Turn life’s biggest challenges into defining moments

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Two life coach-and-fours share their tips-off for turning unexpected crisis into golden opportunities

No one ever wants to hear the words you have cancer. But in 1994, Tracy Fitzpatricks doctor broke the bad news to her. At the time, Fitzpatrick was a Boston-area consultant in her early 40 s. Her youngest daughter was only 18 months old.

It was, believe me, a very hard and scary period, she recalls.

Fast forward to the present. Fitzpatrick is cancer-free and feeling more fulfilled than ever, she tells. Her road to recovery, as well as her background in labor policy and workplace rights, inspired her to become a professionally certified, full-time career and life coach. Shes channeling her energy into empowering fellow cancer survivors and others to turn obstacles into opportunities.

I saw how these proactive, self-reflective tools helped me recover from my own shock as a result of having cancer, and I longed to share these tools with others, Fitzpatrick tells.

Whether youre faced with a health crisis or an issue in your relationship or career, its possible to emerge feeling stronger, happier and with a clearer intent. Heres how to do it.

Step 1: face reality

Before pushing forward from any challenge, pause to accept whats happening and to process your impressions, tells Melisa Alaba, the CEO and founder of the Elevate Me Global Network and the author of Live Out Loud: 52 Routes to Reawaken Your Spirit and Live a Life of Purpose.

In other words, its OK to stop and have a good exclaim. If you dont give yourself time to mourn your loss, its going to be harder to move on, Alaba tells. You may be doing things, but emotionally, youll still be stuck.

Step 2: acknowledge your strengths

After the acceptance stage, its time to home in on your strengths when handling hardship.

Ill often ask[ clients ]: Whats been helping you through this so far? How have you handled adversity in the past, and would that work for you now? Fitzpatrick tells. They begin to see that even when theyre feeling terrified, theyre not just a victim[ of] the circumstance theyre an empowered actor.

Reflect on what youve learned and gain access to the experience. For instance, if youre going through a divorce, write down all of the gifts that remain from the wedding, such as your children and also what being separated allows you to do.

Alaba did this exercise after splitting from her husband. I realise I was resilient and that I could take care of myself, she tells. I also realise there were some big dreams that I had not been able to pursue in that relationship, like travelling and build a business. Now I have the freedom to do these things.

Step 3: set objectives

Think about who you are now, where your passions lie and how you envisage the next chapter of your life. What actually brings you alive? It can be little day-to-day things, or it can be new areas of learning, Fitzpatrick says.

Writing in a publication can help you figure this out. Watch your life with a magnifying glass for merely a couple of weeks, and it will become evident what really engages you, she tells.

Next, its time to integrate the things you love into your life. Some people choose to channel them into their work, while others pursue activities such as volunteering. Theres no one answer, and each person has to figure it out themselves, Fitzpatrick stresses , noting that most of her clients decide on a career move.

For one of Fitzpatricks clients, this exercise revealed that she enjoyed doing puzzles. That led the former homemaker to start a business advising high school students and their families on college selections. Shes putting together puzzles, but in a different way, Fitzpatrick explains. She puts together who the students are, what theyre looking for in their next step and what school is right for them.

Step 4: reframe doubts into good questions

Setting objectives is one thing; acting on them is another. The biggest barriers to getting through challenges and achieving goals are often internal, Fitzpatrick tells. For instance, receiving treatment for a serious illness or being laid off can stir up overwhelming impressions of fury, fear and uncertainty.

Fitzpatrick suggests reframing doubts into good questions. Are you presuming you arent qualified for that new stance you find advertised, or do you know for a fact? Instead of presuming you dont has every right to experience, first ask what experience is required. Dread can freeze us in place, Fitzpatrick tells. Be proactive about determining answers.

Step 5: assess the risks

Gather as much information as is practicable about the track you wish to take. If its a career change, put in informational interviews and speak with as many people as is practicable in the profession.

Someone once said to me: Its the difference between buying something online and going into a store and trying it on, Fitzpatrick tells. What would it be like to be a screenwriter? What would your days be like? What would be the route to success?

Think about what transferrable skills you have and if your financial positions can support the change then build a support group around them.

Plant the seeds and eventually some of them will grow, tells Fitzpatrick.

Step 6: pull a Beyonc and build lemonade

Make no mistake there will be ups and downs along the way.

Richard Bolles, who wrote the What Color Is Your Parachute books, points out that the process goes: no , no , no , no , no , no, yes, Fitzpatrick tells. It doesnt become easy as soon as you decide to be proactive. It takes a lot of persistence to continue through to that yes.

Alaba adds, When you decide to build the shifting, the first thing thats going to happen is, all hell is going to break lose. Its actually the universes route of asking, do you really want this change?

For Alaba, who faced a recent bout with cancer, the answer was a resounding yes. When you realize what your purpose is, you start living on purpose. Its a total gamechanger, she tells.

Fitzpatrick shares this sentiment. I look back on where I was 20 years ago, and my life is richly better now, she tells. Its not easy to recover from cancer. Its not easy to find a new career. But that doesnt mean you cant are totally in charge of that process. You can build life good again, and its within your power to do so.

This content is paid for by Principal

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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