Sometimes the hard thing comes in very mundane situations. For example you are in the midst of trying to get something done that you have kept putting off. Then you get a phone call from a close friend or family member. They are in a bad place and they want to talk. Do you continue to try working while sort of listening but continually wishing they would say good bye? Or do you set aside your work and give them your wholehearted attention? When they hang up and the thought comes to you to consider doing something more; like going to keep them company or bringing something to cheer them up, do you ignore that thought telling yourself you are too busy? Or do you respond to it by doing an act of kindness? These are major hard things or so they seem at the time. However when we miss the opportunity and reflect upon it later we realize how we blew it. We need to grow in awareness when we are passing up a key opportunity to deepen an important relationship. They don’t often come at times that are convenient. That is why we need to heighten ourselves to greater sensitivity to those moments so we can rise above our emotions that want us to ignore someone else’s problem and focus on our task at hand. This is especially challenging for those personality types like Dominant Directors and Cautious Thinkers who tend to be more task oriented. They need to find ways to curb their natural inclination and step back and recognize the importance of their relationships. If we compared the value of what seemed to be so important to the value of the relationship, we would be appalled at our short sightedness. That relationship investment will pay dividends for years to come. That seemingly important task will be long forgotten.
In Evansing there is an incident already noted in chapter 8 which I am repeating here to spell this out further:
“Edwin! You are going to have to focus more time on the wedding preparations. I have done most of it already, but there are some things you and I need to discuss. Besides I want it to be us deciding not just me. We can decide together on your outfit. What are you doing this afternoon?’
‘Well I had this afternoon free, but Percival and I have just received some news about the Druid we’ve been looking for. We need to meet with your father and discuss a plan of action.’
‘Hmm, it figures. You know sometimes you have to put us first.’
‘Greer, this is a matter of top state security. What would your father think if I were to miss this meeting to go check out a wedding outfit?’
‘I don’t care what he would think. There will always be something which has to be attended to. This wedding has to hit the top of your priority list or else there won’t be a wedding.”
Hard things in marriage are often overlooked. An outsider would consider it as hilarious or tragic sometimes as to what we consider too unimportant to invest an extra few minutes of effort to accomplish. Unfortunately those things we neglect can often create cracks in the relationship so that when something really difficult shows up the relationship can’t handle the extra weight. In other words there were no regular deposits in the emotional bank account to offset the withdrawals. This has often resulted in a spouse leaving a marriage when everything appeared to be okay. The spouse being left behind can often be bewildered at what to them has been totally unexpected.
In parenting doing the hard thing could involve incorporating a meaningful discipline even though it makes us unpopular with our children. It is so easy to get caught up with wanting to be popular with our children. It is a temptation that needs to be resisted. After all we are their parent not simply their friend. We have a responsibility to ensure our children become responsible and successful adults with all their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capacities intact. As ancient wisdom says, “Train a child in the way he (she) should go and when he (she) is old he (she) will not depart from it.”
In business there are many opportunities to do the hard thing. If we postpone letting someone go because we don’t want to be the “bad guy” then we are foregoing our responsibility. We don’t benefit our business or them to allow them to continue in a position that is not suited to their genius. We can still be compassionate and assist them in whatever way is appropriate to get new employment. In Europe there have been instances where governments did not raise the possibility of cutting wages and pension benefits for fear of creating an unpopular backlash. They maintained the status quo and allowed the fiscal morass to get ever larger and more intractable. Now those countries are stretched to their max as to how they are going to finance even the basics of what their citizens expect to be provided. Both the business and the government examples demonstrate the perils of making decisions with only the short-term being considered. Truly wise decisions also consider the long-term. A person’s life reflects the quality of their decisions made with the long-term in view. Steven Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Person” describes this as making a decision with the end in mind.