Surviving the Storms of Life

I am stunned, as I know you are, at the utter devastation and chaos that is being experienced in Mississippi and Louisiana as I write this. I urge you to find a way to help. The Red Cross, as an example, is desperate for donations.

As I was watching CNN last night I was amazed at how many different responses the survivors of this storm are exhibiting. Some are turning to the darkest side of their character while others are rising above the trauma with attitudes of hope and helping. The responses are as varied as the number of people affected.

As many of you know, I live in Florida. Living in Florida keeps us vigilant about our own appointment with “the big one.” Most of us will never encounter a natural disaster the magnitude of Katrina, but all of us will face personal and professional storms that can have a devastating impact. As we face storms in our lives, we are presented with choices. The choices do not often involve the type of storms we face, but rather, like with Katrina, how we respond to those storms. For this month I think it’s beneficial to examine how to handle the storms we face. Using the Safir Simpson Scale (measuring hurricanes using 1-5 categories), meteorologists can determine the wind speed and flooding the storm will create. Category One is the least powerful while Category Five is the most devastating. Remember, a hurricane is still a hurricane. Category One storms are not just passing thunderstorms. They are real and they have impact. Regardless of the magnitude of the storms you face in life, there are five steps I want to encourage you to take.

Take these five steps next time you find yourself in the storm:

1. Accept the fact that you will face storms in life.
You will face some Category One storms, at least one Category Five storm, and a few in-between. That is not some doomsday scenario; it is simply a fact of life. If you refuse to accept that storms will come, when the storms do come, you will be caught unprepared. Acceptance does not mean approval. Some people go through life refusing to accept reality. This can lead only to destruction. Acceptance means acknowledging it and agreeing to face it. Acceptance also means saying, “I am in a storm.” Do not use some psychobabble load of garbage to convince yourself you are not in a storm. Those who do stand to face significant damage.

2. Take responsibility for dealing with the storm and its consequences.
Ultimately, you and I are responsible for the choices we make. We live in a culture that constantly bombards us with the opportunity to blame someone or something else. Take responsibility for what is yours and let others take responsibility for what is theirs. There is no greater freedom than knowing what is yours and doing something with it. You are a hostage to the person or group that you blame. Don’t take responsibility for more–or less–than what is yours.

3. Take action that is appropriate and timely.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Don’t just do something; stand there.” Sometimes you must sit still and ride out the storm; other times you must do something quickly. Decide what to do by evaluating the thing that will be the highest-gain activity. The highest-gain activity is always the activity that stands to have the biggest impact in the shortest period of time. The bigger the storm, the longer the recovery. Be still and NEVER make a life-changing decision in a moment of high emotional intensity.

4. Acknowledge progress.
Sometimes the storms of life are so difficult that we long for the way things used to be. A sense of normal and comfortable seems so distant. Remember that the storm always passes. It may last a while and it may leave a mess, but the storm itself will pass. It may never be the way it used to be, but the storm will pass. One way or another, it will pass. Pay attention to the progress you are making on the road forward and celebrate the incremental gains.

5. Find a safe place and have courage.
In business and in our personal lives, it is important to find a place that is safe. If you are a leader in an organization, make certain you have a confidant or coach. Make sure there is somewhere to go that is safe and provides shelter so that you can think through what you need to do next. Personally, be certain that you are in the presence of and connected to those you trust and care about. In a hurricane, isolation is dangerous. In life it is equally as dangerous. Be courageous!

I stand ready to assist in any way I can. Let me know how I can help.


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