The Stockdale Paradox

The Stockdale Paradox by Will Wilkinson

I first learned about The Stockdale Paradox from Jim Collins book, Good to Great. Here’s the short formula: You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. AND at the same time… You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

The Stockdale Paradox is explained this way on a post from author Niall Doherty: “The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again. And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: ‘I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.’

“Then comes the paradox: While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prisonmates who failed to make it out of there alive. ‘They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.’

“What the optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the ostrich approach, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for the difficulties to go away. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term, but when they were eventually forced to face reality, it had become too much and they couldn’t handle it.”

We can certainly apply The Stockdale Paradox to challenges in our lives and also to our global predicament. How do we really feel about them? Do we actually have faith in how things will turn out, a faith that will be powerful and steady enough to sustain us through who knows what kinds of troubled waters? And, simultaneously, are we willing and able to confront the brutal facts of these situations, to really face facts, no matter how disturbing they may be?

Many people are giving up and some of them have been optimists for decades. But now the negative evidence has mounted to such an extent that it seems, to them at least, foolhardy to keep on hoping. The Stockdale Paradox is about more than hope. It’s a formula for success. It is not denial and it is not cynicism. It is a balance between what we want and what we have.

Robert Fritz called this “structural tension” in his landmark book, The Path of Least Resistance. He wrote that we need to learn how to hold both poles, the positive and the negative, BUT that our orientation must be in the positive. That way, we literally “pull” our current reality towards our vision.

There’s a fresh new formula for peace! Vision peace, build faith in the outcome, refusing to believe we won’t prevail AND acknowledge fully the many challenges that face us. Here’s something we can practice many times every day to build our peacemaker muscles!

Referenced from

Will Wilkinson is a local author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign.

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Positively Peaceful

Positively Peaceful by Will Wilkinson

Peace is often thought of in global terms. That’s a concept, an admirable one, but it’s not an experience. Peace, the experience, is personal and close in. It’s something we feel, or don’t feel, and we know the difference. Sometimes, not nearly often enough, we do enjoy an experience of peace in groups. All of us have had that experience, whether it was in a rally or vigil of some kind, a moment of silence shared at some sort of celebration, etc.

I’m increasingly fascinated by the connection between positive emotional states and improvements in the quality of our lives, day to day. I found this fascinating article on-line, detailing the mounting evidence, enough to give me, and perhaps you, pause. Here’s a snippet from the research:

“How do people’s fleeting and subtle pleasant states pave the way to their later success, health, and longevity? Fredrickson’s (1998) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions outlines a possible path: Because positive emotions arise in response to diffuse opportunities, rather than narrowly-focused threats, positive emotions momentarily broaden people’s attention and thinking, enabling them to draw on higher-level connections and a wider-than-usual range of percepts or ideas. In turn, these broadened outlooks often help people to discover and build consequential personal resources.”

This is remarkable and gives us clues how we can leverage positive experiences for long-term gain. Particularly, many of us are called to become active peacemakers, in our relationships and careers. How powerful, to discover that feeling good is more than feeling good, that it can be the precursor to developing skills that enable us, not only to improve our own state but help others as well.

The article continues: “These resources can be cognitive, like the ability to mindfully attend to the present moment; psychological, like the ability to maintain a sense of mastery over environmental challenges; social, like the ability to give and receive emotional support; or physical, like the ability to ward off the common cold. People with these resources are more likely to effectively meet life’s challenges and take advantage of its opportunities, becoming successful, healthy, and happy in the months and years to come. Thus, the personal resources accrued, often unintentionally, through frequent experiences of positive emotions are posited to be keys to later increases in well-being. Put simply, the broaden-and-build theory states that positive emotions widen people’s outlooks in ways that, little by little, reshape who they are.

I especially note this comment: “People with these resources are more likely to effectively meet life’s challenges.” Who wouldn’t want some of that? Life’s challenges come in all sizes but it does seem that there is evidence that being positive is an effective starting point for dealing with all of them.

Referenced from

Will Wilkinson is a local author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign.

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A Thankful Thought

Have you ever stopped to notice what you are thinking about;

What types of thoughts; gratitude; resentments?  Do you ruminate about the past? Are you consumed by something?  Is it something wonderful, disturbing or upsetting? Thoughts are distractions.  They are designed to keep us from peace and contentment.

