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Monday, August 13, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons, Go Nuclear


My son and I were grocery shopping and I threw a couple lemons in the shopping cart. My son took one look at the lemons and said, “Mom, you know the saying 'When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, if Life handed me lemons, I would turn them into little lemon bombs and throw them back at Life saying, 'Take THAT, Life!'” 

My son paused for a moment, then said, “Or, if they're actual lemons, then lemonade might be a good idea. Freshly squeezed lemonade sure is tasty.”

This exchange was triggered by one of two things: I've been in a foul mood lately due to professional setbacks, or my son has spent too much time playing Plants v.Zombies. Maybe both.

There's something to be said, however, for my son's response. When you have a setback in your life, how should you react? Should you go nuclear with your lemons? For better or for worse, here's how I've been attempting to process my recent challenges:
  1. Understand that you are grieving. Even though it may not feel like a loss that “deserves” time to grieve, it is a loss and should be handled as such. I've been going through the stages of Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross' five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  2. Identify what positive thing, however minor, can result from this. I've been reaching out to others to find new opportunities to fill in the space that I thought was filled. I think it's okay to initially express a little outrage, a little “I'll show you” instinct, as long as the end result is positive.
  3. Think back to other times when things didn't go as planned and you survived. On more than one occasion, things have not gone as planned. As someone who thrives on checklists, this is not usually something I deal with well! But in the past, good has come from things that I thought were disastrous. When I had to turn down a job that I had been working for years to get, I ended up starting my consulting firm. When I was stuck in a horrific job situation, I met someone who would transform my life.
  4. Lean on your social network. It's easy to retreat and lick your wounds in private, but setbacks are often the best time to discover the people who are truly your friends. I have been blessed by those who are incredibly loyal, genuinely supportive, and have differentiated themselves from the fair-weather friends.
  5. Give yourself time alone. Even though your social network is there for you, it's equally important to give yourself time to reflect, stew, cry, and otherwise process. Time in the car alone has been this processing time for me, and I've found that I value the quiet as much as I value the time to talk it out with my friends.
  6. Find time to be grateful. In The Happiness Advantage, author and researcher Shawn Achor cites many examples of the reality of “fake it 'til you make it.” By just moving your mouth into the shape of a smile, you light up parts of your brain that trigger dopamine, the “feel good” hormone. Pick something, no matter how small, to be grateful for every day.
So I won't be making lemon bombs any time soon. But maybe some margaritas are in order....


Special shout out to my Peeps who I have turned to in recent weeks for advice, counsel and comfort: Ann Hale, CFRE; Sean Hammerle, CFRE; Catherine Connolly, CFRE; Peter Drury; Nathan Hand; Leah Eustace, CFRE; John Dawe, CFRE; Susan Earl Hosbach, CFRE; Martha Schumacher, ACFRE; Jill Pranger, ACFRE; Christina Adams; Michael Delzotti, CFRE, CSPG; Richard Martin, CFRE; Andrew Watt, FInstF; Colette Murray, JD, CFRE; Barbara Levy, ACFRE. (I'm sure I've forgotten someone-sorry!) And a special thank you to my family, the GoalBusters team, and especially my "work spouse" Jim Anderson. Love you all.--Alice

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