Back in 2000, I was a doctoral student researching how thriving professionals had recovered from a major career crisis. Their stories were not run-of-the-mill career speed bumps: they were about collapsed businesses, lost elections, medical errors leading to unnecessary death, ethical breaches, dishonorable military actions. Their failures were public, personal, and deeply humiliating. They suffered loss, not only of reputation and pride, but real collateral damage.
What fascinated me was that these calamities were not the end of their stories. They had not gone into hiding (at least for long). They had some how regrouped, honestly faced what had happened, and gained deeper insight into who they were and what was most important to them. They spoke openly, even eagerly, to me about the journey from barely surviving professionally to truly thriving with a renewed sense of purpose and integrity.
For two decades I've thought about sharing their stories and my research findings more broadly, and this year's global crisis has given me that opportunity. I am using this time of shared attention, urgency, and longing to offer my message to the world: crisis offers us an opportunity for growth that we can't afford to squander.
Over the coming weeks, in advance of the release of my book Never Waste a Crisis in early 2021, I'll be sharing some key insights from the book.
As we all begin to turn the corner (if not from Covid, at least from 2020), here are some truths I've found about crisis that I encourage you to consider:
1. We don't automatically learn or grow from hardship. If that were true, we'd all be saints. Suffering is universal; but gaining wisdom and compassion from crisis is not. In fact, we can learn unhelpful responses (being afraid, distrustful, immobilized) that only add to our suffering and actually stunt our growth. Or, we can develop new ways of coping and connecting. You have a choice - but you can't go it alone, and it takes more than a positive mental attitude.
2. We can't learn from crisis if we're not willing to grapple with loss. The most profound gift that 2020 has given me personally is the ability to merge my coaching on leadership with my writing on grief and loss. Cheerleading for a better future without tending to others' pain isn't that helpful. As someone who coaches leaders professionally, while walking a path of deep loss personally, I want to offer what wisdom I've found for integrating grief and hope.
3. We must let go of what was to make room for what could be. There's an old Leo Buscaglia quote that I love: "If we refuse to let go, we'll find our arms full but our hearts empty." Letting go of old habits and mindsets is hard, but crisis forces us to do it. Going backward is not an option, so what "new normal" do we want to build together? That requires imagination and mobilization.
My hope for you over the stay-at-home holidays is that you rest, reflect, and renew your mind and spirit. There are still challenges ahead of us in 2021, but also hope for true learning, growth, and innovation.
We are in this together.
LOTS more to come.
Peace to you - Anne
p.s. Never Waste a Crisis will be available on Amazon in February, but if you don't want to wait that long, you can pre-order directly through my website at www.anneharbison.com.
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