Your Choice-ordeal or adventure?

How we perceive what is happening to us can definitely impact how we experience it. By day 6 of my third hospitalization, this one for life-saving surgery, I was feeling disheartened as no one on my 4 medical teams could tell me when I might possibly leave. With an IV in each arm and 2 pumps draining fluid from my lung and pericardium, this felt like an ordeal to me. At my lowest point I recalled the saying “The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude”. I was on a transplant floor as that’s where there was an available room. When I compared my situation to the rest of the patients on that floor who had much longer hospital stays and recovery times, my attitude changed dramatically. Thinking I was on an adventure had me focusing more on the direction I wanted to go – home! – than on my current conditions.

My first introduction to this idea that our attitude affects our experience was reading Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s quote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”  Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, believed that his choice of attitude was one aspect of what helped him emerge alive from that unthinkable experience. While we may not be able to change our circumstances, we do have control over our perceptions and thus our experience.

Attitude is revealed in word choices

This pandemic has certainly has taken most of us into uncharted territory with challenging circumstances. ‘Stay at home’ orders have provoked a wide range of responses from those affected. I have observed that calling this self-isolation, lockdown or quarantine has a much different feel than the term ‘shelter in place’. The former sound restrictive, the latter more comforting. Simple reframes of the language we use can make a big difference. If shifting from the perception of ordeal to one of adventure is too big a stretch, try small steps along that continuum.

I used to think that adventures happened only when traveling afar. I have learned that I can also experience them without ever leaving home.

Weight of the World card by Jane Norton

The ordeal or adventure quote is by Bob Bitchin, author, Letters from the Lost Soul

  • What aspects of this have felt like an ordeal to you?
  • What aspects of this can you see as an adventure?
  • Have you had past experiences where something started out feeling like an ordeal but became an adventure or something better than you expected?
Starting your sentences with “What if…” can generate curiosity and possibilities.

You can create your own ‘what if’ statements but here are some to start:

  • What if, rather than feeling isolated, I consider new ways of communicating and connecting with family, friends and colleagues?
  • what if, instead of feeling restricted, I explore some unfamiliar territory that could transform my work or life?