Things don’t always go as planned. I’m wondering, as we get older, do we run into more road blocks and curve balls, or is it just that I can’t remember all of the challenges I had to overcome or redirect when I was younger? In any case, here I am, today, overcoming one more bump in the road.
I stopped to talk with my neighbor this morning when we were both out walking. Given that I hadn’t seen her in a while, I wondered how she was doing. To my surprise, I learned that she just started chemo -therapy. Not to be deterred, one of the first things she did after immersing herself in research about her diagnosis, was to visit a big yard sale and purchase several bright hats and colorful scarves in anticipation of losing her hair. Her focus: "As long as I can keep taking walks around the neighborhood, I’m good!"
Another friend just shared with me that his company was acquired by a larger firm. As a result, his job was eliminated. The good news: he can now retire. With a severance package in hand, he now has both more options and greater security than he did just a few weeks ago. Now that is a sweet deal!
These two individuals are able to find the silver lining, or turn lemons into lemonade, as they say. On the other hand, I’m over here feeling sorry for myself because no one showed up for my workshop. So where is my lemonade?
I am skilled at helping others through their life transitions, but the window turned into a mirror can be a whole different story. Using my coaching and therapy skills with someone sitting in a separate chair is not quite the same when the talk is directed toward me, in my own big wicker chair.
Digging out of Disappointments
My solution: write a blog in order to help someone else through a disappointment, a challenge or a setback. If I read my own writing, then I, too, can learn!
The following six tips can help any of us through those tough, challenging, times that seem to show up at some time in our lives.
1. Bust bad beliefs: I am so aware that dysfunctional, unrealistic beliefs are a main culprit. The beliefs that life should flow smoothly, that I should complete every task lickity-split, or that I have to be the best, set expectations. When those expectations aren’t fulfilled- boy, am I disappointed! In the case of my friends mentioned above, they didn’t hold onto beliefs that we all should be healthy all of the time or that jobs should remain in place forever. When hit over the head with bad news, they were able to roll, rather than stumble. Creating realistic, positive beliefs will turn disappointments into setbacks instead of disasters.
2. Erase early errors: A disappointment later in life might be reminiscent of some other challenge that we experienced at a younger age. If my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died within six months, I may be more likely to turn to fear with my own diagnosis. Likewise, if years earlier I showed up to teach and found an empty classroom, I could fall back into old feelings of defeat. My job, as this stage of my life, is to focus on today and not mix present events with those of my past. One has nothing to do with the other.
3. Face fear: So often, curve balls are filled with uncertainty. The path we were following, or at least thought we were following, suddenly seems crooked with no clear light on the road ahead. Uncertainty can foster fear: what’s next? Can I cope with it? What will I lose in the process? Who can I turn to? I could go on, listing the questions that emerge. I know, however, that life IS uncertain. That path that I thought I was following is just an illusion; most importantly, the idea that I have control over my journey is clearly a delusion. Curiosity accompanying uncertainty establishes a more welcome path than the harsh one generated by fear.
4. Learn lessons: I know it’s an old adage, but life is full of lessons. At every turn, we have the opportunity to learn. My neighbor told me about the research she was doing about cancer treatment; my friend has already started to explore ways to enjoy his retirement. I can talk with colleagues to learn different ways to present my work in order to attract the right people to the right event at the right time. Learning can occur on so many levels: I can explore what I might have done differently, or review new options. I can do research on content or explore others’ perspectives. In any way that I choose to dive into knowledge, I can only enrich myself.
5. Never more than now: In many ways, I have touched on this tip in my other solutions; however, it is important enough to be highlighted all on its own. We really can not redo the past, and worry about the future gets us nowhere. Today is what is on the plate in front of me; today must be my only focus. I must embrace today without resisting the change ahead, without fear of what might be revealed down the road; I can explore my options today, without confusing them with those from yesterday. I can believe in myself, having learned lessons from my past but without the screaming red flags of warning getting in the way.
6. Embrace Change: The joy of a roadblock is that it forces me to stop and re-evaluate. I now have the opportunity to make a change, rather than automatically pursue the path I was on. When all goes well, it is easy to not only fall prey to the belief that all should ALWAYS go well, I can also make the potentially erroneous assumption that this direction is the BEST way forward. What a gift; I can now choose to enjoy the nudge to take that risk to make a change in my life.
In other words, I won’t worry that one vacant workshop room will lead to another one. I don’t have to give up. Or, I might explore alternatives. Who knows?
I will let go of my belief that ALL has to happen NOW. Without that expectation, I am no longer disappointed. I can take my time.
And most important for me, I learned
that by writing a blog, I can coach myself.
As my mother used to say, ”If I do have to say so myself, I did a pretty good job!”