Over the years, I have received emails from viewers of my TEDx Talk, The Skill of Self-Confidence, asking for advice about relationships, bouncing back from failure, chasing career goals or finding a mentor. As much as I would love to respond to every one of you, it just isn’t possible to keep up with the influx of messages.
Every now and then, I see a grouping that comes in within days or hours of each other around a central theme. I take that as a sign from the universe to respond publicly through a blog post because folks need guidance. This week, I received three emails within 24 hours around performance management and termination. They were hard messages to read. I could feel the heaviness of emotion that clung to the words.
“I find myself unemployed and starting to question if I was ever worth the salary that I was paid and if I was actually any good at what I did for a living. I'm no longer sure if all the books I've read about culture, people centric leadership, emotional intelligence along with the management philosophy that I had been developing over the course of my career mean anything?”
I felt this person’s pain because I, too, have been there.
I wish I could say there was a magic button, and this could all go away immediately. It takes time. The feelings of despair, anger, shame or whatever you call it, will pass…if you are willing to name it and work to move through it.
Give yourself some time to grieve. It is normal to question all of what you have believed and accomplished when hit with adversity. Life is crappy sometimes. Unpleasant things happen to good people. I want to remind you that this setback does not define you unless you get stuck in your feelings of sadness, anger and shame. These are all reasonable emotional responses to setbacks, and you need to experience them, but then you need to move forward.
When you are done grieving, it’s time to reframe your perspective to think of the opportunity you have been provided. Remember…
Reach out to your community. Friends and family are not only for the good times. They are for all times. Be vulnerable. Share your feelings, and ask them for what you need to help you get through the challenging times. Often, the shame of failure will make you want to hide your setbacks. Let me remind you that there is no one out there who has been successful who has evaded the experience of rejection nor the sting of doubt. Lean on the people who love and believe in you.
When I am experiencing challenges or failure, you will hear me say time and time again, ‘What am I here to learn?’ As hard as it is to experience failure, critical reflection generates our greatest growth if we are willing to lean into it. It can be tempting to dismiss all negative feedback, categorize those who rejected you as the enemy or get stuck in a pattern of justifying yourself point by point. These are defensive reactions to hurt feelings that are not productive. Take care when you are in a heightened emotional state. When the emotion has subsided, and you feel you are ready (for me this time is measured in weeks and sometimes months), be sure to find a way to see things from another perspective. Seek a professional coach or mentor for a few sessions to clarify your take-aways from this experience.
Turn your attention to your strengths and what has helped you achieve so much in life. The days ahead will be filled with ups and downs, but another opportunity is out there waiting for you. This is where I turn my attention to building hope and optimism. Here are a few things that might help you to find your next opportunity.
There are great opportunities out there waiting for each of you.
Go actively pursue an environment where your strengths and your skill set fits. It is there where you will thrive. Take your moment to grieve, then reflect on the lesson learned before setting out on your next adventure.