My mother, when faced with a difficult situation or going through a trying time, would always step back and put things in perspective with a few simple words.
She would take a deep, cleansing breath and repeat, in her rolling Scottish accent, five words of solace — her personal mantra.
“And this too shall pass.”
She was a happy person. Always smiling, always thankful. And her words would wash over her and magically — at least from my perspective as a child — wash all her troubles away. As a child, I would follow her lead and relax.
I hear these words in her voice rolling out whenever I find myself in a difficult situation or with my nerves ready to explode. While the wisdom is valuable, hearing her voice has a powerful and soothing impact on me. Suddenly, I’m back in the kitchen, her making breakfast, and hearing her voice.
I recently read a piece in the Harvard Business Review about my mother. Well, not her specifically, but encouraging the practice my mother employed. Teams of researchers determined one of the key elements of navigating periods of uncertainty, extreme stress and facing an unknown outcome is to take charge of the situation through adding a dimension of perspective.
My mother didn’t need a Harvard education to know how to successfully manage life.
The piece recommended taking what you fear or packaging what you are going through at the moment and asking yourself how you would view it a year later. Or ask yourself whether the outcome would change the most important aspects of your life, such as your family or others you love.
Personally, after both saying and hearing my mother’s words, I dial back to what matters most in life — and those things are never material. Will my wife still love me tomorrow? Will my children be safe? Will my health allow me to wake up the next day? Honestly, after that, the list runs dry. Everything else is simply everything else.
A good friend of mine recently lost a lifetime of possessions in flooding. Household furniture, her car and all the appliances. But as traumatic as that is, she is remarkably calm and confident.
“It is a hard thing to see your life piled up on the curb waiting to be picked up,” she said to me. Then, remarkably, she shrugged her shoulders and offered a hint of a smile. “But what can you do but move forward,” she said.
And there it was — another example of taking the worst the world could dish out and taking control over the situation by defining the impact across what is considered most valuable. She has her health, her husband and her family. She is remarkable and strong.
We all go through moments in life where we can’t seem to imagine coming out on the other side. We ask God for guidance. We ask others for help. But in reality, the answer will always begin deep inside each of us and our hearts.