If you are upset about something ask yourself:

Do I REALLY want to be upset about this?

Do I like being upset about this?

Am I enjoying the upset feelings?

Be honest! Sometimes we really enjoy the upset feelings?

It’s OK to admit it.  In fact it is healthy.

Why do we like being upset?  It makes us “feel” something.

What is it? big, strong?  little, victimized?

Look honestly and see if the pain is worth it.

Say to yourself:

I WANT to feel peaceful.  I don’t like feeling this __________!

I CAN let this upset go.  I  let it go now.

You are the only one who can do it.  No one can do it for you.

This is a powerful decision.  You are the decision maker.

Practice being thankful – Choose a thankful thought each morning.

Go to bed with a thankful thought on your mind.

Carry thankfulness in your Heart for the Holiday’s.

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Peace Here Now


 Peace is beyond the senses, but sensory experiences can serve to open you to that Presence, as they are always in the present moment and direct. Recognize that in your waking life, body sensations, breathing, hearing, and seeing are always happening. These are all readily available, and when you bring your awareness to them, it can open to the feel of the natural, effortless, and flowing.

 1. Recognize that you are sensing in your body, and simply enter into that consciously, with relaxed attention. Sense deeply in your arms and legs (and through that the whole body). Let this open you to a sense of relaxed embodiment. Going even deeper, open into the Peace of all-pervading Stillness, in which all movement happens. 

 2. Recognize that you are breathing, and simply enter into that consciously. Let this open you into a sense of the peaceful flow of life, moment to moment. Going even deeper, especially at the end of the inhales and exhales, open into the Peace of the timeless Now, in which all change happens. 

 3. Recognize that you are hearing. Be at peace with what you are hearing, just as it is. Going deeper, let go of identifying what it is you are hearing, and enter into the awareness of hearing itself. Recognize that the auditory field is permeated by Spacious Awareness. Enter into the Silence and Serenity of that Awareness in which all sounds arise.

 4. Begin with eyes closed, and recognize a field of inner seeing that extends in all directions. Recognize that it is filled with an all-pervading Spacious Awareness. Enter into the Serenity of this Awareness in which all sights arise. Now gently open your eyes and recognize that this field, and its Serenity, are still present. Enter into That in which all sights arise. 

 Now go into the heart. Recognize the felt sense of your experience, whatever that might be. Be at peace with it, just as it is. Enter into this Peace of all-pervading Love, in which all feelings arise and are unconditionally held.   

 Who is it who senses, breathes, hears, sees, feels? Recognize that who you are is simple, effortless Presence, abiding in its own Peace, as You. When you recognize yourself and others as this simple Presence, the heart connects in Peace and Love.

 You are that Stillness, Nowness, Silence, Awareness, and Love, as You.

Ed Hirsch resides in Ashland – contact him at:


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Let There be Peace on Earth

Let There Be Peace on Earth
by Will Wilkinson  

Most of us would immediately agree that world peace is something we want, and something we’d like to contribute to. A goodly number of us would also admit that it starts with us. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” as the song says.

In fact, that song has some lessons for us, quite beyond the lyrics. Here’s a brief history of its amazing impact on world peace. This amazing story can be found in its totality on the web site,

“Sy Miller and Jill Jackson were a husband and wife songwriting team. In 1955 they wrote a song about their dream of peace for the world and how they believed each one of us could help create it.

    “They first introduced the song to a group of teenagers selected from their high schools to attend a weeklong retreat in California. The young people were purposefully from different religious, racial, cultural and economic backgrounds, brought together to experiment with creating understanding and friendship through education, discussion groups, and living and working together in a camp situation. Sy Miller wrote in his own words what happened:

     “’One summer evening in 1955, a group of 180 teenagers of all races and religions, meeting at a workshop high in the California mountains locked arms, formed a circle and sang a song of peace. They felt that singing the song, with its simple basic sentiment – ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,’ helped to create a climate for world peace and understanding.

