I was talking with my counselor the other day, and he made the following comment: “You try to tackle all your problems with a sledgehammer. That’s a good tool to have, but sometimes you also need a shock absorber in your toolbox.”
Fix the Problem
Here’s what he meant: When I face a problem in my life, my initial reaction is to figure out a way to solve the problem. I want to fix it. Fixing it might take time, and I might need to learn something new. I’m okay with that. But ultimately, I want to squash my problem like a bug and make it disappear.
This is a good life strategy… sometimes. When I was overweight growing up, for example, I needed to apply some discipline to my life. It was good for me to eat healthy and work out regularly. I applied discipline and energy to my problem, and I fixed it. The sledgehammer worked.
Some Problems are Unfixable
But some problems are more difficult to solve. Some problems are unfixable. I remember feeling helpless when my uncle was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. I wanted to do something to fix it, to make it better, but there was nothing I could do. My sledgehammer was useless. Holding it just felt like a heavy burden.
The Shock Absorber
What I needed was a shock absorber. My uncle’s cancer was completely outside my control. I couldn’t do anything to fix it. Instead, I needed to find a way to accept what was happening and absorb it into my reality. My circumstances weren’t going to change. I had to change myself to adapt to my circumstances.
We Need Both
It’s important to have both a sledgehammer and a shock absorber in your toolbox. When you have something in your life that you have the power to do something about, the sledgehammer is the correct tool. Take it out and get to work. Apply discipline and energy where you need it most.
However, when you have something in your life that is outside your control, the shock absorber is the better option. Do you find yourself trying to control the thoughts, feelings, or actions of another person with your sledgehammer? That’s not a good place to be. The shock absorber is a better option. Or do you find yourself trying to change something that is outside your control (e.g., the path of the hurricane, the timing of your own death)? The shock absorber is what you need.
How big is your toolbox? Do you have both a sledgehammer and a shock absorber? How are you doing at figuring out when to use each tool?