But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the dark ages of history were followed by a reanaisannce, I believe that each of us has the possiblity to establish a new and stronger future for ourselves. And by a new and stronger future I mean something that is greater than a return to the status quo as we have come to know it. So this blog is intended to convey to you the possibility of better things to come out of your current trials and tribulations.
The concept of post-traumatic growth is something that I was only exposed to in the last few years. I was taking a course that delved into the relationship between coaching and psychology. One of the readings was from Richard G. Tedeschi (Psychologist at University of North Carolina). Upon reading the article on post-traumatic growth I had an immediate epiphany. Tedeschi was talking to my lived experience! This enlightenment, however, raised as many questions as it provided answers.
The concept of post-traumatic growth first begins with the trauma. And by trauma I don't mean a minor injury or wound. Much like what many of you may be experiencing through the current time, the trauma I refer to is one of paradigm-shattering reality. The two personal examples I can provide includes (1) the sudden and unexpected death of my first wife in 2007 and, (2) the involuntary termination of a leadership career of 25+ years in 2012. In respect of the former, my life changed in minutes as I learned of the death of my wife while seated in the Denver airport on my way back to Edmonton. In respect of the second, my personal identity as a leader shocked me into a new reality upon being reintroduced to the marketplace.
In both circumstances, the foundations upon which I had established my life and my identity changed. In one instance I instantly became a single parent to a 6-year old daughter. Now having to nagivate life - seemingly - on my own. In the second instance, my personal identity as leader was challenged. I could no longer call myself CEO, or Vice-President, or similar such moniker. In both cases my sense of self and my world view were radically upended.
From this darkness, however, ultimately came not just recovery but far greater success and fulfilment than I would have envisaged or imagined possible prior to either of these traumas. Following on the tragedy of 2007 I can directly trace my journey to the finish line of Ironman Canada 2010. In those three years I had remarried, had two more daughters, lost 40 pounds and became an athlete. My priorities had been reordered. Possibilities had been realized and pursued. My values were rediscovered and reinforced. I had become a new man physicially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
A similar experience took place with the loss of my senior leadership role in 2012. Many sleepless nights preceded and followed that eventful day. But from that point I can say that I have established a thriving coaching and consulting practice that has allowed me to step even more fully into my power and potential. I have more fully owned my purpose and values which has allowed me to far exceed what I thought was the pinnacle of my leadership career in 2012. From loss came far greater success and enjoyment.
What accounts for that exponential change in fortune? What explains not just recovery or a return to status quo, but a leap beyond? That was what perplexed and intrigued me. I've come to a few conclusions about what allowed that post-traumatic growth for me and has also allowed it for others. This experience also sets the stage for what I am experiencing now through COVID. In assessing my past (and current?) experience I can now look at that through the lens of Stephen Joseph's THRIVE model. I wasn't aware of that model in 2007 and 2012 but I can attest to its reality then and now.
Taking Stock. In the context of PTG, this means assessing my own reality - mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. What's real? What's happening? What can I control? What can I do? Basically what is the true state of my affairs. Each of us is likely to do this differently. Unfortunately for me (likely) in each of my traumatic events I took the masochistic approach of evaluating and re-setting on my own. It doesn't have to be that way and for many of us this process could be helped by reaching out for support including the help of counselors, therapists, family and others.
Harvesting Hope. This can relate to seeing a positive future, seeing possibilities, and reengaging with one's own strengths and abilities. What can be done versus what might no longer be possible. With the death of my wife I refused to believe that my life also ended at age 42. What else could I do? What future yet lay before me? Similar process for losing my job. What could I yet be? How could I not let this setback define me but rather motivate me?
Re-Author My Story. Leading from and supported by a sense of hope, I took steps to challenge beliefs about myself and my world. While it took time, I did in fact change my narrative about who I was. By 2008 I came to believe that I wasn't also dead and that I had more to live and achieve. By 2014 I had largely successfully re-centred myself around my commitment to supporting great leadership. In the midst of COVID I used the gift of time to finally formalize a proprietary leadership and coaching model. I changed my narrative from despair to possibility.
Identifying Change. Taking the time to actually notice where small, positive changes are starting to take place. And more than just a passing notice - documenting and rewarding the positives that are starting to happen. Losing weight, getting healthier, seeing an uptick in monthly billings, more engagements on LinkedIn or on my blog, getting positive feedback on drafts of the leadership and coaching model.
Valuing Change. Understanding the significance of the changes being made and starting to derive some meaning from the adversity that has been experienced and will continue to be felt even once the initial trauma has passed. So for me this included providing a fulfilling life for my daughter (and myself), continuing to be impactful for leaders, aspiring leaders and their followers, and now thinking about how to take my impact on leadership and coaching to another level.
Expressing Change in Action. Everything - including good coaching - comes down to action. We must move from seeing things differently and thinking differently to acting and being different. It takes courage to change. It takes courage to move beyond the pain we are feeling to create something new and possibly even better than before. Just do it. Even if it feels awkward and imperfect. Keep moving forward.
To be clear, the readiness to THRIVE and the ability to move through the phases of the model was, and is, highly dependent on a range of circumstances. I can honestly say that I wasn't ready to THRIVE until a year after my wife's passing. It probably took me at least that long to come to terms with a change in career path - and identify - after leaving my last executive role. COVID-19 THRIVE? That's a story that is still being written but I believe I'm in that process now based on the the actions I have already taken. But everyone is going to go through this at their own pace.
So I offer this model and this personal disclosure to help you navigate your own path forward and to hopefully show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - that is not a train. Leadership through these times starts with self. Part of that self-leadership comes in recognition of the challenge and the recognition of your own strenghths, abilities and potential.
Take stock, harvest hope, take action.
President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions
Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.