Sometimes, we are confronted with what appears to be an untenable situation. When we consider what we think are the alternatives, we don’t like any of them.
But I challenge you to consider this; you can create alternatives that you do like.
Let me tell you a brief story to illustrate. The story is not mine, and I have no idea who wrote it originally (making attribution impossible):
Once upon a time…
There was a business owner who owed a large sum of money to a loan-shark.
The loan-shark was a very old, creepy, unattractive looking guy that just so happened to fancy the business owner’s daughter. He was the type of creepy that made your skin crawl.
The loan-shark decided to offer the businessman a deal—an indecent proposal if you will—that would completely wipe out the debt the businessman owed him. The proposal included the possibility of the businessman’s daughter having to marry the skeezy loan-shark.
Needless to say, this proposal was met with a look of disgust.
The proposal came in the form of a game of chance.
The loan-shark said that he would place two pebbles into a bag, one white and one black.
The businessman’s daughter would then have to reach into the bag and pick out a pebble. If it was black, the debt would be wiped out, but the loan-shark would then marry her. If it was white, the debt would also be wiped out, but the daughter wouldn’t have to marry the loan-shark.
Standing on a pebble-strewn path in the businessman’s garden, the loan-shark bent over and picked up two pebbles.
As he was picking the stones up, the daughter noticed that he’d picked up two black pebbles and placed them both into the bag.
He then asked the daughter to reach into the bag and pick one.
The daughter naturally had three choices as to what she could have done:
- Refuse to pick a pebble from the bag.
- Take both pebbles out of the bag and expose the loan-shark for cheating.
- Pick a pebble from the bag fully well knowing it was black and sacrifice herself for her father’s freedom.
Clearly, all of these choices were less than optimal, right?
- Refusal to pick a pebble out of the bag, and her father would be on the hook for a debt he couldn’t pay.
- Exposing the loan-shark would create a dangerous situation, and it still wouldn’t eliminate the debt.
- Selecting a pebble from the bag essentially was giving up.
So she created an alternative that she could live with.
She drew out a pebble from the bag, and before looking at it ‘accidentally’ dropped it into the midst of the other pebbles. She said to the loan-shark;
“Oh, how clumsy of me. Never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”
The loan-shark reached into the bag and begrudgingly removed the pebble, which was obviously black. Not wanting to be exposed, the loan-shark had to play along as if the pebble the daughter dropped was white, and clear her father’s debt.
Moral of the story:
It’s always possible to overcome a tough situation by not giving in to the only options you think you have to pick from.