All too often, life can deal us a bad hand that we do not expect. In Hexagram 51, the I-Ching calls these unexpected changes shocks of fate. This shock could be the loss of a job when you have a family to feed. It could also be the loss of your loved ones, home, savings or anything that gives you security. Few of us are prepared to deal with shocks of fate. This is why they unsettle us so deeply when they happen.
During such times, it is easy for us to lose our presence of mind and panic. Yet to give into fear and despair during these crucial moments only compounds /ur problems for us. In the face of a crisis, only a godlike calm and composure will help you to survive the ordeal.
The Retreat of Lu Xun
The Three Kingdoms period (220-280) divided China into three regions. The strongest was the Kingdom of Wei, which controlled the northern half of China. The western part of China belonged to the Kingdom of Shu and the Kingdom of Wu reigned in the East. One of the leading strategists of this period was Lu Xun of Wu. Although he was unable to gain an edge over Wei and Shu, while he lived, Wu remained safe from harm.
In 236, Lu Xun led his troops on a campaign against Northern Wei.k But as luck would have it, the enemy captured his messenger and his plans for battle. Zhuge Jin, a senior general who learned about the capture, wrote to Lu Xun to inform him of the matter and to advise retreat. There was no time to devise a new plan and it was foolhardy to continue with the old one. To worsen matters, the climate changes made it difficult to coordinate an amphibious attack. Retreat seemed to be the best option.
But Lu Xun gave no reply to Zhuge Jin. Instead, he stopped his march and set up camp. Soon an anxious Zhuge Jin arrived to speak with his chief. He was surprised to find out that Lu Xun had been calmly planting beans and playing chess with his subordinates. Aware of his fear, Lu Xun took Zhuge Jin aside and explained his actions. If they fled now, it would cause widespread panic amongst the soldiers who were already uncertain. This would only give the enemy the chance to slaughter them all. But if he kept his cool, his composure would reassure his men and cause the enemy to hesitate because they feared an ambush. Lu Xun went on to make a feint to throw the enemy off guard before he successfully withdrew his forces to safety.
The Consequences of Losing Your Cool
War is a dangerous affair. The slightest mistake on the part of the commander could lead to the annihilation of the entire army. These considerations did not make it any easier for Lu Xun when he learned that the enemy had his battle plans. As the leader of his troops, he was the heart and soul of his army. The lives of all his men rested in his hands. If he showed doubt, fear or despair, his men would lose all discipline and the enemy would slaughter them.
When faced with shocks of fate, it is natural to feel fear, panic and despair. But allowing these fears to overwhelm us at these crucial moments has the following consequences.
-Fear can cloud our judgment
-Fear robs us of our objectivity
-Fear causes negative thinking and despair
-Fear can paralyze and cause us to miss crucial opportunities
-Fear can paralyze us, allowing the problem to grow out of hand
-Fear is contagious and can afflict those around us causing mass panic
Have you ever participated in a fire drill? Everyone is supposed to leave the building in an orderly manner. But what if everyone panicked during a real fire? It would lead to chaos that could claim many lives. Similarly, uncontrolled fear in the face of shocks will only harm us.
The Benefits of Staying Calm
Lu Xun knew that retreat was the best option for him. But he also had enough presence of mind to know that he could not do so in a haphazard manner. As it was, his men knew about the leak of his plans and they were watching him to see how he would act. If he panicked, his men would lose all heart to fight and flee instead of making a stand. Thus, he had to remain calm to show everyone that he had things under control. This helped to buy him time to devise a plan of escape.
It is not easy to stay calm when we face a shock of fate. But the sooner we can master our fears, doubts, despair and panic, the better. Staying calm has many benefits that can help us to resolve any unexpected crisis.
-Calm soothes us and reassures those around us
-Calm nullifies most of the problems caused by fear
-Calm helps us to view the situation with clarity
-Calm gives us the focus we need to find the solutions
-Calm enables us to take action and execute our plans
Lu Xun has shown us that we need to stay calm in the midst of a crisis. Even though everyone else was fearful, he refused to allow it to affect him because he knew what was at stake. He also took care to make every decision calmly instead of letting fear influence him. We would do well to bear his calm and composure in mind when faced with an unexpected crisis.
Staying calm in the face of unsettling change is easier said than done. When shocks of fate confront us, it is likely to stir fear, panic and despair in our hearts. Even so, we have to make an effort to regain our composure as soon as we can. I would not wish shocks of fate on anyone. But if they should occur to us, I hope that we can remember the example of Lu Xun and calmly do what we have to do. If it is not for our sakes, then let it be for the sakes of our loved ones.
Have you ever had any unexpected changes or shocks of fate in your life? How did you deal with it? Are there any other benefits of staying calm that I have missed out? Do share your thoughts and comments below.