All of us find ourselves stuck in our own way. Every single day we find ourselves stuck in some form or another: in a traffic jam, on hold for an hour, in a job we don’t like, on the other side of town because a meeting was cancelled, in a failing company, with an obligation that someone else signed us up for.
When we are stuck in situations we don’t have an immediate choice, such as a trafic jam, we do have a choice about something else: what we can do with this time. Will it be alive time, or dead time? Dead time is when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, is when people are learning, proactive and utilising every second. Every moment and situation presents this choice - that we can deliberately choose and control.
Stuck in a language class, or watching for the numbers on your newest launch to come in, or a trial separation, or making smoothies for a living, or living at home while you save up money, or waiting out a contract, or a tour of duty could be examples of a situation that is totally of your own making, or perhaps it’s just bad luck. The ego in us wants to complain about how bad this situation is, how unfair, how we would rather be doing just about anything else. And it is this attitude that creates and amasses dead time we can never get back. In this way, ego is the mortal enemy of alive time.
When you are stuck, you are in prison. However until you leave prison you can choose to learn and explore the ‘free’ moments you have. Prison can be your college if you transcend your stuck confinement and you will pass the time without even thinking about being detained against your will.
However, if we are humble, accepting and creative, we can transform seemingly terrible situations, such as a prison sentence, a dysfunctional job, a bear market or depression, military conscription, a failing company and turn those circumstances into fuel for greatness.
You can ask yourself: What can I accomplish here? What can I do with this time? Think of what you have been putting off, issues you declined to deal with, systemic problems that felt too overwhelming to address. Dead time is revived when you use it as an opportunity to do what you have long needed to do, from having difficult conversations to squeezing in some quiet reading time.
Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became the national anthem of the United States while trapped on a ship during a prisoner exchange in the War of 1812. Viktor Frankl refined his psychologies of meaning and suffering during his ordeal in three Nazi concentration camps. Not that these opportunities always come up in such serious situations. The author Ian Fleming was on bed rest and, as per doctors’ orders, forbidden from using a typewriter. They were worried he’d exert himself by writing another Bond novel. So he created Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, the magical car by hand instead. Walt Disney made his decision to become a cartoonist while laid up after stepping on a rusty nail. Many a serious thinker has been produced in prisons, where prisoners have nothing much to do, but think. And, at the very least, their situation have be used for that. To get some serious thinking done.
It is easy to angry, to be aggrieved, to be depressed or heartbroken. To explode with: I don’t want this. I want xyz… I want it my way. But this is oftern counter productive and accomplishes nothing. This moment is a moment in your life. How will you use it?
The next time you find yourself stuck, you can think that is an opportunity. You can use it for your purposes rather than be congtrolled by ego. Make use of what is around you. Even the dead time. Because while its occurrence is not in your control. The use of the time it give you, on the other hand, is.