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Who We Are in a Crisis Matters: Re-Writing the Story Many Times

Who We Are in a Crisis Matters: Re-Writing the Story Many Times

Woman posing on the stones in the canyon. Who We Are in a Crisis Matters: Re-Writing the Story Many Times

There’s No Better Time Than Now to Find Out Who That is

I don’t believe in self-limiting. I believe in writing and re-writing my story many times over. Defining ourselves by our past seems to be a current topic consistently weaved into the mosaic of our lives. But being characterized by a framework of our past successes or failures can create rigidity to growth. Who we think we are isn’t exactly who we are. Personalities are consistently developing and are reshaped through age, lifestyle, information, circumstance, even the areas we live in. I’m not the same person I was at 20, and if I’m doing it right, I won’t be the same person at 50. Accepting a predetermined description of ourselves is a bit elementary. It means we are not doing the work to unearth alternative ways of seeing things, including ourselves. 

So, what does that have to do with who we are in a crisis? Personalities and our stories are not fixed. They are mutable, like circumstances and crises. It takes adaptability to get us through hard times, not being anchored in one thought. When a crisis hits, everything is stripped bare. But many times, it is when we find ourselves shining the brightest. Clarity ensues, trivialities recede, and our strongest values and vulnerabilities help show us how strong we are. 

While a global pandemic and economic catastrophe unfolds around the world, we’ve seen it bring out unexpected things in people, maybe even ourselves. Looking at this as an opportunity to find out who we are may be more valuable now than ever.

woman playing with sand-Who We Are in a Crisis Matters: Re-Writing the Story Many Times by Liz Galloway

Vision, Priorities, and Goals – What’s the Difference?

We generally view crises as dangerous, destructive, or detracting from “normal” life. They come in many forms from colossal environmental disasters to war, riots, or a family disruption or death. No matter the size or effect, when we are immersed in crises, they seem insurmountable. What they all have in common is they shatter our vision, priorities, and goals, leaving us untethered. Small gestures can help us stay focused on meeting our goals and ourselves on the other side of a crisis.

Vision is the high-level view of what you want to accomplish and priorities are the clear steps from low to high you must take to reach your goal. Even when we are hanging by a thread one small step towards a goal can determine a different outcome. Psychology has shown that tracking measurable steps towards a result provides emotional benefit, which in turn can illuminate our path out of the darkness. Take that 15-30 minutes to exercise to reach a larger goal or plan that proposal for a new position. Small, attainable, measurable. 

Embrace the Unknown

A crisis can dismantle long-held norms, beliefs, and processes. The good news? That is the good news. Those crushing changes can reveal new ways of doing things. So, the next time you find yourself standing in front of a huge mountain that feels impossible to climb–whether it involves your job, partner or business – give yourself a chance to see things differently. If you’re reaching for the unknown, remember why you started on your journey in the first place and resist the urge to give in to your standby habits. Widen your view, let go of biases, re-learn what you thought you knew. The more you do it, the easier it gets, just like exercise. 

People who lead in a crisis are often unconventional. Looking outside of normal routes and processes, because after all, that’s what creative solutions are for. People who lead in crisis often step up because convention is holding others back. Who we become in a crisis is about admitting the gravity of the challenge and still being willing to go forward. Positive change can often come from the darkest waters and the unknown. Sometimes only after we fail are better solutions revealed. Those are the leaders we can learn from or become ourselves. 

What the Experts Say

Circumstance doesn’t determine our future. Circumstances are fluid. They are not locked in our DNA, and hardships at any stage of our life can be overcome. When I say who we become in a crisis matters, it’s because leaders and our best traits can be forged in crisis. So don’t be afraid to let difficult times allow the best in you or your company to shine through. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear… is fear itself.” 

Observable resilience is a trait studied in people who have chosen to overcome disastrous circumstances. Several elements have been found to contribute to resiliency: 

• Good reasoning and problem-solving skills

• Close bonds with supportive family members

• Confidence in themselves and seeing their skills as valuable

• A conviction that problems can be overcome by their actions

• Being realistic about future expectations

• Autonomy/Impulse control

• Sociability/Empathy

• Seizing opportunity

All things most of us can relate to and can watch unfold or be ignored in the current global crisis. Philanthropist and founder Sherly Sandberg says, “To fight for change tomorrow, we must build resilience today.” 

But Did You Die?

We’ve all heard it before. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What really matters about that statement is whether you believe it or not. We need to live with our choices, our failures, our challenges, and ultimately our wins. Whatever your goal, small steps are the best way to get there. We can flex our resiliency muscles through conscious commitment and action.

When I felt at my worst, resigning from a job I’d worked years for due to family trauma, leaving a marriage, moving countries, and walking away from some of the closest people in my life who exhibited some of the most dysfunctional behavior, I had to embrace the unknown and find my path through the darkness like so many others. 

The feeling and purpose we get from accomplishing something we once thought was unattainable is a rarely replicated feeling. A mix of emotions. Ingenuity. Hope. A new way of life. Dare I say, forged from a crisis.

Crises are not prerequisites for change, but they do have a way of designing an arch of growth that is measurable inside and out. Many of us have seen it. Many of us cannot deny it. Many of us have been forged by it and we are open to the future. Our lives are in constant pursuit of something. Don’t we want to see who we can be in the worst of times to bring out the best of us?

Check out Liz Galloway’s other articles.

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