When adversity strikes and when it lingers on in our lives, it is easy to think that all of it is just a bad experience and that nothing good can possibly come of it. In fairness, there are situations that look just like that: hopelessly bad. Take for example an important relationship that won’t heal on its own, an otherwise bright child who doesn’t seem to follow the right path, a career that is going nowhere, an income that is simply not enough, or a personal problem that does not seem to get any better. All these are crises, mostly crises of growth whose resolution requires deep changes to be identified and implemented.
Nothing can focus attention more than a crisis staring at us in the face, except that… sometimes we are very good at denying, avoiding, numbing and otherwise doing our best to ignore the problem. We muddle through, hoping and praying for a magic fix.
Not letting one of these crises fester, linger, and possibly get worse requires courage and faith that a better outcome is possible, even if such positive outcome cannot be discerned right now. Not letting a painful crisis go unattended means having the courage and the resolve to take full advantage of the opportunity (yes, opportunity) that the crisis is presenting to us.
How to turn a crisis into a win
We can do turn a hopeless crisis into a growth opportunity (and thus a win) thanks to several tools that are available to us:
- The pain and hurt of the crisis can provide a unique motivation toward change, the type of motivation that is just not there when things are going relatively well. Welcoming the hurt as a means to an end is the first tool.
- Discerning the emotional and the rational components of the crisis is the second tool. All crises have a rational side (the facts, the figures, the objective reality of what is happening or not happening) and an emotional side (the mixed feelings, the contradictory emotions, the confusing desires, the fears and hopes we might have). Knowing what is rational and what is irrational is a key to good decision-making.
- Identifying what IS must come before deciding what SHOULD BE. A good handle of the situation is the third tool. It is only by knowing what is actually happening, and verifying the accuracy of our information, that we can hope to ascertain what we would like to change. This is a step that cannot be bypassed.
- A fourth tool is managing our emotions in situations where the crisis is at its peak: during an argument, when trying to communicate our point of view or understand another’s, when resisting the temptation to shoot from the hip or doing more of what doesn’t work, by controlling anger and despair. Sometime the best course of action is doing less, not more, while working on an effective and perhaps difficult solution.
- Switching off the autopilot and taking the controls in our hands is the fifth tool. So many of the daily decisions we make are automatic, out of immediate consciousness. This is not necessarily bad, however when applied to a crisis situation the autopilot can take us but to one pre-programmed destination, i.e. to the pain, the emotion, the helplessness that we’ve felt all along.
- Working up options for change is the sixth tool. Here we might want to take advantage of any help that may be available to us: family resources, internet information, the advice of trusted and knowledgeable people, our own experience, the power of prayer. All these can help us work up a set of options from which to choose the best possible course of action.
The moment of truth
When the best option finally materializes in front of us, we may not recognize it right away but it is definitely there. Being open to the possibilities, being flexible in considering all alternatives, being aware of our strengths and weaknesses are key factors that permit us to discern the truth. Additionally, we must have a clearer idea of what is RIGHT in the situation, and not just consider what is easiest, least painful, cheapest, or feels good.
This is when a crisis becomes a win, when it is utilized for growth to its fullest potential: when we finally arrive at the solution, the truth, the change that makes all the difference. There is no greater feeling than to feel the personal power that comes from having considered all options and having made the right decision.