“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end- which you can never afford to lose- with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” –                                       Admiral James Stockdale


No one knows when the current situation will get over, but everyone needs a 360 degree approach in life now. From facing the harshness to sometimes dealing with stress and pessimism a lot has changed since the pandemic arrived at out doorstep. We have lost interest in everything we used to do, surely this pandemic has taught us to deal with our own selves, to not lose hope and be optimistic till the end. But is being optimistic good enough ? Being pessimistic without doing anything is the same as being optimistic without taking a course of action.


The answer surely lies in what we call Stockdale paradox.

Stockdale paradox is a concept which was used by Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’. He ones met a renowned Admiral James Stockdale who was a highest ranking US military officer on Hanoi camp, Prisoner of war during Vietnam war.  He was held for 8 years in the camp from 1965 to 1973 and tortured several times. In his interview with Jim Collins he recounted his experiences of sheer brutality with which he was treated, without any rights of prisoners, with no release date and uncertainty of getting out. 

 When he was asked how he lived with the hope of not getting out, his answer was very different from the optimists who always proposed a date of their release and were very confident and positive about their freedom, but in the end died. He said he never lost faith in the end of the story. Have faith but be ready to face the brutalities that life has imposed on you. He didn’t depend on blind optimism alone but did what was required to improve his chances of survival. He raised morale of his fellow mates, helped them in every way possible and exchanged secret information with his wife through letters. 


The present times demand us to be positive and hopeful that everything will become normal in the coming days. But sitting at our comfort zones and just waiting for time to turn in our favor is folly. We can instead spend this time on productive activities which can help us fulfill our goals. We can take efforts to heal ourselves by finding ways to reduce mental agonies, helping and supporting others, comforting and giving hopes to those who have faced uncertainties.

How can we apply Stockdale paradox in our life –


  1. We all want to be successful, happy and fulfill all our wishes, but reaching this state won’t come simply by being positive. We feel good about this attitude and that’s why love the way motivational speakers influence our minds by changing our life simply by changing our mindset from negative to positive. That is well and good but that is not the only thing required. There must be a sense of self-awareness about the realities and action towards something that moves you in the first place. Confronting situation is fundamental to success along with a bit of positive attitude.
  2. Applying this paradox in business- Optimism drives innovation and can lead to growth but one needs to check whether you are playing in reality and not heading towards something that can’t happen.
  3. The Stockdale paradox can help any leader to improve leadership and plan for forthcoming challenges. It makes us resilient through idea of positivity and confrontation of unpleasant facts of the current situation. 

So, try applying this principle in your life and make things work out for yourselves. 

Signing off 

Janhavi Thakre



Categories: Health, Learning, Science

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