In my experience, there are two ways to deal with a challenge in life – either passively succumb to it and play possum or stare it straight in the eye, without backing down from whatever comes your way.

I find the difference between the two fascinating, and wanted to learn more about the differences and the outcomes. I asked some clients, former and current, and a few colleagues, to share their experiences with me and appreciated how many people were willing to share. Of course, those who are still playing possum are likely not in a place to share. It’s my hope the learnings from other people can inspire those possums to be badgers and take on the world with tenacity.

Here is one of the stories:

“My family and extended family contracted head lice! We tried common pharmaceutical shampoos that were not working. This was so so stressful for everyone! We sought out professional help and it was a success. This inspired my sister and I to start Lice Treatment in Kamloops three years ago. We started out with an extremely stressful situation and ended up with great business that is so personally rewarding.”

This is a pretty cut and dried example of taking a stressful situation impacting the daily lives of an entire family and turning it into an opportunity. Most people would have gone through this and felt frustration at not finding treatments and then gotten as far away from the little buggers as possible.

But something made them stop, take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. In doing so, they saw an opportunity. I think the lesson here is about perspective. About giving yourself the time to process an experience and to look at it from a place of openness and willingness to learn.

Lice is one thing (and I’m sure it’s a stressful experience). Leaving your job (planned or unplanned) is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. Your ability to support yourself and your family is compromised. Plus, if you are the type of person who identifies him/herself through their career, a job loss can challenge the very core of how you define yourself.

Here are two very different experiences with job loss:

“When I was laid off from my sales role at Unifirst, which provided for me and my family, it was devastating news. But without that event, I never would have met Barbara, who has enriched my life and my outlook from our (too) brief time together, and opened up an amazing new work opportunity for me that has given me great satisfaction and growth.”

 

Leaving Kamloops was difficult and came through the stimulus of a disrespectful board of directors not acting in a good way. I knew my wit and integrity were firm and I wasn’t willing to accept less. I was forced to leave my job based on their actions and left my adult children and grandson and community. I ended up on the coast with a job that’s a pleasure, respect and great friendships fostered in it. I still am getting back on my feet. The reward is in the heart, the soul and in the change needed. I wouldn’t have made this choice had I not been treated dishonourably by those directors. And I am now grateful for the chance, the people I find myself blessed to be in company with. I’m rebuilding my life, home and self in wonderful ways.”

Both of these stories speak volumes about the capacity and resiliency of people to overcome challenges IF there is a willingness to be open to new opportunities as they arise–even if those opportunities don’t seem like the right “fit” at first glance. One of the most common mistakes people make is to place limits on what they think they can do, without really taking the time to try…or to actually do anything.

A major lesson from these experiences is the importance of acceptance. Acceptance of a situation, of what led to a situation (including your role in it), of change, of challenge and of new opportunities. The last quote I’m going to share encapsulates a whole lot of falling down and the gradual regaining of ground to a different–but better–place.

“Last year I left a company I’d worked with for around 12 years. It was a toxic environment where every day was a challenge to even get out of bed. I was in a toxic marriage. Constant fighting and tension. I decided in April 2016 to change everything and made the decision to leave the relationship and moved in with a friend who was going through something similar.

It was a tough year. I left my job in March without a plan of where to go or how to get there. I had four kids counting on me and I had no clue of what to do. I came to a place where I just trusted the universe that something better was coming.

“If I learned anything it was that fear was governing my life. I had panic attacks at any kind of social events. Now I love them and meeting new people. I have an incredible feeling of being free now–I’ve found my ecstatic!”

There is so much to be learned from just this one experience. Taking the steps towards change often poses a barrier in itself, stopping people in their tracks. Making multiple, big changes in quick succession required an acceptance of uncertainty and a willingness to embrace the unknown–even though there were very real risks if things didn’t work out (i.e. the inability to support four kids).

I encourage you to talk to people who’ve made big changes in their lives to learn from their experiences and mine any gems of insight they might have. We can’t always control what happens in life, but we can control how we deal with adversity–are you a possum or a badger?

Three main takeaways I want you to think about are:

  1. Learn from adversity – what led to the challenge, what can you change?
  2. Use pitfalls to your advantage – take the time to reground yourself in your own life.
  3. Accept the challenge – don’t waste valuable time and energy fighting against something you can’t control.

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