When the chips are down, be your best self
We had the chance to meet a British couple at a waffle making class, while we were traveling through Amsterdam. They had been dating for three months, and this was their first trip together. Everyone in attendance instinctively agreed that traveling is a great way for the couple to get to know each other. My question is... why? Why is traveling with people such an effective way to deepen bonds?
To me, having been traveling with my family for six straight months now, one answer stands out. Since travel requires us to step out of our comfort zones, such a requirement reveals glimpses of our core selves.
We know the familiar feeling of operating within enjoyable routines. If we’re taking a short and lovely drive for example, we relax. Or in the home of a loved one, we feel free to cut loose a little. But when travel confronts us with a series of novel demands having high stakes of money or safety, we must remain in a perpetual problem-solving state of mind. Should we succeed, we handle those problems with grace and humor. Failure, on the other hand, basically means we become overwhelmed, and we are unable to deal with that state.
Notice that my definition of success is not just solving all problems at hand. My definition of success is rooted in how we handle the problems. And my definition of failure is not merely escaping overwhelm, rather, it’s that failure is the inability to deal with overwhelm.
Thus success and failure do not apply to winning and losing on tasks. They apply to winning and losing on our approach to life. Tasks come and go, and surely, they are a part of life. How we deal with tasks is life itself.
This realization is the bedrock of teaching, learning, and parenting. No matter what subject we aim to teach or learn, our approach is paramount. My personal challenge these days (that I now throw to you) is this: when the chips are down and the stakes are raised, at the moment when we could so easily slip into irreversible overwhelm, we get an elevated opportunity to step into the best version of ourselves.