“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” — Leonard Cohen
This life is full of paradoxes. While you’re buried in the deepest of muck, unable to see your way out of a difficult situation, it’s easy to forget that you’re also in the perfect position to mine for gold. In my experience of over 10 years of working with people as a therapist and later, a coach, I’ve found that crises are the most potent opportunities for growth. The conditions of a difficult time allow for unique perspectives and new meanings to emerge. I don’t mean to undermine anyone’s pain here or imply that the difficulties brought about by a year such as 2020 should be downplayed. The point is more that things aren’t always as they seem, and shifting perspective around our circumstances can help us see how to grow and develop, both personally and in our careers.
Finding those life-changing gold nuggets from your challenging times isn’t easy, but if you use them to your advantage, you may experience exponential growth. Because this isn’t easy and certainly not intuitive for all of us, below are some ways to get started:
1. Stop, ask and reflect.
Current times call for us to be more mindful than ever. We’re keenly aware of how our behavior affects others and our delicate interdependence. Mindfulness is key here. We now must be more mindful of our thoughts, actions, feelings and behaviors. Remaining disconnected will breed nothing but discontent, and at some point, we must stop to ask: What is happening, why is this happening, and how am I in a position to make it better?
2. Test and try new ways.
This is a rich time to try out new modes of thinking and being in the world. Once you’re more aware of how you think and feel, put that mindful perspective to use and try to BE in a different way. It’s like seeing the world through a different color lens or a completely new vantage point. “Try on” new ways of thinking, feeling and being, and see how it unfolds. This process inevitably brings growth. NOW is the time to get off of the autopilot you’ve maybe been living on for years, and become more cognizant of your wants, needs and place in the world.
3. Develop resiliency.
Don’t let your setbacks take over your narrative and rule your life. Far too often, people struggle to bounce back from even the smallest of setbacks and let these narratives take on a life of their own. So many people are dealing with obstacles right now, it’s a collective experience on a global level. Develop resiliency (attitude is everything here) to handle these obstacles. When you overcome something and share that with the world, you empower others to do the same.
4. Relax, slow down and simplify.
Becoming overwhelmed is inevitable if you try to solve all your problems at once. Especially during difficult times, you’ll want to be easy with yourself. Don’t try to take on too many things at once. Whatever you’re working with or through, start small. Those small wins will help you feel more accomplished and build momentum! Taking things at a slower, simpler, more mindful pace will help you get where you want to be with greater ease.
5. Confront challenges directly.
Adversity and tough times can scare us, and that fear may make us want to go into hiding, or at the very least, to shrink and face them from a disempowered place. Hiding won’t stop adversity, and we have far less control over our external circumstances than most of us are comfortable admitting to ourselves. Adopt an attitude that accepts how challenges can and will come your way, and that YOU can and will find sovereignty, but recognizing you can control your reactions to said challenges. Face them head on with a “can-do” attitude, and you’ll likely come out ahead.
In summary, finding clarity during difficult times may seem like an insurmountable task at first, but once you put the steps into action, changes may unfold swiftly and with unexpected simplicity. Finding clarity, shifting your attitude, and connecting more deeply to yourself and with others will help you get out of your way and find the golden opportunities that are waiting for you to discover them.