“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” — Paulo Coelho
Most people panic when their life takes an unexpected turn. How about you? Have you experienced sudden changes in your life? If so, what lessons did you learn? Reflect on your answers as I outline how to respond when life takes an unexpected turn. There’s no doubt these experiences can be unsettling, especially if we are unprepared. It may seem our foundation is crumbling before us and the uncertainty of the future. But this is just the initial response and seldom lasts. Depending on our circumstances, unexpected life turns can propel us to a new future we never considered.
Allow me to explain using personal examples. I’ve written previously how I experienced three unexpected changes in my life. The first was losing my father to a long illness. The second turning point was being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness myself, which I recovered from. The third event occurred when I changed my career from a menswear fashion designer to being an author, speaker, and coach. I could not have expected these experiences to take place, let alone be here to write about it. One thing I know: the event itself is not as detrimental as we think, but it is our attitude to stay composed that matters most. Since those moments, I’ve experienced other difficulties and setbacks in my life. Therefore, my turning points awakened the resiliency of the human spirit and powers I never knew I had.
While it is a cliché, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger because our challenges turn our weaknesses into strengths. They activate qualities we never knew we had until called upon. For example, if a person loses a parent or loved one to illness, the shock can resonate throughout their life for a long time. I couldn’t drive past the hospital where my father died for two years because of the painful memories. But things got easier. Life goes on, and if we are compassionate with ourselves, we can overcome these challenges and become tender in those hard places. It is as though life softens us through our challenges. Do you agree? Have you overcome similar hardships? If so, perhaps the wounds are still fresh, but how are you coping?
How we respond when life takes an unexpected turn, determines the trajectory of our future. If we stay stuck in our pain and suffering, we remain imprisoned to our wounds. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t experience suffering. I’m saying we ought to experience all our emotions such as loss, grief, disappointment, anger, or regret. We must allow these emotions to move through us, instead of pushing them under the carpet. So, respond to your challenges by experiencing your emotions fully when life takes an unexpected turn. This alone will help you move through your experience and allow life to carry you to the next destination. I assure you, when you experience a setback, a disappointment, or a loss, it gets easier. Not that you don’t experience pain and disappointment, just that you develop the resiliency to get through it each time.
Everyone has a different pain threshold. What one person considers painful may be an inconvenience to another. I’ve discovered through writing and coaching hundreds of people over the years that we can develop our resiliency muscle by being exposed to challenges and setbacks. I’m not saying we purposely subject ourselves to difficulties because life will bring us those challenges regardless. I’m suggesting we respond agreeably and greet our difficulties with curiosity and openness. The curiosity I speak of is being guided to awaken our greatest self. I don’t know your particular story, but I’m certain if we were talking over coffee, you would have questions on how to overcome a recent challenge or setback. So, this is how I would respond: embrace what is taking place instead of trying to escape it.
Running away from pain is not the antidote to healing and transformation. In fact, it is like an avalanche where a rock gathers momentum as it rolls down the mountain; taking everything in its path. The same thing happens when we defer life’s important lessons. Although we escape the pain temporarily, eventually it will come back like a roaring tornado and cripple us. So, with this understanding, I invite you to consider the unexpected changes you’re experiencing. If you had to write five key lessons, what are they? How have you integrated those experiences into your life? For example, one lesson I gained through the loss of my father is being more compassionate with myself and others. In fact, it has become my superpower and something I wouldn’t trade anything for. So, while an unexpected turn can be a difficult period in our life, if we are sincere with ourselves, it may be the best thing to ever happen to us.