NATALIE BURTON OLY
Put your sanitised hand up if you agree that what we’ve been going through over the last couple of months could be classified as a ‘set-back’. Definition: a problem or period of upheaval that delays progress or makes a situation worse.
Say for example, an end or pause to an upcoming sports season for which you had just gone through a long and gruelling pre-season to prepare for. Or a pause in the startup of the new business you were creating. Or a massive change to what your exciting and vibrant social life used to look like.
I’m picturing a lot of hands up right now.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out, we’re in a pandemic after all. But have you given it much thought beyond realising this obviousness?
You see, ‘set-backs’ and challenging times may feel like the things you were pursuing were never meant to be, that it’s not worth the pain and hard times you’re in right now, and that you may as well give up chasing that dream, but they are there to provide you with the information that will help you learn about yourself and grow.
So how do you actually allow yourself to seize the opportunities in front of you when you feel like you’re swimming through mud?
At the most basic level, you need to acknowledge and accept your current reality. Acknowledge that your life has changed and will probably continue to do so for months, and accept that there is uncertainty about what the future will look like. Acknowledge the mixed bag of emotions that come with a life of isolation and social distancing: disconnection, loneliness, anxiety, boredom.
When you can’t accept your current reality and fight against everything that comes up for you within it, you go into control mode. Your energy and focus becomes directed towards trying to gain control over your situation, even over the things that are totally out of your control. This distraction will only block your ability to see the opportunities available to learn from your circumstances.
Noticing how you define your current situation is going to have a massive impact on your ability to be open to seeing the opportunities in front of you. Are you playing the victim and feeling hard done by because life has thrown you into the deep end and you didn’t have time to put your floaties on? Are you seeing everything around you through a lens of struggle and despair, of fear and hardship? Have you thrown your arms up in defeat, decided you are incapable of doing what you want, and given away your power to the situation rather than directing it to working towards your vision and goals?
That’s why I have been using the term ‘set-back’ in inverted commas. The language we use to define our situation has a massive impact on our mindset. If we define it as a set-back, or a crisis or struggle, we are ultimately telling ourselves that it’s all doom and gloom, that our lives will slide backwards and nothing can be done about it. We will become blind to the information available and closed off from seeing the opportunities available.
Don’t get me wrong, there are extremely devastating things happening all around the world. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is right now. There are always opportunities available for us to learn. After all, our greatest growth comes out of our darkest times.
When I look back on some of the hardest moments in my career, I see how they helped me discover my why; my motivation for devoting 19 years of my life to playing basketball. Without the pain and struggle of going through these challenging times, I know I would not still be playing. I would not have fallen in love with basketball again, and I would not have discovered my passion for helping others by sharing the knowledge and experiences I gained from my career.
When you define your situation as a period full of potential for growth, you allow yourself to see the opportunities to not just bounce back from this, but to grow and learn and to actually bounce forward. Sam Cawthorn’s fantastic book Bounce Forward: How to Transform Crisis into Success presents this idea of growing through a crisis, and I thoroughly recommend reading it to gain a deeper understanding of how you can turn a crisis into growth and success.
Lastly, keep your focus forwards, instead of on the past and where you were coming from.
You won’t be able to see any opportunities for growth if your focus is behind you, if you’re holding on to what used to be, waiting for those days to return, and feeling stuck because you can’t get back to the way things were.
What is your vision for yourself? What are your goals?
Picturing your desired end results and keeping them in the front of your mind daily is a powerful tool in keeping your focus forwards. When you’re looking ahead, the actions you can take to push you towards these goals and vision will become clearer and clearer.
It’s up to you to choose how you come out of each situation in life. The information you need is all around you, it just depends what lens you view your experiences through.