Before I begin this article, I am going to give credit where credit is due.
I would not have been inspired to write this if I had not gotten a free membership to Blinkist through a credit card promotion. I am officially in love with the concept of this app and will write a full article about it soon. (*if you have an AMEX, check out your offers)
The concept of a "Lifequake," is a term borrowed from Bruce Feiler. I listened to the blinks for his book, "Mastering Change at Any Age" and you bet I'll be reading the whole thing soon. The term has appeared in many other publications, but his was the first time I had heard it.
And now, my thoughts...
Throughout my life, there have been many significant events that have catapulted me into action. Most of these events were negative occurrences that led to something incredibly positive.
a) In 2007, I suffered an injury that caused me to be out of work for a number of years while I recovered from both knee and hip surgeries. During this time, I started a theater company that produced hundreds of plays and allowed me to work with literally thousands of people.
b) In 2012, I attempted to get into grad school for acting. I was unsuccessful in my attempt. While dealing with this fact, I took myself to Greece in the winter and was inspired to start an olive oil business. I lost a ton of money and learned so much.
c) This year, due to COVID-19, I lost my restaurant management job. I took the opportunity to get a bunch of certifications I had wanted for years and finally start my retreat business.
These events were all "lifequakes," or as defined by Mr. Feiler, "events we have no control over, and don't choose." The process of dealing with one of these transformative events is different for everyone. In reflecting on my own process during these times, I have realized that the way I deal with these things is first by going through the stages of grief.
Denial - I'm not really that hurt. Surely I'll be back at work within a couple of weeks.
Anger - If I were a guy, I would have gotten past the second callback. This is bullshit.
Bargaining - If I am really careful and reduce my salary requirements, I can go back to work.
Depression - I'll just sit here and eat ice cream and watch TV while I cry.
Acceptance - Welp, this is it. I am out of work. I am not going to grad school. I am injured.
These stages come in varying lengths and are vastly different from person to person and situation to situation. Once you get through them, the next step is the one that really defines you. Don't get mad at yourself if it takes you a long time to get through. Take all the time you need. Recognize where you are in the process and breathe through it.
So what's next? It's time to get creative.
For me, what was next in every single lifequake I could identify was figuring out what was really important to me and how I could turn that into a priority for myself. You'll notice that in each of the occasions I listed, what was important to me was incredibly different. The first time, theater was important to me. The second time, it was food and nature and learning. The third time, it was about self-care and helping others. The common thread was that in each of these major life events, I ended up starting a business.
Some of the businesses I started were a natural progression from what I was already cherishing in my life, but some of them appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I had never considered starting an olive oil business, but I did have an intense connection to nature and to Greece. Those things ground and center me, so as I stood on an uneven chasm, I turned to things that would allow me to balance.
Knowing what brings you joy and makes you confident is an integral part of this process. Sometimes you may think you know what those things are, but when you begin down the path you expected, it doesn't feel right. That's OK. No one said that you have to transform or pivot overnight. Be kind to yourself. It's about the journey.
If you have no idea what would fulfill you, I have a lot of exercises I would recommend. Here are a few of my favorites.
Make a list of your accomplishments over the past five years. What are the common threads?
Write down 50 things you would take a class in or experience if you only had the time and money. Don't limit yourself. Allow yourself to stream-of-consciousness dream. Again, are there any similarities standing out?
Ask 20 people you know to describe you in 5 words. See what comes up. Now think of jobs or experiences that would allow you to use the things you are clearly projecting onto the world.
*I will also mention here that there is no shame in asking for help. Having a coach or mentor or accountability group to guide you along your process is where the magic can really happen.
Once you have a general idea of what you want to try next, just do it. There is no such thing as failure. Each attempt merely provides you with more information. You might luck out. I have found that in times of crisis, the "fight or flight" mechanism is triggered and this jolt of adrenaline brings you more clarity than you would otherwise have. This has certainly been the case for me.
The most important part of all of this is to give yourself permission to experience the unexpected. Uncertainty has a really negative vibe. It doesn't have to be this way. Uncertainty is really just opportunity waiting to come out.
The "lifequake" may be the triggering factor, but you control everything else. Let that knowledge fuel you and you will be unstoppable.