How is it that some of life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in painful adversity?
For example, when I think about losing our final at the Olympics in Seoul, I can honestly say—best thing that ever happened to me!
The person I am today is a direct result of that devastating loss. I fully concede that I am a better person, a better coach, a better husband and dad, better everything because of what I learned in rethinking my approach to life. All because of a moment in time where things didn’t go as planned. Today, I’m grateful for that learning. My only regret is that it took so long to arrive at the opportunity that our defeat afforded me.
WHERE TO BEGIN:
When one door closes, another one opens. It’s an expression that we’re all familiar with. My guess, we’ve probably either heard it as advice or even offered it up on more than one occasion. However, understanding that well-intentioned cliché to be true doesn’t always ensure one’s own ability to readily embrace it in the moment we most need it.
With regard to my own Olympic epiphany, if someone had told me in the moments following our race having just lost our Olympic final, that finishing last would prove to be the best thing that could have ever happened—I would have… well, I would have lost it, on them! Having said that, it IS the best advice that I could’ve asked for.
Instead of choosing to trust that there was an inherent opportunity in our defeat, I chose to get stuck in self-pity. The result of that choice was some tumultuous years of grieving that experience. Over two decades I travelled through some ugly emotions as I navigated those well regarded five-stages of grief, until I finally arrived at acceptance. Reflecting on that now, I can’t help but think—what an incredible waste of time!
The good news for me now is that I’ve learned to look for opportunity in every subsequent moment of adversity. And, I’ve made it a strategy to do so as quickly as possible.
“I’ve realized that the sooner I can be trusting and accepting of any situation and look for my next steps in moving forward with a new and better plan, the less likely I’m am to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself.”
Case in point, this past year has been a tough one. In fact, I won’t lie; it’s been the hardest year of my life.
I left a fulfilling job in Ontario, and packed up my family and drove across the country back to our house in Victoria, British Columbia. A house that we had been renting for the four years we were away.
Perhaps not surprisingly, our house was neglected and needed extensive renovations. For two months we survived dirt, dust and construction noise while we lived out of one room and slept in a family bed on the basement floor—my wife and I with our daughter and dog. Awesome!
In that time, my wife resumed her career as a counselor and I began my next business venture—on my own.
I sold my shares in a company that I started almost twenty years ago. The process and outcome were nothing like I thought they would be. Perhaps, it never is.
Driving across the prairies in our dilapidated U-Haul truck I turned fifty—a moment for most people. I am no different. It gave me reason to pause.
And, then to top it off, my dad passed away in January. Ugh.
Three of those challenges belong in the top five most stressful things in life, and I crammed them all into one year.
However, honestly, within all of those moments of adversity—even with my dad—I was able to process the events and move forward clear on my next steps. Trusting that I would always find opportunity throughout this past year proved an effective tool for processing what very well might have otherwise been events that lead me to self-pity, and paralyzed me when my family needed me most.
Knowing that we all have our own timelines when processing what life can sometimes unexpectedly throw at us—the sooner we can trust there is always opportunity, the sooner we can choose a path to finding resilience and making those next positive steps.
As a coach, I’ve made a career of convincing athletes that in the face adversity, their best strategy is asking the sometimes-unthinkable question, “How can this be the best thing that ever happened to me?” I’ve used it countless times. In every instance that I can think of now, it’s worked. What were originally circumstances that at the time seemed unfair, unimaginable and even devastating became transformative moments in which individuals and teams were able to grab onto hope and make those all important next steps.
When we’re able to trust that in every moment of our lives there is hope and, therefore, opportunity—we shift our experience from that of being victim to that of being an active participant within the context of the events. That subtle change empowers people to grow and take action as a result of the challenges, as apposed to lying down and missing out on perhaps some of the greatest gifts life offers.
Photo credit: Fred Chartrand.
Jason Dorland is a High-Perfomance Coach who believes the most undervalued and underutilized components of reaching our goals are the mental and emotional areas of our lives. With your commitment, Jason can help you make a positive difference in how you approach your life’s dreams and goals. Guaranteed! To find out how—contact Jason today!