    “‘When they came down from the mountain, these inspired young people brought the song with them and started sharing it. And, as though on wings, ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ began an amazing journey around the globe. It traveled first, of course, with the young campers back to their homes and schools, churches and clubs. Soon the circle started by the teenagers began to grow. Before long the song was being shared in all fifty states – at school graduations and at PTA meetings, at Christmas and Easter gatherings and as part of the celebration of Brotherhood Week. It was a theme for Veteran’s Day, Human Rights Day and United Nations Day. 4H Clubs and the United Auto Workers began singing it. So did the American Legion, the B’nai B’rith, the Kiwanis Clubs and CORE. It was taped, recorded, copied, printed in songbooks, and passed by word of mouth.

    “The song spread overseas to Holland, England, Italy, France, Germany, Lebanon, Japan, India; to South America, Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia. The Maoris in New Zealand sang it. The Zulus in Africa sang it.”

    I encourage you to visit the site and read the rest of the story. It’s an inspiring example of how one simple act – in this case, writing a song – can bring peace to millions of people. It might compel us to ask: “What simple act is possible for me?” It’s unlikely what we do will have the far-reaching impact this song did… but you never know. And that’s the point, really, we never can know exactly how our words, our thoughts, and our actions affect the world. But a story like this one inspires us to act in faith, joining the millions of other mostly anonymous peace makers around the world, each doing their part.

Referenced from

Will Wilkinson is a local author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign.

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Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy instead of Pain

Have you ever stopped to notice what you are thinking;

what are your thoughts like?

What are you thinking about?  Is it disturbing or upsetting?

Are you choosing joy or pain?  Are you holding a grievance

If you are upset with something ask yourself: Do I REALLY want to be upset about this?

Do I like being upset about this?

Am I enjoying the upset feelings?

Be honest! Sometimes we really enjoy our upset feelings?

It’s OK to admit it.  In fact it is healthy.

Why do we like being upset?  It makes us “feel” something.

What is it? big, strong?  little, victimized?

Look honestly and see if the pain is worth it.

Say to yourself:

I WANT to feel peaceful.  I don’t like feeling this: _________________!

I CAN let this upset go.  I  will let it go.

You are the only one who can do it.  No one can do it for you.

This is a powerful decision.  You are the decision maker.

Choose Joy instead of Pain!

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Breathing Peace

BREATHING PEACE    by  Ed Hirsch

 Who is the other? And who are you? Notice that, when the other is identified as friend, you take yourself as a friend. When the other is identified as enemy, you take yourself as an enemy. And so on.

 Basically, the sense of self and other is that of self and not-self. Do you take not-self basically as friend (basically with you), or foe (basically over-against you, or even indifferent to your existence altogether)? Let’s approach this not through thinking but through the simple experience of breathing. Breathing is basically an experience of the interchange of self and not-self, and one that we are largely unconscious of.

 Imagine a friend in front of you, and notice how you are breathing. Now imagine an enemy in front of you, and notice how you are breathing. It makes a difference, right? But notice that, whether there is even anyone before you or not, the not-self that is always there is simply Presence. Recognize this, and notice how you are breathing.

 The air you are breathing from outside you (not-self) is one with the air inside you (becoming part of the self-sense). So too, the Presence outside you, all around you, is the same Presence that is inside you. Be aware of breathing in the Presence that surrounds you, that embraces you, and taking it in as your inner Presence. Recognize that it is One Presence all the way throughout. The One Presence itself is breathing in and out. You are breathing, and you are being breathed.

 Be aware of the Presence, or Being, or Spaciousness all around you, abiding in its own nature, just as it is, at ease, at rest, at peace. Consciously breathe in that peace with every breath, and release that peace with every breath. On the inhales, receive it fully into your deepest being. On the exhales, fully release into it. Open to the one flow, in and out, within the Peace of Presence.

 That is the Peace of Presence, the Peace that is present whether you are with a friend or foe, whether you are in a garden or a ghetto. It is the Peace that passes understanding, the unshakeable, ever-present Peace that is Presence, that is your True Nature.

 Ed Hirsch resides in Ashland – contact him at:

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Predicting Peace – Part 6 of 7

Predicting Peace, Part Six of Seven

By Will Wilkinson 

I’m blogging about predictions and funny stories around premonitions. Apparently, according to the link below, “After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, his friend Ward Hill Lamon wrote a biography of the president, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847–1865, in which he recounted an eerily prophetic nightmare Lincoln had had just three days before his death. In Lincoln’s own words:

“There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘He was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream.”

