Illustration: Jeremiah Sullivan
Deepak Chopra, co-founder of the Chopra Foundation and author of Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges, reveals how to face our roughest times.
Challenges are part of everyone's life, but there are dark moments when a challenge turns into a crisis. The outcome of our lives depends on the choices we make at those moments. Will they be breakthroughs or setbacks? What we call wisdom is a crucial tool here. Without it, people usually make their most important decisions based on impulse or its opposite, habit.
It might seem impossible that any three questions can—and should—be asked anytime things go wrong, but the sad truth is that millions of us dwell on the three questions we shouldn't ask, questions such as: (1) What's wrong with me? (2) Whom can I blame? (3) What's the worst-case scenario?
We all feel the urge to condemn ourselves out of guilt, to blame others for our misfortunes and to fantasize about total disaster. But these three questions will haunt you and do untold harm unless you consciously stop them, push them aside and replace them with the right questions, leading to the right actions. Here are three positive, self-affirming ways to approach your next tough situation:
1. Is this a problem I should fix, put up with or walk away from?
Unless you can answer this question clearly and rationally, your vision will be clouded. Without knowing it, you will be acting under the influence of negative emotions such as fear. You will give in to impulsiveness or fall back on old habits.
You must clarify your inner confusion. You must get your bearings in a reasonable way. The first step is to consider—in consultation with those you trust—a course of action that begins with finding a fix. If the fix isn't there, ask why. Perhaps someone is blocking you or you lack the resources of money and time. Yet it is always worthwhile to search for a fix and commit yourself to finding one. Only when you feel satisfied that you've exhausted your realistic options should you begin to decide between putting up with the situation (using patience, not passivity) and walking away.
The three alternatives are easier than they sound, because most people vacillate when things go bad. One day they wishfully hope for a fix and maybe take a few steps toward it. The next day they feel passive and victimized, so they put up with things as they are. The third day they are sick and tired of suffering and simply want to escape. The overall result is self-defeat. No solution can ever be found by running in three different directions. So clarify your situation and act on what you clearly see.
Next: The second question you need to ask