To all who have experienced the shock and devastation of natural disasters this past month, my heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery and healing go out to you. If you are a first responder or a member of their family, my extreme thanks to you for superhuman efforts of service! Seeing the outpouring of support, compassion, kindness and generosity is a reminder of what is truly important – each other.
My feature article this month was driven by the events in my community, Houston, and the trials of many friends. I am so impressed with the resilience of those I’ve known and observed. It also made me think back to the many people I’ve coached who have had setbacks of their own. Whether career or personal, there are similarities in recovery. There are also many differences, including the need to move quickly when you’ve lost your home. I certainly do not mean to minimize the intensity of great personal loss in a natural disaster.
In an effort to regain focus on business, while maintaining an awareness of the ongoing recovery efforts, I write about how we can begin to move forward after a setback.
In support of you I offer my warm regards,
5 Steps to Recovering from a Setback
She was sitting in my office with tears streaming down her face. She had just finished telling me about her setback. She had heard all the usual words of encouragement:
“You can come back from this.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“You are resilient, strong, talented.”
Intellectually, she knew all these things were true. But the discomfort, stress and pain didn’t feel temporary. She felt stuck. Confused. Angry. Overwhelmed.
I could tell you the name of this person, but it could be any one of us. The setback may be a layoff. A poor performance review. Perhaps a job you wish you had never taken. Or a flood that took out your entire home. I’ve heard this story many times.
The support and encouragement we receive from others during a setback is invaluable. It pushes us to move into the crucial period of recovery. I heard a pastor expand on a familiar Bible verse to convey a great point, “Yea, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, keep moving! Don’t stop and pitch a tent.”
I have found there are 5 steps that help us to keep moving through that valley.
Allow adequate time for emotional healing, then let it go. There are two key messages here. Recognize that you need time to recover. Don’t rush yourself into the next move or dismiss the need for healing, but also don’t carry the burden on your back forever. One woman was still talking about being laid off years after it had happened even though she had since been rehired and established herself as highly competent at her job.
Ask “What did I observe about myself as I look back at the situation?” Did you uncover a new talent, perhaps for organizing volunteer response? Maybe you saw a strength in yourself you hadn’t noticed before. Perhaps you found a refreshed compassion for others, or for yourself.
What part of that experience do I want to leave behind? Some find this to be an odd question, because the usual answer is “All of it!” In my career setback, I consciously decided to leave behind the feelings of betrayal that had developed toward certain people. It wasn’t serving me well to hang on to them. Another woman decided she never wanted to do a certain type of work again. If your home was flooded, maybe you’d like to leave behind that closet that was always too small anyway.
What part of the experience do you want to take forward? This question can bring fresh positivity to the situation as you acknowledge the good that can come out of your setback. I had an experience where I consciously decided to apply my stakeholder management skills in new ways. Before the setback, I didn’t even realize the importance of that skill. Another woman decided to incorporate into her new job what she had learned about establishing priorities.
Take one baby step to move forward. While you’re in the midst of recovery is not the time to make abrupt, major changes. It’s time to rebuild, but do it one step at a time. Where major decisions can be slowed down, do so. (I recognize that recovering from natural disaster doesn’t always allow much time for decision making.) Get centered and clear before you take a new job. Consider your options before you sell all your possessions and move to a new city. Examples of baby steps I’ve seen others take include going to one lunch a week, having a low-risk exploratory conversation about a career change, joining one new organization, or taking one action each day that reminds you of your previous, positive routines.
Complete recovery goes beyond these five steps, but they will help as you begin to move forward.
Life setbacks happen. Some will be huge while they’re happening and for years after. Some you will realize weren’t that big a deal once they are in your rearview mirror. The key is to keep moving through that valley.
Governor’s Business Forum for Women
The Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the Governor’s Business Forum for Women on Wednesday, October 11th at the Westin Galleria. This is a great opportunity to learn and connect with other women in business. For more on the GHWCC and the Governor’s Business Forum for Women, click here.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our newly redesigned website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com
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