Years ago, while I was working the job that preceded my decision to leave corporate America in order to work on airplanes, a friend made the statement, “it’s always better to run to something that to run away from something.” That was really helpful and it was one of the principles that helped me pull back enough from the urgency of my then-current situation to take stock and figure out what I really wanted to do – what I wanted to run to.
One of the problems with running from, is that it puts us into fight-or-flight mode, where the primary goal is basic survival. It puts us in a position where all we see is what’s immediately in front of us. It robs us of the broader perspective that enables a more developed life.
Obviously survival is a first requirement, and kind of important, but ideally, there will be more to life. One of the reasons (or maybe THE reason) that poverty is so damaging is that it puts its sufferers in nonstop survival mode (and, studies indicate, changes brain chemistry) such that there’s no time, space, or mental energy left to pull back from the immediate and think long term.
I thought of this recently because that fight-or-flight feeling seems so familiar to me in the current political climate. Every day there’s something new to react to, to panic over, to feel sorrowful over because of the pain it’s causing the people around me. I was spinning my wheels, feeling like there was nothing I could do, but at the same time feeling that if I didn’t do something then the world (or at least this country) was going to fall apart.
I was in survival mode, as were many of my peers. I think it was an understandable reaction, but it can’t be the final reaction because it doesn’t leave room for strategic thinking, or planning, or a way to create a path out of the morass.
And yes, I know that not everyone feels the way I did. I respect your right to respond however you respond. I hope you can respect my right to be genuinely worried about the direction this country is going in. This isn’t some kind of special snowflake reaction to not getting the candidate I wanted. This is real fear because we have put people in office who have the destruction of our country as their stated goal.
But, back to my point. Survival mode won’t enable us to make change. Survival mode is a necessary first reaction, but once survival is secured, we need to stop thinking about what we’re running from and decide what we want to run to. It will be different for each of you, but I ask you to take the time to think about it, and decide what you want to do, with intention, once the adrenaline subsides and you can put your head up above the parapet and take stock of where we are now and where you want us to go.