Have you ever noticed what happens to plants and flowers in the spring? With each spring storm comes torrential downpours of rain beating on the heads of these plants and flowers. By the conclusion of the rain, they are usually hunched over to the ground from the weight of the water. At first, they appear to be weak and broken. However, by the end of the day, they are fully erected toward the sky, standing straight and strong. The transformation that we don’t often see during the rain storm is the soaking rain that drips from their leaves, soaking down into the soil, which provides nutrients to their stalks giving them the power to stand straight and strong. Even the muddy soil, serves as an incubator for the nourishment for growth.
The same can be said for many of us when we are going through rainstorms. It is sometimes difficult to see the benefits that come along with being in the midst of these storms. Authors Boyatzis, McKee, and Goleman (2002) tell us that during moments of challenge take time to stop and take stock of what you’re feeling and what is going on around you. The rainstorm causing you to take stock may come in the form of:
• Feeling trapped. Work that once felt fulfilling now seems meaningless and you are feeling restless.
• Feeling bored. You are not sure what it is, but something is missing from your life: satisfying work, intellectual stimulation, and excitement. You have found that you have lost sight of your dreams/goals and are going through the motions of life.
• Feeling like you are not the person that you want to be. You’ve adapted to the culture around you at work and in your personal life. This adaptation is in conflict with who you are and what you care about.
• Feeling like you have a calling. You may feel strongly drawn to a new mission in life.
• Feeling like life is too short. This feeling may have been prompted by a major or minor life occurrence such as a health scare, or a significant birthday.
Whatever the rainstorm may be that causes us to take stock of our lives, we must be willing to pay attention to the signs that are usually small and come in increments. Once we acknowledge this need for change in our lives, we can do one of two things. We can become paralyzed by the fear of changing course and do nothing. This usually occurs when we listen to the naysayers around us who tell us that changing the course doesn’t make sense, or that it can’t be done. When those naysayers tell you that it can not be done and that it is too late to change your trajectory in life, remember the story of the four-minute mile.
For thousands of years, people believed that running a mile under four minutes was impossible. We were told that our bone structure was wrong. The wind resistance made it impossible. Our lung capacity was not adequate. However, Roger Bannister refused to listen to the naysayers and believed in himself in 1954 running the mile below four minutes. In fact, three years after he ran the mile under four minutes, twelve other people accomplished the same task. Today, there are individuals who have run under a four-minute mile over 100 times. In fact, I was just speaking to an individual in my cycling class the other day that holds the record for a time below 4 minutes at my Alma Mata, the University of Minnesota.
The second course of action that we can take is believing in ourselves and engaging in the following behaviors offered by Boyatzis, McKee, and Goleman:
• Take a time-out. Take time to examine your priorities in life. This time out can be energizing for many. However, this quiet time can be scary for high achievers who may sense a loss of their identity. To that end, taking a time-out would allow them to begin again refreshed with new approaches and ideas to getting things done personally and professionally.
• Engage in professional development. Go back to school or participate in training opportunities to help clarify your values/purpose, aspirations, and strengths.
• Reflective time. Schedule time on a regular basis to self-reflect. Adopt a regular exercise routine, meditate, and take long walks or drives to escape the demands of life to get clarity.
• Use a coach. A coach can help you identify your core priorities and see new opportunities in each aspect of your life. Conduct a search for coaches in your area with the appropriate training and credentials to help meet your needs.
• Find meaning where you are. If changing your job or environment is not of interest to you, or possible at the time, find ways to make changes where you are, that are reflective of your priorities. Perhaps, seek out a mentor on the job who can help you achieve your goals in your current position. Find out if your company has a formal mentor program and the protocols for getting involved. You can also seek out individuals in your organization and ask if they would be willing to mentor you if there is no formal program.
So remember, as the spring rainstorms begin, they are meant to provide fuel to reawaken us to our passion and purpose. The storms provide us with everything we need to stand strong and go after our dreams and goals.