A few days ago, everything was running smoothly in Japan. Today, the country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of an epic disaster. It is hard to look at the crisis that has hit Japan and not feel saddened by the great loss of lives. Meanwhile, the survivors have to deal with the massive disruptions and recovery. But things could have been far worse.
Given that Japan sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is prone to frequent and powerful earthquakes. This is a fact that the Japanese have taken measures to deal with. Many buildings in Japan have deep foundations and shock absorbers to manage the impact of earthquakes. Both adults and children know what to do if an earthquake strikes. In fact, Japan is one of the most prepared countries in the world to deal with massive earthquakes. They are always in a state of constant readiness because of the constant danger. It is because of this preparation that Japan has managed to reduce the damage caused by this crisis.
Yijing Hexagram 19: Approach
Approach has supreme success.
When the eighth month comes,
There will be misfortune.
The hexagram as a whole points to a time of joyous, hopeful progress. Spring is approaching. Joy and forbearance bring high and low nearer together. Success is certain. But we must work with determination and perseverance to make full use of the time. And one thing more: spring does not last forever. In the eighth month, the aspects are reversed. Then only two strong, light lines are left; these do not advance but are in retreat (see next hexagram). We must take heed of this change in good time. If we meet evil before it becomes reality – before it has even begun to stir – we can master it.
The Need to be Prepared
The old adage that nothing lasts forever applies well to good and bad times. There are periods in our lives where we will have good fortune and periods where we will have misfortune. No matter how hopeless a situation may be, good times will come again. But we have our part to play. During these dark times, we must never give up the effort in shaping our own destinies.
Yet good times are not for us to indulge to excess or waste. If we squander our good fortune, we could find ourselves unable to handle difficult times. Instead, we must manage our good fortune well and prepare for the possibility of an adverse change in fortunes. This involves a certain level of readiness on our part. There is no other way because life has no guarantees. The best example is the crisis in Japan. Only when we are prepared will we be able to manage the changes that life brings. Being prepared helps us to:
-Pre-empt and avoid needless problems
-Reduce the damage caused by an unavoidable problem
Factors That Hinder Preparation and Planning
Being prepared is something we cannot leave to chance. We alone are responsible for our lives and choices. While we may not have to deal with earthquakes, there are other areas of our lives that we can manage better if we are prepared. Areas that we have to plan for include our family, career and other specific challenges we face.
While preparation and planning makes perfect sense in theory, it is harder to put into practice. You see, there are many factors that can hinder us. Being prepared is not something that happens naturally due to the time and effort involved. Instead, it is a commitment, one that we are more likely to adhere to if we knew what was at stake. What follows are a list of factors that could prevent us from preparing adequately.
When a crisis is fresh in our minds, we take corrective measures to deal with it earnestly. But as time passes, it is easy for us to be lulled into a false sense of security. We may come to resent the effort because we cannot see immediate results. At some point, we may convince ourselves that it is no longer necessary. I have lost count of the number of times I have let my guard down and grown complacent. But life has a morbid sense of humour. It is when we are least prepared that disaster usually strikes. Thus, as far as we can, we should always guard against complacency and make an effort to be prepared.
When it comes to making the right choices, it pays to have a firm grasp of the situation. Do we know the conditions we face? Do we know our strengths and weaknesses? How well prepared we can be depends on the knowledge we have. Yet it is not always possible to have perfect knowledge. This is the reason why we must make assumptions and act accordingly. Herein lies the danger. The right assumption leads to success, but the wrong one leads to difficulties. As far as we can, we should always do our best to check and update our assumptions. We cannot assume something without a sound basis or take anything for granted especially when the stakes are high. If our assumptions are flawed, we will end up making the wrong decisions. To worsen matters, we may not prepare adequately for a challenge.
3. Taking Responsibility
Taking responsibility for our actions and choices is the best way to manage our lives. If we do not do so, we will always be at the mercy of fate. Instead of avoiding needless problems by nipping them in the bud, we end up having to struggle with a full-blown challenge. Due to our lack of planning and preparation, we may not have the resources to manage at this stage. Therefore, we cannot afford to take things for granted or to be lazy. This means that we have to make the effort to prepare as the times dictate. Only when we take responsibility in such a manner, will we become masters of our fate.
4. Losing Sight of the Big Picture
An obsession with details can cause us to lose sight of the big picture when it matters. Pride or stubbornness for example, can be major obstacles to being prepared. If doing so seems like a sign of weakness, it may become a matter of principle to forego such preparations. On hindsight, such actions seem foolish. But there are many instances where honour and pride is so important that people have willingly given their lives for it. Japanese samurais would commit suicide whenever they lost a battle. Never let emotions or principles cloud your judgment. If we forget the big picture, we might not have a second chance to correct our mistakes.
5. The Unknown
Naturally, we can only prepare for the things that we know. If we are not aware of something, we can hardly prepare for it. Even so, we should make the effort to think ahead when we can. Imagine a few “what if” scenarios and prepare for the most likely events. By doing so, we can become better prepared for the unknown. Whether we are aware of events or not, they will still happen. All we can do is to prepare as best as we can.
The disaster that has hit Japan is indeed catastrophic. But we should not forget that it could have been many times worse. Given their preparation and resilience, Japan will surely survive this crisis. But from this incident, we can see that we must not take anything for granted in life. As far as we can, we should always try to prepare for and pre-empt problems. Only by doing so can we manage the changes in life.
If you wish to help the victims of the disaster in Japan, here are some ways you may do so:
Do you have trouble being prepared? What kind of problems do you face when you try to get into a state of readiness? What other thoughts do you have on preparation and planning? Do share your thoughts and comments below!
The I-Ching or Book of Changes Translated by Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baynes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.