Don’t Just Get Through a Crisis – Own It.

3 steps that will help you to turn any crisis into an opportunity

七転び八起き Fall seven and get up eight times
Japanese Proverb

Powerful change often starts with disturbing events.

Maybe you think about quitting your job or ending a relationship? Maybe you failed at something you wanted to achieve?

When we are confronted with life-changing disruptions, it’s not always the crisis itself, but our reaction to it causes issues.

A crisis can destroy your relationship, your career and — in the worst case — your life. Or it can take you to the next level.

Life is full of changes. Some are good, some bad. Sometimes we get hit hard; sometimes life isn’t fair. What all changes have in common is that it’s our choice on how to deal with them. Life can be a journey or a dead-end street.

The Japanese word for crisis is 危機 (Kiki); it can also be translated as a “defining moment.” The character 危 stands for danger, and the character 機 stands for opportunity.

A crisis is always a chance. I know this sounds lame when you are currently in the middle of one, but once you have accepted your situation and done your homework of soul searching and self-reflection, you might be surprised what life still has in store for you.

When I lost my job some years ago, I was paralyzed. I blamed myself for everything that happened. The self-blame turned into self-hatred and as a result, I slipped into a depression.

I only saw the 危 and not the 機, which further fed my depression and anxiety.

In hindsight, losing that job was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It opened the door to a more authentic version of myself. However, I had to go through some more steps to find new hope and the strength to move on.

So, what are the steps that will help you to navigate through a crisis and to use it to your advantage?

Step 1: Acceptance

If you don’t accept and let go, you will not be able to move on. If you keep on looking back, you cannot focus on what lies in front of you. Being stuck in the aftermath of a traumatic event for too long can make you feel frustrated, hopeless, or depressed.

Acceptance does not mean that you have to rush through a crisis. It is essential that you use this time to reflect on what has happened and why.

However, if you don’t analyze the situation objectively and blame everybody else for your misery, the chances are high that you don’t use the crisis to grow, but we feel stuck, angry or depressed instead.

Whatever happened to you, it is your new reality now. It might suck, but you have to live with it. It’s your new baseline, and you must move from there.

The Japanese often use the term 仕方がない (Shikata ga nai) or the – less formal – しょうがない (Shoga nai) when they have to accept something. 仕方がない can be translated as “There is no other way” or “It can’t be helped” and is especially used when things happen that are beyond our control such as natural disasters. It emphasizes that it’s important to move on quickly instead of complaining about things that we can’t influence.

For example, you have been the manager of a company, but you have been fired due to restructuring? Then you have to accept that you are no longer a manager. You are a person that has no job. Maybe you will be a manager again in a year, but for now, you are not. しょうがない.

The sooner you accept your new reality, the sooner you can figure out what you want to be in the future. If you still want to be a manager, you can start looking for a company that needs you.

Step 2: Reflection

The Japanese word for self-reflection is 反省 (Hansei), but it means more than just that. Interestingly, Wikipedia states that it is similar to the German Selbsterkenntnis ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung., which can be translated as “Insight into oneself is the first step to improvement.”

Hansei also includes to figure out what went wrong and how to make it better in the future.

The emphasis on Hansei in the Japanese culture is closely tied to the concept of lifelong learning: every experience can help you to evolve if you are willing to learn from your mistakes, analyze what went wrong and identify what you can do better in the future.

If you consider your life as a learning process, it gets easier to handle a crisis mentally.

Any failure is a massive challenge for our confidence and our ego. You might feel guilty, scared, disappointed, etc. The harder you try to run away from these emotions, the longer it takes to move on.

Analyzing what happened and developing ideas on what you can do better, will give you hope and help you to plan your next steps.

Which of the things that have led to the crises were influenced by you?

What was out of your control?

What could you have done better?

What could you do differently in the future?

Step 3: Question & search for meaning

A crisis is a perfect opportunity to question what is going on in your life. Do you really want to get back to the status quo? Or is there something else that you always wanted to do, but could not have done because you were trapped in your old life?

Are your “friends” still your friends after you slipped, fell or got hurt? Who can you ask for help? Who will listen to your worries, complaints, and fears?

Corporate Consulting
A crisis is the perfect opportunity to reflect and to redefine your life goals

And most importantly: what does REALLY matter to you? This is the time to look at the big picture. What is your vision? What is your purpose?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl

Rike Aprea

My name is Friederike Aprea. Most people call me Rike. I'm German-born and have lived and worked in Japan and Korea before I moved to the US. I coach individuals and companies using the principles of Kaizen. Whether you want to live a more purpose-driven life, improve your health, or change the business model of your company: Kaizen can get you there. Step by step. Day by day.

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