If you haven't experienced it yet, you will. A promotion, a new job, a scholarship, a relationship, a position or future opportunity that you knew was yours. You dreamt about it, you prepared for it, you believed in it, and then it didn’t come to fruition. It's a very specific feeling that we’ve all shared but when it happens, you feel strangely alone. Others can relate and have been through it before, they can see your pain or suffering but only you, in that moment, experience it. And it sucks.
How we respond to career "adversity" has a the potential to have a big impact on your overall career. This is a fork in the road of life, a junction point. It's the intersection of where you thought you were going to go and where you really end up. And you need to approach this time with intention.
I’ve experienced this junction point with a difficult moment I had to face when someone whom I was very close to passed away. It was sudden, it felt personal and it was the first time I had to deal with this level of adversity. At the time I was unmarried, no kids, just got out of the military and I was a heavy drinker. I was trying to process the reality of everything that was going on. Lots of questions, no answers, and though I was not the only person going through this loss, in that moment I felt alone. What do I do? The only thing I really can do: control the controllable. I knew this was a fork in the road of life, and the decisions I would make could have a long term impact. I couldn't control my grief, I couldn't control the situation, but what I could control was if I was going to take a drink or not. This was a dark time and I knew if I chose to drink it could lead me down a path I didn't want go. So, I chose sobriety at the junction point. There was no guarantee sobriety would get me to the other side of this unscathed, but in these moments you need to chose the most promising path you're given to ensure you're giving yourself the opportunities you deserve and hopefully when he dust settles, you bounce back. The problem is The Bounce Back is very easy to talk about in theory, and so incredibly hard to do in real life.
The Bounce Back
You must stop feeling sorry for yourself. What you’ve gone through has been hard, but much of the experience is now outside of your control. You must focus on moving forward and controlling the controllable. The end goal of the The Bounce Back is to still end up ahead of where you were started at the beginning of all of this. If you can do that, you can find that feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment you’ve been looking for, no matter how small or large it might seem, and that's something you can build upon! Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help identify what YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER to maximize The Bounce Back:
1. What can I do to make the most out of today? - You can be a good teammate, spouse, parent, teacher, coach, Uber driver, waiter, student, or human. You control that. You can pick up that win, and do it again tomorrow!
2. Am I doing what makes me happy? - Were you more excited about the opportunity, or leaving where you currently are? If it was more about leaving, there are plenty of other options out there. If it was more about the opportunity, seek out resources that might give you similar experiences as that opportunity.
WARNING: Don't make brash decisions while you're at the junction point. Consult a mentor or friend first!
3. Am I leaving anything on the table? - Essentially should I raise my level of expectation for myself?
4. What have I learned from all of this that I can apply to my life going forward? - Don't let your experience go to waste. You're stronger now, more seasoned and better prepared for the next opportunity.
From those questions, you'll find something that is unearthed within your realm of influence that you can control. Focus on that, and take it one step at time.
I ask two things of you this week:
Bookmark this article, take a note, do whatever you need to do to remind yourself to look back through this list of questions because at some point you will be confronted with this situation and navigating the junction point is difficult, and very easy to get lost! Remember all you can do, is control the controllable!
If you have a friend or colleague that is going through the junction point they may not want to hear a damn thing you have to say, but as a friend who cares about what branch of that fork in the road they go down, you have an obligation to talk with them and help them to get to The Bounce Back. Reach out!
The Bounce Back is applicable to any situation where the outcome is not how you envisioned and you're left in the wake with a strong emotional reaction. It can be your performance review, your relationships or even the result of a big test. The severity of the situation that caused the emotion is relative to everyone but regardless, the situation is not as important as your reaction to it. Focus on controlling the controllable and begin The Bounce Back.
Note: All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not a reflection of the viewpoint of my employer.