Yesterday my mum and I visited the Taj Mahal. Having been described as a ‘teardrop on the cheek of eternity’ and ‘the embodiment of all things pure’ it had alot to live up to. I have to say, upon first glance, the perfection of the building literally takes your breath away. It simply doesn’t look real.
I didn’t know this until I visited it, but the Taj Mahal was actually a project of love. Indian Emperor, Shah Jahan, designed and commissioned the building in memory of his second wife Mumtaz Mahal after she died giving birth to their 14th child. It is said that the emperor was so heartbroken when she died that his hair turned grey literally overnight.
But enough about the Taj. The reason I wanted to write about this experience today is not because of the Taj Mahal building, but the journey we undertook to get there…
The traffic in India is undoubtedly the worst I have ever experienced. My mum and I set out at 5.30am to catch our train. The train was set to take 2 hours. Upon arrival at the train station we were informed that the train was cancelled and no there would not be another train that same day (we were also informed that ALL of our flights had also been cancelled – but that’s another story).
It appeared we were in need of a Plan B. Off we went to a government endorsed tourist centre where we were told the only other alternative was to hire a driver. This would involve a 3-4 hour journey there and another 3-4 hour journey back in one day. 8 hours of driving. In the relentless Indian summer heat.
Considering there was no alternative, we agreed to this option. I kept thinking to myself “think of Darwin – the most flexible, adaptable person survives!’.
Looking back, a 3-4 hour journey each way to the Taj Mahal would have been a dream come true. Because what ensued was a traffic experience like no other I’ve ever experienced.
We left Delhi at 7am and arrived at the Taj Mahal at 2pm. It took us 7 hours, 4 of which were spent in gridlock traffic, in the blistering Indian heat. After one hour at the Taj Mahal we were back in the car for our return journey. We got back at 10pm – another 7 hours later. So in total we spent 14 hours in a small car to experience ONE hour of the Taj Mahal.
Why am I telling you about this? I guess what occurred to me at the time (and believe me I had plenty of time to ponder life’s great mysteries) was the power of an extreme situation. After experiencing 14 hours of traffic it’s pretty difficult to moan next time you are stuck in 20 mins or half an hour of traffic. We have the wonder of ‘perception’ to thank for this. Extreme situations provide perspective when you go back to living your everyday life. I’ve talked about how useful it is to ‘reframe’ your situation before – and it’s these extreme situations that provide you with the ‘perspective’ to reframe everyday problems & challenges.
Let me give you an example of how I can use my Taj Mahal traffic extravaganza to my advantage:
Next time I am stuck in traffic for 20 minutes, 45 mins, an hour or even 2 hours I will reframe my situation:
- At least it’s not going to take me 7 hours to get there like when we were on our way to the Taj Mahal
- At least it’s not so hot that I can barely breath or peal myself off the sodden seats that I have been profusely sweating on for the last 6 hours
Ah the power of a good reframe! Instantly you feel better about your present situation.
What I love about travelling is that it provides you with so many great extreme situations. And the situations not only empower you (because you endure things you didn’t think were possible), they also provide you with invaluable reframes to take home with you and use to solve your problems.
Simple Life Strategy: How to Use Extreme Situations to Your Advantage
- Cast your mind back – can you recall any extreme situations that you have endured? (whilst travelling, difficult times at work, personal crises)
- If so, have a think about how you can use these experiences to reframe everyday situations
- It can be helpful to start your reframe with the words ‘At least…”
- Remember that problems are only problems if we let them be
- Know that there will always be a worse situation than the one we are experiencing: we can choose to view our situation differently
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