When I was going through training to work with nuclear materials, they taught us that minimizing exposure and, ultimately, survival came down to the three concepts of time, distance and shielding. The shorter the time, the further the distance away and the better the shielding and you stood a better chance of surviving the exposure to radiation. That concept was drilled into us time and again and it served me well, but that is a story for another day. I got to thinking about these three principles and I believe they are appropriate for most trials or difficulty we encounter.
President Calvin Coolidge once remarked that “if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” I heard someone add “so if you just stay put rather than run to meet them you’ll have plenty of time to deal with the one that is left.” Too often I have found myself worrying over the nine and racing to confront them that I caused more problems than I solved. Had I stayed out and let them evolve on their own, and minimized my time with them, most would have solved themselves, leaving me time and energy to deal with the one that was left. Time is too precious to waste it racing to troubles that may never happen. Minimize the time of your exposure.
Second, get some distance. Now, I am not advocating running from your problems, but I am advocating keeping some distance. We tend to get so close in and wrapped up in the problem in front of us that we run into tunnel vision. We artificially limit viable options and we lose perspective, which generally makes us lengthen the time and exacerbate the problem. One of our co-workers at the On-Site Inspection Agency used to ask me “what’s the worst that could happen?” Once I had answered he’d follow up with “can you live with that?” Regardless of the answers, it made me step back and get a fresh look and more healthy perspective. It didn’t necessarily fix the problem, but it did snap me out of being too close and helped me make better decisions. Step back and get some distance.
Third, shielding…this is a harder one to do in the moment, but vital. Shield yourself with good friends who will not just walk beside you, but will protect you from distractions, poor decisions, and opportunists looking to foment greater chaos at your expense. Good friends and family relationships are hard to grow in the heat of the battle, because they require time and investment. So it is important to start planting seeds now. Not every seed will grow, but there will be a few that become stronger than you would think possible. Of course, the perfect first relationship is your one with God. He promises multiple times to be a shield, tower and refuge for His people. Shield yourself with the right relationships.
So there you have it, my approach to life’s trials and difficulties, founded on experience with radioactive materials…time, distance, and shielding. Hard to put in practice when you need it, but amazingly effective.