When the hits come

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living Leave a Comment

They say it happens in a split second.

When you’re going 75 miles an hour, a split second is all the time it took for the 120-pound deer to show up in the path of my motorcycle while riding on the freeway two months ago.

The deer is no longer here to explain its action nor reflect on its decisions, but — remarkably, and thankfully — I am. What I recall saying to myself in that split second was:

Relax, take the hit, look forward. 

That was probably the biggest reason I stayed on the bike and stayed alive. That sequence of reminders was not a considered decision; it was instinct — and perhaps an instinct that accrued from being intentional about developing safe riding skills. Maybe just dumb luck.

While the experience held lessons for me, I have been reluctant to use this as the subject of a blog, knowing that it might elicit a lot of well-intended “Wow, glad you’re okay”, but I hope to serve a larger point. In talking about this with another leadership coach and friend, he suggested that all this might serve as a very useful metaphor for our response when any of us faces an impending “crash” in some area of our life or enterprise.

Relax, take the hit, look forward. 

There are some hits that truly can consume us, summoning everything within us to get through, but far too often we assign our frustration and anger to annoyances that bedevil us or the larger meteor strikes because they thwart our sense of what life ought to be. We can think that life — the “better” life — comes from fending off or navigating around the bad things that happen, to find that through-line of goodness and happiness and well-ordered life out there. Such a quest might be a fool’s errand, because we are not that in control.

What I’m suggesting is not just to endure the impacts in our life in order to acquire some stoic resilience, but to embrace difficulty with a humility, knowing some things are larger than us.

Relax. 

We simply cannot know in the moment of crisis how that experience may play out — not just in terms of outcome but in terms of what it means for us as a person. If we fight it, we lose balance, perspective. We can treat the blow as something we don’t deserve.

Take the hit. 

The fact, at least for me, is that difficult situations that I had detested in the moment have contributed to what is my “story” and a better understanding of myself and others, empathy that I might not have. Most losses offer a gain in some way.

Look forward. 

Maybe it’s best not to even assign labels like “good” and “bad” to so many things in our lives, but accept them as the essence of life itself.

In doing so, we just might find new ways to be alive.

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