When Sh*t Happens, SHIFT happens

Sh*t comes in many forms – loss of a loved one, ill health, personal failure, being let down by people you trust, public embarrassment, missed deadlines, false accusations, lost money / deals, failed relationships. The list could go on but I would get too depressed because I have experienced all of the above. Yet, I am still here.

And that got me thinking – how did I get through each one?

I didn’t exactly come out the other side smelling of roses, I resembled a shabbier version of the person I was before the set back but I got through it.  Basically, after a while and with some reflection I began to see each setback as an opportunity, an opportunity to change, do something different. An opportunity to SHIFT.  I am sure someone famous once said something along the lines of: Failure presents Opportunity…. and they were right.

So what is this S.H.I.F.T that happens? Well:

Self awareness develops – when something goes wrong, the more well-adjusted among us look to ourselves for the reason why: we think critically about what we did, why it happened, what we could have done differently, what we could have dome more of etc. All very valid questions that develop our awareness of how we impact events and people around us by our actions. Some people will still look at the environment and people around them to see who could be blamed for what happened and those people won’t shift any time soon.

Hero complex reduces – the Hero complex can be understood in a couple of different ways: it is an inherent desire to make the world right and help people to the point that is not humanly possible and can often result in negative behaviour or it is a trait among people in power to achieve the heroic stature, the drive to be or do something that creates a distinctive identity that distinguishes them from others. Now, both of those descriptions represent the extremes of a Hero complex but most of us have our own agendas and look for instant personal gratification, sometimes above the good of everything else. When sh*t happens, we need to take that step back and consider the bigger picture – the other people around us, the broader perspectives, the alternatives, other ideas etc. This is actually the opposite of the first shift, we need to turn our focus outward, away from our own needs and agenda.

Inclusiveness abounds – due to the need to look for alternatives and the realisation that you don’t hold all the answers, suddenly the world becomes a bigger place and you start to ask for help from others. You look at how other people do things, what makes them successful; if you are working with a team, you think about what the team needs to move forward, how they need things to be communicated, how they like to be motivated etc. You become more open to other ideas and appreciate viewpoints, you realise you need to change and more importantly, get out of the way.

Fortitude flourishes – the ability to dig deep and come back to a problem over and again until a solution is found takes strength and shows fortitude. The old adage of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, has never been truer for me. With each setback I learnt something about myself and whilst it hurt and enraged and ‘paralysed’ me for a while, coming out the other side and seeing another day made me feel strong. Running a small business and constantly moving the goal posts, I feel I am tested on a daily basis and sometimes I get distracted by the tests and feel myself give into the negativity and self-doubting thoughts…. until I realise I have been through worse, I can dig as deep as is required and I will come through it. The issue of the day, whilst it seems all encompassing now, is nothing! And will be replaced by another issue tomorrow! My mind becomes stronger.

Trust is formed – failure breeds humility and that humility can often build the best relationships and strengthen ones already in place. Knowing your weaknesses, realising it’s not just about your agenda, learning to work through others and get out the way and having the inner strength to remain grounded means relationships can be built from a place of integrity, respect and care. The egos are out the way so the focus can be on establishing the important things such as boundaries, standards, purpose. I built relationships based on what I needed and always from a place of love. I thought the fact I genuinely cared about the person and the outcome, would be enough to build trust but it’s not always the case. My shift over the years has been to remain authentic to my genuine care for people but to establish the necessary boundaries, standards and purpose to have a balanced and productive relationship.

All that being said, the older I get the more I realise I don’t really want to shift any more, I am quite comfortable, thank you very much, with who I am. But the way I have always done things doesn’t always fit the new reality so the shifting continues. I see the same in my clients – they are not resistant to change in the business, they have signed up to the mantra that as a leader they need to support the change, however they are resistant to change themselves to fit with the new reality.

I have built a relatively successful career in helping people shift and fit into their new realities but it wasn’t until recently that I started to think more critically about how I was doing that: what tools and techniques was I using, was the shift happening because of what I did or what the client was doing, was it more luck than judgement? I think it has been a mixture of all of the above but it made me realise I had to bring more transformational experiences to what I do with clients to take the element of luck away and to guarantee shift.

But how?

Well, transformational programmes create that experience that truly stretches and questions the existing ways of making sense of ourselves and how we work. I.e. they provide the sh*t we need to shift. When we are truly challenged and experience discomfort or disequilibrium, it is the catalyst for a new way of interpreting experiences. True learning occurs at this point and we are usually more open to it as well because we have a strong desire to move away from what is causing discomfort and if the old ways of working are not providing that movement, we’ll try and accept something new.

Replicating that same discomfort in a traditional classroom is hard – people can tell the facilitator what she/he wants to hear, they can make empty promises to themselves and others with no intention of changing, they can have an ‘urgent’ phone call at the same time as a critical skills practice, they can go through the motions without truly committing. Basically they can get away from the discomfort. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t ‘break’ people by making them feel so uncomfortable that they become shivering, sniveling wrecks in the corner. It’s more about providing enough of the right pressure that means they have to admit they are struggling and need to re-think their approach for future success.

There is still a very necessary place for classroom based training and I have a whole suite of offerings in that space but for leaders who need to shift to fit with the new reality, I have one answer: horses.

You can connect with Sarah on her Website New Voice Asia or LinkedIn.



When Sh*t Happens, SHIFT happens | Asia Professional Speakers Singapore


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