Well, if this account is genuine, it does seem to be authentically prophetic. Oh that Lincoln himself had taken it to heart and decided to miss the play! How history would have played out differently.

I propose that all of us have premonitions, not as dramatic as this one, but just as important. We know, for instance, the effect of an unkind word or act. We can predict what a loving touch, given at the perfect moment, can inspire. A caring word, a gesture of generosity… there is no mystery about how to create a safer, more loving world. It’s in our hands, in our minds, in our hearts, right now.

So, what will the future hold? More war or more peace? We can’t speak for others or what they decide to do but we sure can take a stand for ourselves.

Referenced from  

Will Wilkinson is a local author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign.



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Peace at Holiday Parties

Here come the Halloween and Holiday parties; the wine tasting and beer fests galore are coming up quickly!  The sports bars will have non-stop sporting events with baseball, soccer and football games.  What Fun! 

This may sound like a health issue but health is inner peace – inner peace is health.  Chose peace for yourself and friends plus know some important facts from the Centers for Disease Control.  Drinking causes death in 1 in 10 working age adults.  Alcoholic or not.

Perhaps you or someone you know is drinking too much.  It is hard to choose peace when you or someone else is alcohol inflicted.  But after sobering up check out the link below.   Don’t argue with yourself or anyone else about their habits but tell them what is concerning to you. What is on your heart.  Everyone has a choice they can make about drinking but first educate yourself on the subject.  

Waving a glass of wine or beer at anyone and saying “hey drink up, be merry” is a sure way to kill someone who may have alcoholic  or binge drinking tendencies.   It is also unkind and cruel.  We don’t need to be enticed if it is something we really, really want? 

This may sound like a sermon but we do not know what others need to learn and we  cannot know what the future will bring for them or ourselves, but we can do our best to be helpful.  If you feel warnings are appropriate do so.  We all need to know the following facts from the Center for Disease Control because it educates everyone whether a non-drinker, casual or addicted.  

Remember, you might not be able to stop someone or save them but at least you will know you tried.   If appropriate maybe you will stop drinking to support them.

Here is the link -be patient it will open.





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Predicting Peace – Part 5 of 7

Predicting Peace, Part Five of Seven

By Will Wilkinson

I’m having fun with this series of blogs on historical prophetic predictions. Another one mentioned in the link I reference below seems to connect to the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés. His 1519 arrival in Mexico coincided with the year the Mayan calendar said Quetzalcoatl would return and reclaim the city of Tenochtitlán. So, apparently the native Aztecs believed Cortés was this being. That helped Cortés capture Mexico.

The same habit of “savior thinking” can defeat us today, prophecy or not. Who do we expect to save us? With deep respect and appreciation, we honor the Gandhi’s, the Martin Luther King’s, the Mother Theresa’s of the past. And the peacemakers of the 21st century. But we’ve moved beyond celebrity leaders. It’s up to all of us, acting on the small stages where we live. And, in fact, every day presents us with tiny opportunities, moments that will never be glorified on HuffingtonPost, that won’t lead to a Ted talk, that won’t appear in any New York Times best seller, and won’t propel us into fame.

We simply live with peace in our hearts and it overflows. Our cup runs over. Peace, the real deal, is like that. It can’t be contained, hoarded, bartered. It’s generative. It grows and distributes itself selflessly.

Tomorrow can be another ordinary day OR it can be the day you (and I) choose to be peacemakers and seize every opportunity to do our small service. It might seem futile, that all we can do is like a drop in the ocean but, then, that’s what the ocean is made of!

Referenced from  

 Will Wilkinson is a local author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign.

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    The Inner Peace blog is a place to share wisdom about peace practices and inspire, learn and explore all aspects of inner peace. A team of writers will discuss varied qualities –€” intuition, courage, fearlessness, friendship, forgiveness, gentleness, giving and receiving, tolerance, faithfulness and kindness –€” that help us all through the tough times, the challenges, the joys and the sorrows with inner peace as the ever-shining goal. Whether 2 or 92, your inner peace is up to you.
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