Thursday, April 09, 2009

Turning Crisis Into Opportunity


Did you know that inside the chrysalis a caterpillar's body becomes completely liquid before emerging as the butterfly?

Just the other day a friend told me he had been laid-off from his job. Someone I was counseling and yet another friend told me recently their hours had been cut. Others I know have lost money in the stock market, real estate or other investments. It is a challenging time for a lot of us, and when the losses are significant it can be difficult to believe that a crisis could become an opportunity.

When my friend told me he had been laid-off, I asked him how he was doing with that, especially in light of the fact that he provides for both he and his wife who has been unable to find work. His response told me a lot about how he was choosing to perceive his crisis.

“Well,” he said, “I have been working long days, six days a week for months so I’m enjoying some time off. My legs aren’t aching from standing on concrete all day, plus I’m getting more time for my spiritual practice.”

“What do you think you will do?” I asked him.

“We are thinking about downsizing and moving to a city we have been interested in for some time. We are both looking forward to the change.”

I didn’t hear any panic in his voice. He was consciously choosing to treat his crisis as an opportunity to make some changes he and his wife had been considering.

I reminded him about how quickly he finds work when he wants it, and he agreed. He knew that when he needed to be making income again, he would. Therefore, he and his wife decided to use it as an opportunity give their life new direction.

Sometimes our fear of what might happen is greater than what does happen, so when the crisis occurs we assume the worst, panic, and attract the very results we fear. Fortunately, I learned to circumvent this process from my business mentor.

As you may recall from earlier articles, I chose some years ago to leave my secure job and start a consulting practice. I wasn’t making a really great employee anymore and I figured if I didn’t make the move to become self-employed my employer was going to find a good reason to let me go.

My adrenaline was pumping because I was both excited and scared. It was the fear that most needed to be addressed, so my mentor got me to pause and look squarely at the fear.

“What is the worst thing you can imagine happening?” he asked me.

“I wouldn’t be able to get any contracts and use up all my savings,” I replied thoughtfully.

He probed deeper. “Then what would you do?”

“Hmmm. I guess I would take whatever job I could get and ask a friend if I could live with them for a bit while I get back on my financial feet,” I decided.

“Could you live with that? You, don’t have to like it, but could you live with it?”

“Yeah, actually, I could if I had to.”

“Then you will be just fine,” he assured me.

That was all I needed. I knew what I would do in the worst outcome I could imagine and that gave me enough strength to move forward with what I knew in my heart I had to do.

While it is true that this was a self-created crisis since I had a secure job—if we are indeed the creators of our own reality—then aren’t all crisis situations at least in some part, our responsibility? And if we have created or allowed crisis to occur, then doesn’t it make sense to use it to create opportunity? And even if you don’t believe you have any responsibility in the crisis you are experiencing, doesn’t it still make sense to leverage the moment?

In case you are wondering, I had a part-time contract (enough to cover all my living expenses) within two months of leaving my job. Sometimes we create or experience a little crisis to create enough pressure to get things moving in a new, more satisfying direction.

When life presents crisis it is a great time to create opportunity. However, to emerge from our own chrysalis, perhaps we must be willing to become liquid enough to engage the flow of our own emergence.

For a reflection about the sacred power of emerging, visit Prayers for All Occasions at the Forums: Emergence