You’ve likely heard that familiar phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It is a compliment to those who bear down and work hard when the conditions are equally hard. With hard work, what’s viewed as tough is overcome.
There’san addition to that phrase you might be less familiar with. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The smart left a long time ago.” This is a nod for those who saw the tough times ahead and actively took steps to avoid the tough going to come.
I suppose it’s an accurate assessment to say that not only do we see ourselves as generally favouring one or the other, but we’re likely to do either one depending on the situation. We definitely might roll up our sleeves and tackle tough situations; why we might even draw inspiration from the challenge of whatever threatens our productivity or success! At the same time, we might also see something upleasant and tough ahead and determine that we’re in posiiton to avoid it altogether and the effort isn’t worth it. For example, I’ve known people who have been close enough to retirement that they decide to leave early rather than learn what they see as a complicated and new piece of technology.
It’s not that one saying is right and one is categorically wrong. It’s more that we as individuals size up the challenge ahead of us and make a decision to get going or we don’t. Yes, in some situations we’re smart to protect our physical or mental health by removing ourselves from the situation if we perceive it as dangerous or not in our best interests. Take when forest fires or floods are approaching a community and while the smart leave when instructed, dig in until the water or fire is upon them and only then do they get going, often needing rescuing.
The issue that causes divisions amongst us can come about when others we work with and/or care for greatly, don’t have the same views as we do. While we’ve taken a position that we’re comfortable with, so have they, and it can strain a relationship if the decisions aren’t united. In the case of a coworker retiring, while we might want them to stick around and face the tough sledding together, it’s likely that we understand and even appreciate their decision as wise and in their own best interests. We may be happy for them.
However, when the situation is closer to home, we might feel and react very differently. Suppose for example we see our son or daughter considering dropping a course they find extremely tough, or worse yet, dropping school altogether because in their view, it’s just too tough and not worth the grief. It’s probable that now that this involves our own children, we are less likely to appreciate their decision and be happy for them. Perhaps we’d try to convince them to struggle on, get a tutor, and/or talk to school officials because the reward of overcoming the challenge far outweighs the consequence of dropping out. And what we might also worry over is that this could set a future pattern of avoiding tough times more and more and failing to learn from working through them, gaining that feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction.
At work, we might extend an offer of help to a coworker in tough. Be they a teammate or someone on another team, we want this person we work with daily to be in a positive frame of mind, be able to do their work with confidence and gain the skills required to continue to perform the work they’ve done previously. The thing is however, this is a person who we feel is entirely entitled to make their own call; to do what’s right for them. We might choose differently were we in their situation, but we respect their decision.
When it’s us that makes a decision to avoid something tough, we generally hope it’s the kind of situation that won’t come back to haunt us. Putting something off we find hard doesn’t typically make this tough thing go away. It can sometimes just leave us with less time and fewer resources to tackle it. When we eventually face it head on, such as cramming for an exam the night before, we might thrive on the increased pressure and higher demands, or we might falter badly and resort to asking other people to throw us a lifeline.
Facing up to tough situations immediately isn’t always the best strategy either. No, sometimes it’s best to let others with more time, expertise, experience and ingenuity lead first and work out some of the difficulties, then when things are clearer for us, return to walk us through. This can lead to higher success with less worry, anxiety and lower failure rates.
The point is to accurately determine when facing something tough is a good idea and when removing ourselves from a looming bad situation is the right thing to do. It’s all about using good judgement, knowing when and where to find support when the going gets tough, and respecting the choices others make, especially when they differ from what we believe we’d do in their situation.