“Success in life is not how well we execute Plan A; it’s how smoothly we cope with Plan B. And for most of us, that’s 99 percent of the time” (Sarah Ban Breathnach).
MOST OF US ARE QUITE FAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPT OF COPING. Coping is “the process of managing taxing circumstances, expending effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize, reduce or tolerate stress or conflict” (Wikipedia). In everyday language, that means doing the best we can to get by in the midst of less than ideal circumstances.
All of us want a more peaceful world, and we tend to define peace as the absence of stress. But that is unrealistic, at least in the world as we know it now. Peace is not the absence of stress but the ability to deal with stress in the right way. That’s what we should want.
Coping is one of the most powerful ways we can contribute to the quality of our various relationships. Whether it’s in the home, the workplace, or elsewhere, those with whom we interact from day to day need the hope that comes from seeing others cope effectively with difficulties. When we offer that example, we do a fine thing indeed.
But stress often takes the form of frightening circumstances, and consequently, most of us despair of being able to cope because we don’t see ourselves as having enough courage to face life’s fears. But I think that approach puts the emphasis in the wrong place, and I agree with Barbara Deming, who said, “Think first of the action that is right to take; think later about coping with one’s fears.” When doing what is right is our priority, we’ll find that our fears give us less trouble.
The ability to cope involves more than picking up a few handy “coping skills” from a book or a seminar; it requires the growth and development of our most inward character — and that takes both time and hard work. As urgent as it is for us to be able to cope nowadays, there is no easy way to learn to cope. We have to grow up as human beings. We have to acquire strength and resilience of character. And in particular, we have to attain unity of character — harmony between our principles and our practice. If we are not at peace within our own hearts, living consistently with what we say we believe, then we will find it difficult, if not impossible, to deal with Plan B.
“Integrity is essential if we are to cope with life’s difficulties” (Euripides).