Crises come into all our lives at some time or other, and no matter how we may try to avoid them, they are troubling, unwanted experiences or events that take us way out of our comfort zone.
Typically, crises result in loss of some kind. The very nature of a crisis undermines all previous certainty and predictability we had in our lives as both vanish in an instant.
A crisis could result from the loss of a job and income, an experience that shakes our core values, health issues, or a disaster due to a weather-related event, to name just a few.
When crisis strikes
When crisis strikes, it is tempting to lay down, accept things and become despondent. Or on the other hand, we may scramble around desperately trying to seek the ease and comfort to which we were used to and find ourselves resisting change. Yet, if only we can learn to re-frame how we see any given crisis situation, we might also learn how to take advantage of it. The truth is, there is potential for good to come out of any crisis provided we learn to stop resisting change.
“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you to realise your potential.”–Jeannette Walls
How to turn a crisis into an opportunity
Accept there is going to be change. Unwanted changes seem to be the norm these days what with Covid-19 restrictions and precautions at the forefront of people’s minds. It is normal to be afraid and upset when we cannot control our lives, but to make good of any difficult situation, it is wiser to accept changes. This is a necessary starting point which will enable us to move on.
Live in the present. Living in the present is a powerful way of dealing with change. It does not mean forgetting the past or failing to plan for the future. It simply means using our energy to deal with what is happening now.
Don’t take life personally. Even though something difficult happened to you. You must be able to step back and (1) re-examine where you are at the moment, (2) where you want to be, and (3) the means to help you get there.
View your crisis as a challenge. To turn a crisis into an opportunity means that we view our difficult situations as challenges. For most of us, this stimulates our energy and mind.
It is interesting to note that in China, the word crisis can be seen from two perspectives, i.e., “danger” and “opportunity”.
How we react to a crisis situation will not only speak volumes about our personalities, but will also allow us to evaluate the possibilities of starting a whole new way of life if we choose opportunity.
Take the following example of Ariana, in her own words:
“Many years ago, I lost a well paid job. I found employment soon after but the job turned out to be boring and paid less. I went through the stages of surprise and anger until I realized that I had more time to look after myself. I had time to read books I enjoy and write, and allowed myself to let go of old views of myself and others. It took time but I was able to turn an unwanted change into an opportunity and indulge in a new hobby. I got out of my comfort zone and pushed further the boundaries of my discomfort zone. My brain now has a new pathway on how to deal with a similar crisis should it occur in the future. This gives me confidence that I can deal better with life’s events.“
— Ariana M
- Change brings opportunity for gratitude. Adriana was grateful when she discovered change afforded her the opportunity to do something she enjoyed which time didn’t allow for previously. Change can therefore bring opportunities to discover new possibilities in our lives which is definitely something to be grateful for. Furthermore, it is a fact that people who practice gratitude get through crisis situations far better than those who don’t, e.g.
Psychology has proven that gratitude makes us mentally stronger.
Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress but also plays a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower post-traumatic stress disorder rates. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.Psychology Today
More things to consider
- “What is in your hand?” This was a question God asked Moses when he was feeling sorry for himself during a crisis situation.
What is in your hand?
You may enjoy having people visit your home [hosting / hospitality]. Another might respond, I’m good with my hands at making things. I can help a group get things done [leadership]. I like to cook. I can bake. I can sew. I can type. I can clean. I love animals. And so on. We all have talents, strengths and abilities we can apply in so many different and creative ways.
Perhaps we need to take a look at what is in our hand and think about ways we can put our skills and abilities to good use in a crisis–whether to help others, ourselves or both.
Something else to consider is:
- Amor Fati. Amor fati is a mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens, i.e. treating each and every moment—no matter how challenging—as something to be embraced, not avoided. To not only be okay with it, but love it and be better for it.
A few examples
When Thomas Edison’s entire research and production campus burned to the ground, he didn’t get angry or become despondent. Instead, he became energized and invigorated. In only three weeks the factory was partially back up and running.
Another prime example is when Jack Dorsey was replaced as CEO at Twitter, he didn’t become paralyzed or depressed. Instead he accepted the situation and went on to found Square, one of the largest payment-processing start-ups in the world. It’s all about keeping a cool head and looking for opportunities to learn, e.g.
The Panic of 1857 struck whilst John D Rockefeller was barely two years into his first job. Rockefeller could have become depressed and paralyzed by the unfortunate circumstances he faced. But instead of bemoaning about the timing of the economic upheaval, he chose to perceive events differently than his peers. He looked on the crisis as an opportunity to learn. He was inclined to “see opportunity in every disaster”, as he once put it. Within 20 years of that first crisis, Rockefeller controlled 90% of the oil market.
Like Rockefeller, today’s entrepreneurs live in turbulent times. Instead of letting our perception of events cloud our judgment, we can look to companies like LinkedIn and Microsoft, that were also both founded during times of economic crisis.
When others become lost worrying about a competitor’s latest acquisition or an investor having a fit, we can consider Rockefeller’s coolness under pressure and likewise look for the opportunity in our crisis–whether in our personal lives or business lives.
- Take care of your health as you need your vital energy–-spiritual, physical, mental and emotional–-to bring about the desired change.
- Check your thought life. Dismiss negative thoughts and focus instead on what you would like a positive outcome to look like. Keep this at the forefront of your mind and start planning towards such.
- Be creative in your thinking, find new ways to look at yourself, at the situation you find yourself in, and at the world around you. Remember Rockefeller, Dorsey and Edison and be encouraged by such.
- Be clear about what new change(s) you want because all the efforts you make after the crisis will affect how your future will be.
Use this time as an opportunity for reflection to consider how to move forward. Creating new habits, devising new strategies, and organising priorities are some of the advantages this pause allows. Making the most of this time can bring positive results to your personal life / work life / or future work life.
In closing, I hope you will be encouraged to find fresh new opportunities in whatever crisis you are facing at the moment (or in the future). Crisis isn’t the be all and end all–far from it. It can bring change for the better by adopting the right mindset.
“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”–Francis of Assisi
Next week: Boost your confidence by learning something new
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