[adapted from Life Changing Moments originally aired/posted January 17th, 2017]

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where things feel like they are more than you can handle?

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I'm not talking about a short moment of overwhelm. I'm talking about those long-term situations that tend to drag on for a week, a month, a year or more.

It's the kind of situation that feels like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet…so you don't know where things are headed, you're having trouble thinking clearly and you're truly uncertain that you can make it through the experience.

Interestingly, it's these situations that end up defining you as a person. How you come through it will either make you feel stronger and help you to grow, allowing you to look back with a sense of wonder and pride at what you have accomplished. Or…it will leave you feeling drained, angry, firmly in victim mode and, as a result, often down-right miserable.

You've probably met people who have adopted the miserable aspect. You know, the person who simply can't let go of a loss, break up or other major change in their life. The one who is just so unhappy it's no fun at all to be around them anymore – ever.

What's interesting, is that it's not the situation that dictates whether or not a person will make it through these challenges…it's how they perceive that situation and what they focus on while things are happening.

For example, In previous shows I've shared with you how my husband and I lost our house to a flood over 20 years ago. When it was happening, we decided to focus on any good that we could find in it.

Our kids were safe, we were safe, our dog was safe…my parents were letting us live with them until we figured things out. We had lots of friends and family that cared about us and wanted to help anyway they could – heck even complete strangers donated blankets, materials and, in some cases, even cash to help make this difficult time a little easier.

Even though we still had a mortgage on our house that was now destroyed, we made the decision to put an offer in on a house that we now refer to as higher ground. We figured out a way to carry two mortgages if necessary despite the fact that my husband's job was kind of in limbo at the time and I had given up my position at a women's' shelter rather than go back early from maternity leave.

We knew this could make our life very difficult, but rather than stress about how it was all going to work out, we continued to focus on what was going well. We dealt with things as they came up and accepted whatever help was offered to us by relief services - as difficult as it was to accept.

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Our house ended up being written off which meant we were paid fair market value for it and only had to carry one mortgage. The new house cost nearly double what the old one had, not because it was that much better, but because house prices were on the rise and this one was in a more coveted area (i.e. not in the flood plains). That meant our mortgage payments would be higher, but at least we wouldn't have two of them.

Then, an amazing thing happened. Rather than my husband's job dissolving as it was supposed to do, he was given a promotion and asked to stay. The extra money from the promotion meant we could handle our higher payments and took some of the pressure off of me finding a job in this new area.

Everything worked out…and while it was still a stressful and difficult time in many ways, we were able to look back at it with humour and appreciation for all we had learned.

I share this, because when we announced we were moving (not knowing any of the breaks that were about to come our way), our friends decided to throw a bonvoyage party. They were a tight knit community with many generations of family, so very few people moved away like we did.

At the party, there was one woman whose house had not flooded, but the waters had destroyed her landscaping which was very important to her, and the water levels had illustrated a need for the dyke they had around their place to be made higher.

She was livid. It would be expensive and she didn't think it was fair that her needs weren't being covered by others. Just to be clear, she was being offered all the help we were getting, the difference was her house hadn't been written off and not only did she feel the system was ripping her off - she had also decided my husband and I were part of the problem!

I hope she's since released this anger, since this flood was over 20 years ago, but I know she held on to it for longer than was healthy. Her sister told me she was bitter and it was hard to enjoy being around her so most of the family avoided her when possible. In other words, her negativity pushed her support system away from her and robbed her of her vibrancy.

Hopefully, you can see from this story, that it's not the situation that determines how tough any experience will be…it's how you deal with it.

Back to the topic at hand…

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To me, these situations or experiences are what I would call life changing moments.

They tend to shake us to the very core, because they make us wonder about our safety. Things we used to take for granted…like that the river could never rise that much and come into our living room…are no longer believable.

When they are happening, they demand your full attention. Although you might be able to work through your experience, you're probably not as efficient, smart or capable as you would normally be. Even though you might be able to fake your way through things you do all the time, you'll definitely find you're preoccupied during this time and perhaps making rookie mistakes or overreacting to people.

When these experiences are over, you come away changed - both in how you view yourself and in how you view the world.

The kinds of incidences I'm talking about can be; an accident, a life threatening diagnosis, a major loss (house to fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane; career to downsizing, license being revoked; firing), a death, a divorce (or break-up of a relationship you thought would last forever), or serious challenges with your child or other significant family member.

You get to decide what to define as a life changing moment for you.

If it's not on this list, but if it;

  • shakes you to the core

  • pre-occupies you completely

  • forces you to grow in some way

  • lasts longer than a day

it qualifies.

Tune in to the podcast to hear more about how you can take advantage of challenging moments to really change your life for the better, including 5 tips you can start practicing immediately.

If you are currently struggling with a challenging situation and would like some support to help you through it, set up a complimentary discovery call with me (Debbie). Together we'll brainstorm some ideas you might try immediately to help you deal with your challenge and then, only if we both agree it feels right to do so, we will talk about how I might be of further service to you. 

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