There will come a point in your life, if there hasn’t already, where everything will seem like it’s crumbling around you – your relationship will fall apart, your health will deteriorate, your financial situation will be a mess, etc., etc. – and, unless you can find a way to rise from the ashes, it will be very easy to allow these situations to cripple you.
I know of a lot of men who live in mediocrity because they never learned to dust themselves off when faced with these negative situations. They never learned how to rise up and become stronger in spite of all of the events that every single one of us will deal with at some point in our lives. Whether you’re dealing with a bankruptcy, separation or divorce, death of a loved one, injury or illness, or a job loss, it’s critical you learn to handle all that life will throw at you.
When these inevitable situations arise, we begin to see that there are really only two types of men – those who deal with the situation and find a way to become a better version of themselves and those who use their circumstances as a permission slip to self-destruct.
Today, I’ll share with you a very simple four-step cycle for overcoming difficult times. I’m sure that you’re familiar with, or at least have heard of the OODA loop. It’s a process that was developed by Air Force colonel, John Boyd. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. In the remainder of this article, I’ll break down the OODA loop and show you how it’s applicable in overcoming everyday struggles, challenges, and adversity.
Look, you may have just gotten your butt kicked. You may have just gotten your ass handed to you. It’s safe to assume that when you find yourself in this situation, you’re not going to be able to get right back up and get back into the fight. It would be nice if that were the case, but it rarely works that way.
What I found is that when I rush to get back up after being knocked down, I have a tendency of getting myself in a worse situation because I didn’t take the time to regroup and evaluate what was going on around me. I didn’t take the time to learn from the experience.
It’s very difficult when you’re in the midst of something very emotional to slow down and analyze what happened. But if you fail to take the necessary time, you’re going to make things worse. Instead, consider this an opportunity to focus on yourself and what you’re going to do in order to improve moving forward.
Look at your situation objectively. Don’t get emotional. Don’t rush into a solution. Regroup and withdraw from the fight temporarily, not permanently, to figure out what the hell just happened to you.
Now, once you’ve taken the time to observe what is going on around you, it’s time to start making a plan. It’s time to figure out what your resources are. It’s time to figure out what your weaknesses are. It’s time to figure out what assets and what liabilities you have. It’s time to start thinking about what you need to do next? Ask yourself:
- In what areas of my life do I need to improve?
- What skills sets do I need to develop?
- What resources do I have that can help?
- What resources do I need on my next mission?
- What is it that I want to accomplish moving forward?
Documenting everything. Write everything down. Keep in mind, you’re not prioritizing right now. Simply write down the answers to the previous questions and any others you think would serve you.
So, now you’ve observed what is happening. You know you’re in a difficult situation. You know what is going on around you. You’ve begun to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You know what resources you have. You have an idea of what you want to accomplish. It’s now the time to start prioritizing and making decisions. Now you need to answer the question, “What is my plan of action?”
When I’m prioritizing all that needs to be done to improve myself and my situation, I ask, “What is the one thing I can do right now that will yield the biggest result?” The answer to that question is the course of action I usually take. When I completed that task, I ask myself again,” What is the one thing I can do right now that will yield the biggest result?” And, I make the answer to that question my next step.
This is where a lot of men get hung up. We’ve all hear the term, “paralysis by analysis.” It’s easy to stall because you don’t want to mess up. The truth is, you might. But what’s the alternative? The alternative is staying where you currently are, in a state of despair, simply hoping that things will work out. Hoping something will work out is not a great strategy.
Make a decision. Do it with the right motives and the right information. And, if it doesn’t happen to play out the way you would have hoped, start the OODA loop back over again.
We’ve now observed the problem as objectively as possible. We’ve oriented ourselves to our strengths and weaknesses, and we know what resources we have access to and which resources we need. We’ve decided on a course of action. Now, it’s time to take it.
There’s not much more to tell you with regards to this fourth step. You’ve done everything that you needed to in order to get you to a point where you’re acting in a manner that is likely to produce the best result. Do it. That’s it, do it.
One other thing you need to understand when it comes to utilizing this strategy. It’s called OODA loop for a reason. This process is not a linear one, but a cyclical one. The process is just getting started. In fact, it never ends.
I see too many men use this process only to find out that it actually works. When they see that it has worked, they forget to go back to step #1, Observe, and soon find themselves in the same dire situation they were before. Do not fall prey to thinking that you’re done just because you accomplished what it is you set out to accomplish. This is a sure path to mediocrity, complacency, and long-term failure.
Incorporate this process into your life, and not just when things go bad, but when things are going right too. You don’t need to wait until things fall apart in order to improve yourself. In fact, if you can incorporate the OODA loop into all aspects of your life now, you’re less likely to have to deal with catastrophic events down the road.
When you find yourself burned, I want you to rise from the ashes. I’ve seen too many men fall prey to tragic situations. These challenging times are not meant to hurt you or keep you down. They’re meant to empower you and make you stronger for what you are yet to face. You have the power to become a better, stronger, tougher, grittier, more resilient man than you were before. Again, life’s challenges aren’t there to cripple us. They’re there to fortify us, to build us, to make us stronger, but we have to have a system in place in order to become a new man.