Let me ask you a question…
Do you learn and grow more from the things that go well and as you planned/hoped?
Do you learn and grow more from the things that didn’t go well or as you planned?
If you’re like most humans, my guess is you said the latter. As much as we tend to dislike when things don’t go our way, the truth is that growth never happens within our comfort zone. But when we’re in the middle of that stretch or upset, it can be hard to appreciate the gift that is before us – especially when we’re simply trying to get through things.
It can be easy to start to go into comparison mode – assessing our own worth and value based on what we perceive others’ experiences to be. And, in today’s era of a filtered reality being put out on social media, that perception can get even more warped as we compare ourselves against something that isn’t even real to begin with.
We somehow convince ourselves that success (however you define it) is a neat, straight line from point A to point B. However, the reality is that it is anything but neat and tidy.
- Growth inherently comes with loss;
- Every success usually comes with NUMEROUS setbacks and failures; and
- Knowing love means knowing heartbreak at some point.
This graphic about success has gone around the internet for quite some time and is still applicable today:
Life is full of squiggles and detours. There can be beauty, growth and learning in the messiness of it all; and, at the same time, there can be incredible anxiety, grief and despair. In fact, the American Psychological Association reported in 2022 that 87% of adults feel there’s been a constant stream of crises without a break since 2020; it takes its toll on us. Our capacity to handle change is half of what it was in 2019. So we need to give ourselves and others a little more grace these days.
While our collective mental health and emotional wellbeing are struggling, there are those who are able to find resilience and bounce back. And then, there are those that actually experience Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) – where they come through challenging experiences and setbacks as stronger, better versions of themselves. PTG can happen when we experience a traumatic event that challenges our core beliefs or where we endure a psychological struggle and then find a sense of personal growth.
Here’s what I can say for myself… on top of the constant stream of crises happening in the world, I’ve been through a lot over the past two years; and I’d say the top 3 that have profoundly changed me are:
- My son experiencing a scary mental health crisis;
- Almost losing my mom; and
- Making difficult decisions to put some firm boundaries in place and separate from relationships that weren’t serving me and bringing out a version of myself that I didn’t like and didn’t want to be in the world.
I fully recognize that I’m fortunate to have access to resources to help me navigate these things; many people do not have that privilege. I also made sure I didn’t go it alone; I got clear about who matters in my life and who I could lean on to help me get back to me and find a path forward. I’d like to think I’ve experienced a little of both resiliency and PTG.
I’m sharing all of this because we sometimes forget that behind every “success story” is something more – something very messy and HUMAN. A lot of things have been going well lately – from winning awards for our Rehumanizing the Workplace book and my Show Up as a Leader podcast to growing our business, to strengthening relationships that matter to me and finding my groove as I navigate through this world. And there have been MANY times when I’ve fallen apart, wanted to give up, and let my fears and frustrations get the best of me. Each time, I try to remember to congratulate myself for being human, find the learning and then remind myself that I can do hard s*^%.
One of my favorite practices lately is what we affectionately call “F-Up Friday” on our team. We end the week sharing our highlights and then embracing and celebrating our “F-Ups” and the valuable learning they brought us.
- What if we started normalizing – and even celebrating – the hard stuff and the gift of growth it gives us? (even though many times that growth is wrapped in crap packaging).
- What if we started moving from saying we care to actually showing we care when others are facing tough stuff? (for more on this, listen to the INCREDIBLE podcast conversation I had with Jen Marr about closing the gap between caring about and caring for people)
Putting This Into Practice In Your Life
Here are some things I invite you to think about and/or use to help you embrace the squiggles and detours of this thing called life:
- What unexpected gift has a recent struggle or setback given you?
- What practices can you put into place (like F-Up Fridays) to start normalizing and embracing the messiness of setbacks and missteps?
- What can you do to be kinder and gentler to yourself during challenging times and experiences?
- What can you do to actively show you care for someone who is struggling?
- How can you ensure you don’t fall into the trap of toxic positivity (when we “silver-line” things, say it will be okay, and ignore or dismiss the hard stuff) yet still remind yourself of the strength you have to make it through hard things?
Being human is messy; and I’m grateful for it – including the missteps, squiggles and detours that still show up REGULARLY. After all, we’re all perfectly imperfect and flawed.
Stay brave. Stay human. Stay safe. And never dull your sparkle!