|– Have confidence in your values.|
(reprinted from Authentic Success newsletter. You can subscribe here)
There is a lot of anger to go around these days. Much of it stems from loss.
This week’s newsletter comes out on inauguration day in the United States. Many are troubled by the loss of civility in our politics. Others are upset about the election loss. All of us are outraged at the pandemic’s physical, mental, emotional and economic toll on us, on our country and on the world.
Today, I want to talk to you about having the confidence and conviction to accept loss as the precursor to something better. Positive change always requires a letting go of the old to prepare for something new. For a baby chick to be born, a shell must be broken.
We all suffer loss. It comes in all forms, in health, finances, career, relationships, debates, dreams and the physical loss of life. Every loss triggers intense emotions such as anger, grief, frustration and more.
The following is a simple yet insightful example of how to endure loss with more grace, ease and eventual growth. It illuminates three phases we can navigate to advance instead of retreat through loss.
The phases are to feel, to uncover and to redirect.
On November 5, 2020, Casey reached out to me from the U.K. She had been studying at Columbia College in the U.S., where she felt she was achieving something with her life. Suddenly, she was sent back to her hometown because of the pandemic. Since returning home, she experienced more “downer days” having to work at a job she does not like. Compared to her college experience in America, being back in her hometown made her realize the lack of opportunity and like-minded people there. She felt overwhelmed mentally and emotionally.
Casey is suffering the loss of a dream. As a result, she lacks motivation. After all, our dreams motivate us to believe in a better future. They help us push forward through the challenges that might otherwise derail us. Without a vision to guide you, a brighter future seems out of reach.
We can reignite dashed dreams by exploring our values, the fundamental principles and character traits vital for us to live an ethical and fulfilling life. I suggested to Casey that she do this. If she could discover what was meaningful to her, she would regain her motivation by finding new ways to live her values other than attending Columbia. When we live according to our values, we are resilient and have more creative power over our destiny regardless of the difficult circumstances we face.
On January 15, 2021, a little over two months later, Casey shared the following with me.
“It took me a while to complete the task but it cleared my head and I felt so good after it! Like a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders and my head clear…. I’ve now started an apprentice role for a project manager. I’m over the moon about it and nervous, but it’s still my first week within the role.”
I am pretty sure Casey’s hometown did not change that much in two months. But Casey sure did. Did you hear the difference in her? She went from having “downer days” to feeling “over the moon.” Where she once saw a lack of opportunity and like-minded people, she now has a promising new job.
Loss of any kind is an opportunity to move forward better than before. It can also be a trap that makes us bitter and resentful for what we think we have lost, keeping us stuck in first gear. Casey chose to get better. We can do the same, no matter what kind of loss we are experiencing.
Emotions are an essential part of who we are. They point to what is meaningful for us. Difficult emotions mean that something we value is in danger. Happier feelings mean that what we value is being honored.
When we allow difficult emotions to be there without acting on them, they will get less intense. In the meantime, we can learn through them. When we let strong feelings drive us to take action without understanding their message, we act on incomplete information. We make poor choices. Ask anyone who has lashed out in anger or made decisions while grieving.
In this phase, we let our emotions reveal what values we believe are threatened. We can do the same with intense positive feelings, understanding what values are supported.
Emotions are physical reactions in the body to what we think and believe. Because we feel our emotions faster than we can recognize our thoughts, we believe we feel first and then think. But the opposite is true. Deep below the surface, we think first and then feel.
When you get a promotion, you immediately feel elated and energized. A nanosecond earlier, your thoughts and judgments confirm that the upgrade is perfect for your career aspirations. Your value of success or recognition is being honored. On the other hand, the same promotion could create a sense of dread and immobilization if you believe the new position means more work, longer hours and expectations that you cannot meet. Your value of wellbeing or autonomy is being dishonored.
Once we have slowed down enough to feel our emotions and uncover the values behind them, we can redirect our words and actions to support what we value beyond the current circumstance. Most of us respond to stressful situations by mobilizing our energy to either fight back, run away or freeze in silence. Another response is to channel our energy to connect more deeply with ourselves. When we do this, we can find new ways to live out our values.
We cannot be lazy in our responses to loss, letting our default emotions, thoughts and judgments get in the way of our progress. If we do, it will be more challenging and even detrimental to grow in the way we need to live an authentic, successful and fulfilling life.
When loss happens, return to your values. Only you can live them every moment by the words you speak and the actions you take. Insisting that others recognize your values and adhere to them makes you a victim instead of a victor.
In a tweet last fall, Elon Musk recommended the book, The Life of Greece. It details how a culturally advanced society can become weak, decadent and ripe for barbarian conquest. Musk goes on to conclude, “Nobody digs your grave better than yourself.”
This statement is true for all of us. We can be our worst enemies or our best allies. When the pandemic tears our health and economy apart and our politics tear our society apart, who will we be? What will we do?
Let us choose to be better, not bitter. It is the most empowering thing we can do.
Work Your Inner Genius. Pick a situation in your life where you feel a loss or a failure. It could be in your career or personal life. Work with the following questions to turn loss into greater self-awareness.
1. What are you feeling right now about the situation? Try not to criticize or sugar coat what you feel. Be honest.
2. What values are being dishonored that lead to these feelings?
3. Instead of trying to regain what was lost, how else can you support and demonstrate your values?
Thanks for reading! Til next week,
Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach
Authenticity instigator. Success accelerator. Creativity engineer.
Mindset shifter. Trusted partner.
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