‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’
We hear this phrase all the time, and I’ve found myself saying it too often over these last few months. ‘When this is all over, I will…’ ‘When things get back to normal, we’ll do …’
I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’ve been thinking about this all wrong.
In his leadership podcast – ‘Developing the leader within you’ – John Maxwell explains how, when we are in the midst of a struggle, we can either adopt either bridge thinking or tunnel vision.
When you’re crossing over to something new, enjoying the scenery as you travel, you’re on a bridge.
When you’re going through something, willing it to eventually end, you’re in a tunnel.
In other words, there’s a difference between going TO something and going THROUGH something.
Trials shape us, there’s no doubt. They change our perspective, our attitudes to people, our philosophies for life.
But many of us falsely believe that we have no control over how our circumstances impact us. In fact, the opposite is true. The attitude we adopt towards difficulties has a massive influence over what we learn from them and accomplish through them.
Well, on a bridge there’s a view. There’s beauty. There’s open space and a higher vantage point to see ahead. When you see the trial as a bridge, you gain greater perspective on where you’re coming from, and where you’re going to. Your focus is on your destination, but you’ll still benefit from the journey.
If we can think about this time as a bridge to perseverance, creativity, self-care, innovation and learning; if we can view it as an opportunity to cultivate patience, better attitudes and more love for others – who knows how beautiful our lives could look by the time we get to our destination?
In contrast, in a tunnel all we can see is darkness, until we come out the other side. If we view this time of restrictions with tunnel vision, we may well eventually come out into the light, but we will emerge groggy and bleary eyed.
Inside a tunnel, it’s challenging to think about anything but yourself, and it’s hard to keep outward looking and others-focused. At the end of a tunnel, you might be relieved, exhausted, dazed or gasping for air. But you definitely won’t be invigorated or have the energy to love and serve others as you otherwise could.
Yes, it feels like we are crossing over from an old ‘normal’ to a new, somewhat daunting way of living. Waves of grief come with that process. It’s only natural.
But if we’re not careful, this whole thing will become a tunnel, and we will miss all that we can learn during the transition.
Let’s not be tunnel people and become so preoccupied with the darkness that we will miss what can be learned, what can be cultivated, what can be enjoyed along the way.
Let’s see this time as a bridge – a bridge to making us better – better at learning patience, better at loving others, and better at living life to the full.