Head of Senior School
The Stockdale Paradox
Admiral James Stockdale was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. His incredible feat of survival is nothing short of amazing. The uncertainty of his fate, the brutality of his captors and harshness of the living conditions were dreadful. Later in life he was asked about how he dealt with the situation. He replied, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
I don’t have any intention of comparing this lockdown to being a POW in Vietnam. However, we can learn something from James Stockdale’s attitude. At 11am each day we turn on the radio or TV to listen to the Premier give her daily update. We wait with hopeful anticipation that numbers of COVID-19 cases will have dropped and that the lockdown may soon be over. But we hear that numbers have gone up and we feel a little less hopeful with each passing day and the drudgery of the lockdown continues with no end in sight. This loss of hope impacts our motivation, relationships and our health.
I propose that we don’t put ourselves in that position. Let’s learn from James Stockdale’s approach. This lockdown will not go on forever, it will end. We need to know this. We must ask ourselves what can I do today that positively impacts my motivation, relationships or my health? Having hope is really important and we all need it, but it isn’t a strategy. As difficult as it is, confronting what we need to do each day is a strategy that can help us deal with what we need to do to help ourselves now. We should stop hoping things will improve and instead, know that in time they will.
This also aligns with Biblical principles. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says the following in part of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, ‘therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”