Okay, so some challenging stuff went down last year. Let’s just put it out there…a lot of it sucked. Everyone got pushed out of their comfort zones whether you wanted to or not. How was your experience? What challenges did you face? What reactions did you find yourself having?
If you are like me, your reactions ranged from disbelief, sadness, confusion and overwhelm to fear, anger, anxiety and burnout. While there were also some cuddly, loveable moments sprinkled in there, this year was mostly an invitation for us to collectively get better at dealing with S*#%
Beyond The Pandemic
COVID really did shine a spotlight on the fact that the world is full of changes and challenges that are emerging at a rapid pace. Think about it, stuff happens to us all the time. Bad things happen to good people and you need to deal with the hand you are dealt, even when the hand is shitty.
There are lots of examples of things that happen “to” us. Some of those things are big, hairy and scary…
–you lose a job—maybe one that you loved or one that you loved to hate
–you lose a person you love and your whole world turns upside down
–you get diagnosed with a disease that has a long-lasting impact to you and your family
–a pandemic comes along and changes the way you live your life
Sometimes things that happen to us are smaller, but still irritating and annoying…
–you get a flat tire in the middle of a snowstorm
–your flight gets delayed and your vacation plans get altered
–the grocery store is out of your favorite coffee creamer and now you are faced with accepting second best or making the trek to another store
Whatever challenges you face, you have a choice. Are you a victim of your circumstance? Things are either happening to you or they are happening for you. Are you willing to evolve and expand despite (or because of) your circumstance?
Are you willing to step into the growth zone?
Wake Up Call
When the universe presents challenges, it is always an opportunity for us to look at ourselves. What is this challenge asking of you and who do you need to become? While some challenges are bigger than others, there is always an opportunity to look beyond what is happening on the surface and discover what the bigger experience is trying to get you to understand. What might your pay-off be for the challenge that is presenting itself? What can you learn from this opportunity?
Feeling Your Way Through
When my wife died 10 years ago, I really wondered what was being asked of me. A few years ago when my flight to San Juan got canceled and I almost missed my cruise ship (read that story here) I also wondered what the pay-off might be. And last week, when my son called me to tell me that he hit a deer while he was driving up North to go hunting with his buddies, I wondered who I needed to become to be the best loving, compassionate, empathetic Mom I could be.
It can be really hard to see the “opportunity” (another great story) when you are in the middle of a difficult situation. I totally get it. You really don’t want me to tell you to be grateful for the “gift” of these challenges. If you had said that to me in any of the situations above, I would have told you to bugger off.
The first step in shifting into growth mode is to honor your feelings. Allow yourself to really acknowledge, embrace and feel them. This is so incredibly important. I used to try really hard to force my way through and push my emotions away when “stuff” happened—big and small. This behavior was directly linked to my “self-preservation” zone. I lashed out, numbed out, hid out and judged myself, which was completely disempowering. I tried really hard to just be positive and focus on the silver lining. That didn’t work for long.
Being honest with yourself about your feelings and emotions allows them to have a voice. It makes them real. Is it uncomfortable? You betcha. However, it is what you need to do to be able to move through your emotions and feelings so you can step into the growth zone.
The Growth Zone
So, what exactly is the Growth Zone? The growth zone exists inside of ourselves. So often, we focus on the external situation trying to figure out what we can DO about it. How can I fix it? Sometimes it’s not about fixing it—many things can’t be “fixed”—it’s about figuring out who we need to become on the inside. How can I respond in a way that is in alignment with my values and priorities?
While you are trying to figure out “what do I do now,” don’t just look at the external elements. That often leads to repeating the same patterns and challenges over and over again. Look inside and follow the path toward becoming the person you want to be. That’s where the opportunity lies.
Yes, having my wife die was one of the most painful things that has happened in my life. I was lost, sad, angry, scared and had a ton of guilt. I was so afraid that if I let myself honor my feelings, I would never find my way out. And the exact opposite was true. The more I tapped into my real emotions around it, the faster my healing began. Working through my feelings is what allowed me to see what was holding me back from living the life that was meant to be mine. Today, I am truly grateful for all of the gifts her death has brought me.
As we kick off a new year, I invite you to set aside your judgments and look at your challenges through fresh eyes. What if this challenge is happening for you? Start looking at things that happen in your life as opportunities to step into the growth zone. And don’t think you need to do it alone. There is lots of support out there. Find a coach, a therapist, a support group, a book club. Stepping into the Growth Zone with someone at your side will make your adventure much easier and more enjoyable.