It takes extraordinary strength of character and resilience to survive the impossible. I recently interviewed former navy fighter pilot and Vietnam Prisoner of War, Captain Charlie Plumb. On his 75th combat mission over North Vietnam, five days before he was due to return home, Captain Plumb was shot down. Captured, tortured and imprisoned, he spent over 2,000 days as a POW in an 8ft x 8ft cell. Here are some of the major takeaways he shared from his incredible experience:

Regardless of Circumstances, You Can Still Make Choices About Your Response

One of the first things that Captain Plumb learned about himself when he was in captivity was that, despite the harsh reality of the daily challenges he faced, he still had self-determination and could make his own way. He discovered that the prison was not the eight feet between the walls, but the eight inches between his ears. In life, you can control very little, but you can always choose how you respond to a situation. You are in charge of your thoughts and actions. In difficult circumstances, take a step back and reevaluate how you wish to respond. Where are your thoughts and your energy directed? Will your response help or hinder your progress? Challenge yourself to gain a new understanding of the circumstances and gain a better perspective. Then, you can zero in on your focus and build a solid plan around it.

Adversity Contains Opportunity

Everyone faces adversity in life. No matter who we are, we all experience ups and downs and difficulties that we have to conquer. The truth is, if you accept and work to overcome adversity, it can actually teach you a lot. Deny the reality of it and you waste an opportunity to learn and grow. If you go into ‘woe is me’ mode, feel sorry for yourself and blame other people for your problems, you give over control of your life. Often, the biggest opportunities in life are wrapped up in a package that looks like a serious problem. Look closer and you’ll see how you can benefit from the hardship you are enduring.

Routines Matter

In captivity, Captain Plumb relied on certain daily routines to sustain him and focus his mind. No matter where you are, consistent routines are the key to achieving success in life. Rather than limiting your freedom, as some people believe, routines actually give you the structure required for more freedom! Stick to a daily routine and you will achieve far more than if you freewheel your way through life with no real purpose, focus or direction.

If you want to learn more about decorated naval veteran Captain Charlie Plumb’s inspiring story, listen to the latest episode of “The Brian Buffini Show.”

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