I can’t believe what happened. My world just changed. Circumstances are out of my control. What do I do?
If we scan our personal headlines from the past few weeks, we might find heart-wrenching, surprising circumstances. A loved one dies. A child has a life-long illness. A fire destroys our business. We lose our jobs.
Surprising, devastating circumstances happen daily around the world. They are intimate and personal. They are cultural, political or global. They create a flood of emotion because we are human beings designed with a chemically based stress-response system. As women in the world, our brains are also designed to cross-connect, which means a painful experience in one area of life does have a connection to other areas, whether or not that makes logical sense.
Once the stress response has passed, you’ll notice that your habits take over. You might dive in to find out answers. You might send thank you notes to loved ones. You might pray. You might call your colleague who lives across the world to get his or her perspective. You might sleep. You might rant.
You have chosen some of these habits based on your values, your strengths and how you want to lead your life through difficult circumstances. You have collected some of these habits without thinking because of your past experience, your environment or what others are doing.
To regain leadership in your life, take these three steps:
- Accept the emotions. If you have denied any of the emotions that you felt in your stress response, they will come out later. Pause to notice and name all the emotions you felt or are feeling because of the circumstances.
- Observe your habitual response. Do the actions you take make you feel better or worse? Are they supporting your values? Are you using your strengths? Are they motivated by inspiration or are you reacting from fear?
- Choose your source of motivation. Once you witness your habits in action, you can make sure that the source of your action comes from the most powerful place. Fear-based actions and habits tend to make you feel more fearful. Commitment-based actions come from sense of purpose, vision, inspiration or desired outcome make you feel better, are more effective and infuse those around you with a useful energy. Your commitment-based action might still be to confront an issue, take a stand or solve a problem. The difference is that you are not taking those actions reactively (which is past-focused). You are taking them responsibly(which is future-focused).
As women who are leaders in our work, communities and families, it is our responsibility to learn to lead through negative circumstances in a way that motivates and empowers. This is not easy, yet it is essential.