In 2010, I invited 30 women leaders to create a 2020 vision for women’s leadership at our organization. We started with an appreciative inquiry activity to help us imagine the possibilities by sharing our career best stories. While each person told their unique, personal story, a shared narrative emerged with a strong common theme. Almost every “career best” story took place during a crisis. Let that sink in.
We discovered the gifts that crisis offers us and wondered how to define the elements of crisis that serve up the opportunity for us to do our best work, without having to create or wait for a crisis. We discovered 5 gifts in crisis that if intentionally harnessed could create career bests outside of crisis.
It’s easy to focus on the challenges we experience in crisis. They are very real. It’s harder to discover the gifts it offers and even more difficult to receive them with sincere gratitude.
Crisis offers us 5 incredible gifts.
1. Clarity. In crisis, it becomes clear very quickly what’s important to us, what we believe, who is there for us and what our fears are. When we pay attention to what is true for us in our minds, hearts and bodies, we are better able to prioritize where to spend our time and energy based not just on urgency but also importance. The stronger the importance to us, the greater sense of internal urgency we’ll feel.
2. Courage. Being clear about what we must do and understanding its importance helps us more easily find the courage to step into uncharted territory. It’s important to know that courage doesn’t just come from inside us, it comes from others as well. So, it’s important to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and will encourage and support us to do what we need to do.
3. Creativity. It’s amazing how creative we can be when faced with a sense of purpose and a feeling of urgency. This is a time when we find frame-breaking innovations that will forever change the way we think and live.
4. Community. When we experience crisis together, we have a shared experience that bonds us at a deeper emotional level. When we connect in crisis, these emotional bonds can produce a sense of collective purpose and support that helps us believe we can get through whatever we’re faced with and keeps us moving forward.
5. Compassion. Compassion means “to suffer together.” In our shared suffering we find connections with people we may not have seen before, and we’re motivated to help relieve that suffering with kindness that is so heartfelt and can literally save lives.
When we receive gifts, we all know the right thing to do is say, “Thank you,” even if we don’t particularly like the gift. How are you receiving these gifts from our crisis?
· Are you the excited kid who can wait to discover the magic of the gift? You jump up and down, hug the people around you and start playing with it immediately, consumed with it for hours. For you, there is opportunity in crisis that can be beneficial not only to you but to many others as well. Staying focused on the opportunity allows you to optimize these gifts and keep moving forward even when you think you can’t.
· Are you the kid who is thankful for the gift but doesn’t know how to use it? You say a sincere “Thank you,” because you like gifts and are open to trying something new. As you look at the pages of instructions feel overwhelmed but determined to figure it out. You gather all the information you can, ask the people around you for help and find a way through the frustration and challenge to make it work.
· Are you the kid who doesn’t like the gift but knows you’re supposed to say, “Thank you,” anyway? You can’t understand why anyone would consider this a gift. You set it aside and carry on with all the other toys you’ve had for a long time and are comfortable with. You keep doing what you’ve been doing and complain about the situation, feeling like you’ve been cheated.
We are in a crisis that affects us all in some way. The situation is what it is. How we choose to focus our time and energy will greatly impact the way we experience it.
Focusing our time and energy on finding the gifts in crisis, opening them with curiosity and inviting others to explore with us in an effort to find the value in them allows us to be strong and keep moving forward.
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ― Mary Oliver
Let me know if there is a gift you need that I can provide. We’re in this together!
One gift I’m offering starting April 6, 2020 in partnership with Caroline Cochran, PhD is FREE Group Coaching. Mondays at 11 am CDT (small business owners/entrepreneurs) or 1 pm CDT (people in transition or temporarily unemployed). Register here to get your Zoom link: https://www.transformablecc.com/connect.html
Kjirsten is CEO and Co-Founder of ConnectHuman. Their mission is all about creating human connection that improves well-being and performance. She is primarily focused on launching Connection Zoo, social and emotional intelligence tools for kids, with her son and is also doing select work with organizations, including workshops, coaching and consulting.