In any situation, we have the ability to ask the creator's question: what do I want? It's not that the outcome is guaranteed, but it offers us the opportunity to consider and remind ourselves of our goal no matter the circumstances. This is in stark contrast to how someone with a victim’s mindset might respond to a difficult situation. As Phil Stutz and Barry Michels share in The Tools:
The victim thinks he knows how the universe should work. When it doesn’t treat him the way he “deserves,” he concludes the world is against him. This becomes his rationale for giving up and retreating to his Comfort Zone where he can stop trying. You don’t need philosophy to tell you he’s not growing or getting stronger. Nietzsche’s statement makes it sound like adversity itself makes you stronger. It doesn’t. Inner strength comes only to those who move forward in the face of adversity.
Which begs the question, how can one move forward in the face of adversity?
I'd offer there are three steps.
Step 1: Accept what is completely.
Step 2: Ask the creator’s question.
Step 3: Take action.
As with most things, I’ve found it best to practice asking this question in simpler moments. For example, a planned event was cancelled and I now have my whole evening ahead of me.
Step 1: Accept that the event was cancelled. No level of whining or wishing things were different will change this fact.
Step 2: Ask myself, what do I want? Now that my night is open, what would it look like to create an enjoyable and fulfilling night? I need not heed the requests of others or watch whatever show I’m being told I must watch. I create the evening I want to live.
Step 3: Take action towards creating that which I want. Maybe that means I start making dinner, pick a movie, or call a friend.
Now the above example is rather mundane. But practicing with the mundane allows us to ask this question when it’s most difficult to do so.
Imagine a pandemic hits the world (crazy, right?!), but bear with me. So a pandemic hits and you lose your job.
First off, I hope that half of the above situation is hypothetical. If it is your circumstance, I know asking the creator's question is going to be especially difficult right now. Feel into that difficulty, this is going to be hard. And, choose to ask this question anyway. It’s more important now, more than ever, to consider what you want. I'm reminded of a quote from Epictetus:
The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. - Epictetus
Whether you like to think of yourself as a wrestler, a warrior, a goddess, a parent, a leader, or any other identity that feels empowering — you are that.
Back to our example: a pandemic hits and you lose your job. Let’s run it through our framework one more time.
Step 1: Although this situation is challenging and was unexpected, I fully accept that I have been let go.
Step 2: Given what has happened I now ask myself: what do I want?
Step 3: Given what I want, I will take this next action.
When you ask the creator’s question, I encourage you, as Brian at Optimize has encouraged me to do so many times, to wave the wand. Wave this magic wand and ask yourself what would happen in an ideal situation. If all went just as you'd like it to, what exactly would that mean? What would that look like? Not only do you land a new job, but you now work at your dream company.
Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality. ― Robin S. Sharma.
Asking the creator's question allows us to gain clarity on what we really want so that we can pursue making it happen with a clear sense of the outcome we're aiming for.
So, what do you want?