water itself.
So this is a reminder that what affects us in life and at work is not just adversity itself. It’s a combination of adversity, andthe way we deal with adversity.
Sometimes, we can’t change what happens outside, but changing how we deal with it makes all the difference in the world.
I mean this, not just in a spiritual way, but in a very practical way. You can change the way you deal with situations that “make you” feel overwhelmed, or sad, or frustrated, or angry… And your experience of life will be different.
I’ll give you a very concrete example of how being proactive about your circumstances changes your experience.
When you first start skiing on moguls, you find them difficult to deal with: they feel like obstacles placed in your way. As you get to be more familiar with them, you adapt your technique. You anticipate the moguls, and you are able to use them to handle the slope more effectively and more gracefully.
So the experiment I’m talking about is not just limited to handling coffee beans, or ski slopes. It is about seeing that adverse circumstances may be challenging you to find different ways to respond to them