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CHECK! What’s Your Move…

#Check #Checkmate #Stress #Mindset #Awareness #Options #Rebound #Lesson #Learn #Life #Health

Shawn Trautman Lessons - Life - Learning - Blog by SHAWN TRAUTMAN

What’s the right move?

Sometimes we’re in situations where there’s not a good solution. A no-win scenario, of sorts. All options seem like bad options, and they very well may be. But, usually, one of the options is the best of the worst, better than the others, less bad, or the least bad of the options.

Choose wisely.

Decision-making is often a dilemma in and of itself, but the thing is, you have to choose. Not making a decision can actually be worse than deciding on one of the options. I like to think of this in chess terms. If you’ve ever played chess you’ll understand what I’m about to say.

And, with any luck, you’ll resonate with the parallels.

CHECK is very different than CHECKMATE. CHECK requires analysis and complete focus. All moves in your life prior to then led you to that point, but now, you have to make a decision. If you don’t, it’s an eventual stalemate that could lead to CHECKMATE and game over. You really shouldn’t ignore CHECK.

First, though, understand that in real life we’re all playing several games and we have different opponents. For most people, the goal is multi-dimensional: the goal is divided between not ending someone else’s game, not allowing ours to be ended. When another player’s move requires immediate attention in the form of CHECK, our focus leaves the other boards. The more time we spend on one board, the greater the chance other players will put you into CHECK on their inter-connected board. It’s a vicious cycle, but one we can’t ignore.

Sometimes we find ourselves in someone else’s game that we’ve never met and they’re on a mission to eliminate others. We must always be aware of the potential and watch our own steps to ensure we’re not blindsided in the form of CHECK or CHECKMATE by someone we didn’t even know existed (more on this below).

And, before I go any further, let me just say I wish I could have had this talk with my four (4) friends this last year that I can no longer speak with (RIP). And, it encompasses many talks I’ve had with other folks over the years where dire situations seemed insurmountable, but weren’t. Stay with me here…. it’s important.

And, if you know someone who might benefit from seeing this message, please SHARE it with them.

Okay, back to the game at hand.

CHECK says “okay, I have to get out of this mess immediately.” If you didn’t recognize the struggle leading up to it you’re more likely to repeat the problem, but that doesn’t matter right now. You have to fix it, or at least address it to buy some time. Sometimes you can get out of CHECK just by shifting another area of your life and creating a block, of sorts. Again, this buys you time. Sometimes you lose a few of your pieces and you just have to cut your losses and move on. And, if someone else gets you out of CHECK you need to pay extra close attention else you’ll miss a great life lesson for sure.

And, friends, the ultimate CHECKMATE in life results in the end of our game. Literally. Unfortunately, most people mistake CHECK for CHECKMATE and stress like it’s the end of the world. They think they have no options, whereas usually there are many. A shift to the left. A shift to the right. Bring in some assistance to block the threat. Whatever. Sometimes you even have to change the rules to fit the game.

Here’s the thing though. Every time you get out of CHECK, it should feel like a small win, even if you lose something in the battle. If you reprogram your mind to think of each of these losses are, in fact, a win, you’ll find new ways to be okay with your decisions, both for the near-term and the long-term.

Speaking of our decisions – we all know that stress clouds our judgment and vision and, sure, it may feel like we’re trapped, but that’s rarely true. Reasons for bad decisions are many (a different post), but what’s needed now is some type of decision. Preferably, the lesser of two evils.

Someone holding a gun to your head is a potential CHECKMATE (you may not have even known you were playing with them). Losing your legs in a car accident is CHECK. Not having money to buy a new car? CHECK. A car that breaks down and you don’t have money to fix it yet. CHECK. An overdose that lands you in a hospital but doesn’t kill you. CHECK. A jail sentence and then a release, CHECK. An addiction of some type that’s bringing you to your knees. CHECK. Depression that starts affecting your daily life. CHECK. Someone breaking up with you or cheating may feel like CHECKMATE, but it’s an easy CHECK. Anything money-related is fixable. Again, it may not be your best option, but there are options. Heck, bankruptcy’s an option if you really need it. But, yes, everything money-related is CHECK.

You have to keep going.

