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Soulful Sundays: Two is One

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." -John Lennon

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." -Benjamin Franklin

"Two is one and one is none," is a principle taught to the US Navy SEALs throughout their training. The moto refers to having at least one failsafe in place during operations. Complete reliance on a single way of accomplishing a task is not only unwise, it is a quick way to get soldiers killed in the field. Likewise, having too many contingencies will make an operation clunky, slow, and equally dangerous. Therefore, the SEALs develop and practice the most effective two ways of getting their missions accomplished. Plan A and Plan B. If those fail, they improvise because usually what went wrong can't really be planned for anyway. The same line of reasoning can be applied to how we live our own civilian lives.

Think back to the last hard thing that you accomplished. Did you do so by following the exact plan that you had laid out from the very beginning? How often did you have to change your plan? Did you get so fixated on one way of doing things only to discover another, more effective way later? Be it a tennis match, a difficult career challenge, or navigating a family or health crisis, the way that you triumphed was most likely not 100% predictable. That is why we call them struggles. They involve give and take. Thinking like a SEAL can help us to stay focused on reality. First, we must make no assumptions, and second, when we do make assumptions (which we always do) we must be ready to change them when they are disproven. Having two different strategies for accomplishing any goal is a great way to safeguard against getting stuck in any one train of thought.

Most complex problems are scary. Let's face it. They involve a great deal of unknown information that can trigger our latent and overt fears. For each problem, there is an infinite number of possible ways of solving it, but usually, a few will rise to the top. If you want to feel better, the best options are to regularly exercise, eat and sleep well, and manage stress appropriately. If you want to be financially successful, make more than you spend, invest in the long game, and constantly improve your skill set. If you want to have good relationships, be sure to work on your own character, prioritize listening to your friends, and be generous with your time and resources. Put this way, living a happy, healthy, and rich life seems so obvious! Why wouldn't everyone choose to do so?

The real issue is less about information and more about motivation. Having a two-plan model can also help us here. We often become paralyzed by an abundance of good ideas and fail to act on the one that is most accessible. Therefore, the best option is the one that you will actually do with commitment. Think of Plan A and B as your two best hypotheses on how to navigate complex situations. They could be similar, but they also could seem to be in opposition. Plan A could be to use your strengths to the best of your ability. Plan B could be to develop your weaknesses. Plan A could be to obtain financial security. Plan B could be to build your own business from scratch. Plan A could be to work on mental toughness and calm. Plan B could be to freak out productively and ask for help. A good plan is thorough, but not overcomplicated. It keeps us focused on our ultimate intention for action, but doesn't tie our hands in getting there. When you make your two plans, try to make them mutually beneficial. Doing one makes the other easier and vice versa.

Let's end with a bit of soul. Consider Plan A as faith in a higher order. This is the ultimate plan. God's plan. The overarching reason and purpose of all existence. But first, we must have faith that there is indeed a way to live in harmony with this order and that finding the way is possible and necessary. This is where Plan B comes in. We must cultivate our own motivation and strength to reach that faith and harmony (and teach what we learn to others). Often to get to A you must practice B. Plan A and Plan B here form a kind of polarity of creator and creation, constantly cycling. The cycle goes something like this...We are challenged. We become overwhelmed. We try to solve things on our own and fail. We admit that we are weak and call on the mercy of a higher power. We become humble and more open to change. We find inner and outer strength to overcome difficulties. We continue onward with increased wisdom of both ourselves and the world. We share this with others before we die.

Be well everyone. You are stronger and more loved than you could ever imagine.

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