One Summer my entire life changed in 3 months. I had just been on the Inc.’s Fastest Growing Companies list for the 3rd time and I had big ambitions for the future when everything came apart.
After a series of personal, family and business crises my life went into a downward spiral. I was thrust into an impromptu “master’s degree class in crisis management” and as a result, I can share some advice that hopefully can be helpful to you if this is your first time riding out a storm.
When things fall apart it can be an incredibly stressful experience. We’re human, we all make mistakes and then sometimes it’s just the universe dropping a proverbial bomb on us. We are left grasping for a way out, a way back to normal, it’s incredibly anxiety-producing.
When my “life-storm” came it felt like the entire world as I knew it was coming apart and I struggled every morning just to keep my head up to face the day.
A Dream Life Turned into a Nightmare
It all happened after a month-long vacation in the South of France that was planned as a way to reconnect with my wife but after returning to NYC she told me she was moving out leaving me suddenly to be a full-time single Dad to our 2 young kids. Then I found out my Dad developed throat cancer, my Mom got a Staph infection in her hip replacement and my Grandma, Rose Nell, who raised me passed away within a few weeks.
Later the factory my company had been working with in China vanished overnight along with a ton of our inventory. Our apartment in NYC had a gas leak and we were forced to evacuate, upon returning there were holes in our ceiling and pipes running through our hallways full of dust and paint chips. Everything I had changed within 3 months.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters — Epictetus.
From Problem-Obsessed to Action-Oriented
The key to getting through a hardship is changing your focus from the part you can’t control, namely the problems, to other aspects of life that you can control. You have to maintain your flexibility and agility because this will eventually help you find a solution, if possible, or at least allow you to be proactive enough each day to make small incremental changes.
We’re all professional faultfinders so when it comes to listing the things that bug us our natural disposition is to really focus on the problem in a moment of crisis but too much can even lead to us freezing up in fear (Fight, Flight, or Freeze). This short guide will help you stay in a state of agility and action which is what you need most right now, trust me. Some of this might feel counterintuitive but you have to proactively work to change your focus and energy to avoid slipping down into cynicism and doubt.
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. — Glenn Turner
When we experience trauma our mind makes a strong imprint of that moment in our memory as a way for us to avoid it in the future. But that imprint can also become an obsession and then we have a new problem: we can become frozen, fatigued and exhausted by continually hitting our heads against the problem.
The key to being agile is to stop festering over the problem and let the solution or resolution come to us. Being in crisis is paralyzing, so your priority is to stay fluid!
Here are some of my best tips for staying fluid being present and managing your crisis;
Flip the script on your pity party!
Trust that what you’re going through is part of something that you have to experience in order to evolve and grow.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” — Eckhart Tolle
We have a tendency to blame ourselves, “Why is this happening to me?” but do yourself a favour and Cut Out The Pity Party! Start telling yourself “Everything is happening for me, not to me.” Trust that there is something important in this experience that you’re going through that will change you. Even if it’s not apparent to you now it will be later.
Put your own mask on before helping others!
When we dwell on a problem we enter “the cave” as I’ve come to call it.
It’s that dark place where you think you’re pushing through the problem by overworking yourself but you’re really just about to burn out.
You have to get out because there’s no light in there! — Even though you might feel like you need to “do everything you can to change the situation” you have to make time for yourself.
Remember to exercise, follow a guided meditation, or get a massage. We store so much stress in our bodies and we need to release it out to stay functional and fluid. Do yourself a favour and give yourself a break!
The airline safety instruction manual has it right; put your own mask on before helping others!
Hitch your star to something greater
Our problems create a myopic view of the world focusing our thought as we walk through our day with blinders on.
Focus on something beyond yourself; the infinite universe, the endless cycles of Spring Summer Fall & Winter, the cycles of life. Recognize that no matter how important this crisis might seem to you now in the grand expanse of the universe and the history of humanity it’s a tiny infinitesimally small blip in time. This is not to trivialize your problem but it’s important to pull back the lens to know that this too will pass.
“Be the sky”. Imagine that you are watching this storm pass through your life, you are not the storm, you are the sky and the storm will pass.
Appreciate everything you DO HAVE!
One ritual I started was to begin every day in a state of appreciation. If I could be thankful for the air I breathe, the water in my glass and that I was still alive — I could be grateful.
Make an effort to appreciate even the smallest things in life and you start to outweigh the gravity of your crisis with gratitude.
These moments can be revolutionary times when we get this one chance to change our lives, take it! Seize this moment to really appreciate life for all of its beauty and for everything you do have!
Be on a rampage of appreciation every single day — Wayne Dyer
The Power of Giving: Help Someone Else
In giving to others we not only lift up the other person but we are lifted up as well, this can turn your otherwise powerless situation into something powerful.
Find a way to counsel others, join a group of others struggling with your same loss or peril. When you do something magical happens and you are suddenly in power in an otherwise helpless situation.
One of the ways I gave was by creating the BE MIGHTY Street Art Project where I posted flyers with 10 different quotes of motivation and inspiration around NYC. It is a huge part of what got me through one of the most challenging times in my life I detail it in my post called “Learning to BE MIGHTY”.
The act of giving in a time of total loss helped me stay active and emboldened when I should have felt helpless and depressed.
The quotes became such a powerful tool for me that I actually made a Tyvek® wallet of 100 of my favorite quotes printed inside and out.
The only way out, is through – Robert Frost
What if you can’t find a solution? What if nothing is going to bring someone back? What if you can’t escape the situation no matter what?
There are many problems that don’t resolve themselves quickly and so we start to feel the grip of the fear taking hold like a paralysis and we feel like giving up.
Crisis problems are like afflictions that are beyond our control. Sitting with the pain caused by them will not solve the problem and yet sometimes we can’t escape the pain either. Sometimes we can only seek grace and strength through a higher power to endure our hardships.
Pray not for an easy life but for the strength to overcome a difficult one. — Bruce Lee
Pain happens to us but suffering is a choice. You are not alone, you will get through this.
Now that I’ve climbed out of my debt and managed all this while raising my kids on my own I realize that I had to go through that experience in order to find the strength that I didn’t know I had.
It also helped me to break free of a lot of the fears that were holding me back from really taking my power and freeing myself from the dependency of approval from others.
But that was my journey, you are on yours and remember there IS a reason even if it’s not clear to you now. I hope you can find some guidance in this and some peace on your path to brighter days.
Download free flyers of inspirational quotes on the bemightyproject.com site.