Along the same lines, CHECK can be found in jobs, relationships, and in family life. Hate your job or lose it unexpectedly? CHECK. In an abusive relationship of some type? CHECK. This is a bit trickier to recognize unless it’s physical. Have toxic people in your life, perhaps other family members? CHECK. Survived a suicide attempt? CHECK. It’s okay (no, it’s necessary!) to change your situation and make things better for yourself. Don’t feel bad about this. It’s not being selfish if you truly feel like you’re in CHECK. You just have to be self-aware and honest with yourself.

And no, I’m not downplaying CHECK at all, nor does this relate to the old saying of “keeping everything in check.” CHECK, in all these situations is a time to buckle down and dig your way out. Get scrappy if you need to, in a resourceful way. Get help if necessary. Fight like hell! Life coaches are a “thing” for a reason, just make sure they’re on your team!

And yes, CHECK is a mindset and it is relative to you and your current situation and resources. It can be all-consuming to some and a shrug of the shoulders to others. It’s important to know yourself and understand your “modus operandi” when stressed. You can even practice potential scenarios and think them through. You can even use the saying “You better CHECK yo’self, before you WRECK yo’self!” I interpret that as a way to prepare for the known and do you best to anticipate the unknowns.

Related to the unknowns, keep in mind, some circumstances are beyond our control and we cannot possibly be prepared for everything life throws our way.

As for what to do when in CHECK, that’s another post altogether. Suffice it to say, inaction is a detriment. Think of it as being in the middle of a room that’s on fire on all 4 walls. You HAVE to do something. In chess, they call this ZUGZWANG – essentially where you’re forced to move and no matter what you do you’ll be put at a disadvantage. You can’t just skip your turn (or do nothing).

Ultimately, CHECK brings great awareness where maybe there was none prior. And yes, we’ll all be in CHECK at some point in our lives. Heck, some of us, many times (me with my hand raised!).

We may not always like our options, but we have options.

Read that again.

And yes, in case you’re still not clear, doing nothing IS an option, but a CHECK left unchecked often gets worse and can be devastating in the right circumstances. Think health issues, check engine lights, tire pressure warnings, violent behavior that’s escalating, etc. Or, that burning room I mentioned a few paragraphs up.

Ironically, by ignoring some of these small checks, they turn into BIG CHECKS, monetarily (that was the spin you saw in your head but couldn’t place until then).

So, yes, options to get out of CHECK require movement or action of some type. It might include selling something at a loss after investing heavily, which sucks, but it’s an option. It might involve losing a friend that constantly drags you down. It might involve getting a lower-paying job. It’s nothing more than a reset or a setback, but it’s not CHECKMATE. Resilience is critical in life and yes, we all have problems and sometimes we cringe and just have to go a different direction in order to get back on track.

The rebound is where it’s at. And, no, I’m not talking about hooking up with that one person you can’t stand but, heck, tonight, any port in the storm will do. I’m talking about when you’ve hit some type of bottom in the form of a CHECK, it’s important to go on the offensive. You have to! The lesson here is that you’ll need to dial up your intensity and find a way to go up a level on your growth spiral (please tell me you’ve read that post). Else, you’re destined to find yourself in a constant “check-fest” and you’ll forever feel like you’re scrambling while slowly sliding backwards.

Again, CHECK is usually solvable, but you have to get back to a position where you can focus on all the other pieces. In other words, you have to get out of CHECK as quickly as you can. Your life is your game and you control the pieces. Make your move and let others make theirs.

And, this is a good time to remind you that everyone else is playing chess with their lives and you never know when you’ll be playing them or what the consequences of our decisions will really bring.


Well, it’s mostly that our lives are full of complicated choices and the data we use to interpret or that’s even available to us is never perfect nor complete. Meaning, we’re dealing with imperfect data sets to aid us. Fun, huh? Well, that’s life. And, to further illustrate this, the players we’re playing with are always changing their own strategy or the board they’re playing on. Sometimes their strategy is merely to stay alive and other times they’re coming at you with everything they’ve got to eliminate you from the game, or at least knock you off of their board.

You have to be able to learn and recognize who the players are and what level they’re playing. Some people are sneaky and require constant attention where you just can’t catch a break as you’re always on the defense and dealing with CHECK… and then others let you play peacefully and worry about other players’ boards, sometimes even offering strategy support or “assists”.

Know the difference. Life lessons are easy to find if you’re looking, and we all learn at different rates.

CHECK means you’re still in the game and life’s just that, a game. CHECKMATE is inevitable at some point, but not now, not today.

Get your head in the game and play on. Even if it means taking the pieces you have left and starting over somewhere else.

It’s your move, chief!

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