Reflecting on a difficult time or low point (while not dwelling on it) can offer perspective to you and serve as a connection with others.
I believe in the power of positive thinking. And it’s wise to spend the majority of our energy in this space. But we can find value by reflecting on our previous struggles too.
In preparation for a recent panel presentation, the moderator asked me to describe the lowest point of my career. I definitely (and silently) questioned her logic as to how this was going to be helpful. She explained the purpose behind the inquiry and her thought process around the benefit of this insight. She knew that sharing my journey from struggle to current state would naturally demonstrate my growth mindset. If the audience understood the source of my motivation to help others on a similar journey, they would appreciate how I ended up becoming a coach.
I thought her question was a brilliant and effective way to help me connect with the audience.
My low point happened several years ago. On a seemingly random day (no warning), I received a phone call regarding the future structure of the organization, one that would exist without my involvement. It was challenging on multiple levels. The first part was dealing with my own ego, the ‘feelings’ part, and the disappointment. But what made it even more challenging was my role. I was charged with executing on decisions I didn’t agree with, and then had to justify those decisions to others. It was tough.
Here are the 3 things I learned from sharing my story:
Brené Brown, a noteworthy researcher on vulnerability, indicates that people don’t connect through their victories, they connect through their struggles. Sharing my story did make me vulnerable. And real. And hopefully relatable. Enough time has passed that I don’t mind talking about it, but it’s still not information that I would freely volunteer.
A lot of what I do from a coaching perspective is to help guide my clients through difficult changes and conversations. If I hadn’t had a few of them myself, I might struggle to connect with someone going through that process. It provides a deep level of empathy I wouldn’t normally have garnered. I have a unique ability to support the individual during a difficult time.
Reflecting on that time also helped me recognize the distance I’ve covered since those days and reminds me how my own lack of awareness factored in the disappointment. Not only did the lesson teach me prudent ways to avoid a similar situation in the future, it taught me the value of taking action. It would have been easy to be bitter. But I realized (so fortunately!) that I had options. I could use the challenge as an excuse, or I could use it as a motivator.
There was absolutely a silver lining in the dark cloud. Of course, I couldn’t see that in the moment. And I would have been very upset had you tried to remind me of that too soon. Without a doubt, I would choose an easier way to learn the lesson. But I would go through it again in a heartbeat to know what I know now and end up where I am now. It gave me a measure of confidence to know that I’ll be fine – better even – because of the struggles I face and overcome.
What have you learned from reflecting on your perseverance through low points?
Have you considered sharing the lessons with others to encourage connection?