Storms blow in often, especially here in the south. Thunderstorms, flash floods, and a hurricane or two make themselves known time and time again here in Georgia. Almost every time, it’s the same routine: the wind and rain blow through, shaking things up, and at the end, everything is a little more damaged than when it all began.
No matter how hard we wish, prepare, or watch the meteorologist on the weather channel, we can’t keep the storms from coming. We can certainly say the same thing for the storms of our lives; the hiccups, run-ins, and hurts we face throughout life are unavoidable.
Admittedly, some heartache is preventable, but there are a lot of things in life that must be endured. That may sound like the worst news you’ve heard all day, but consider this next bit your rainbow shimmering against that ashy sky: every cloud has a silver lining.
What is a Storm?
The very definition of a storm is the disturbed state of an environment.
When I think about something like a storm, I think about just how much it shakes things up, even when it only lingers for a little while. That’s because the storm is certain; however, it’s also temporary. A storm’s strength is never lasting, nor is its severity.
In life, undesirable things will happen. Hurt will happen. Failure will happen. That’s life; it happens.
When we acknowledge that life will get shaken up from time to time, we can be sure we’re ready for what comes next. Saying it isn’t going to rain tomorrow won’t stop the rain from coming! Denial does nothing but prevent you from preparing.
When you accept the future will be imperfect, you prepare yourself to do what it takes to brace for the impact of life’s storms.
Preparing for the Storms of Life
Around here, people will stand on the front porch, hands on their hips, feeling the thickness of the air as they wait for that familiar smell of rain a mile down the road. If you aren’t from the south, you might call this “crazy.” I prefer to call it “sensing the storm.”
Survival is part of our human nature. Regardless of circumstance, our will typically coincides with making it to the other side of whatever mountain life puts in the middle of our road. (It does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it?)
One thing we all share deep down at our core is intuition. Your gut doesn’t lie. Learning to listen to our intuition is the ultimate act of integrity.
Trusting that innate intuition is what allowed our ancestors to continue existing for 6 million years. Do you think they never had a bad day or that they were never forced to make difficult decisions? Of course they did! But they also had to trust themselves and trust that their choices would continue to lead them (and those counting on them) forward.
In any of life’s hard moments, we have to trust ourselves. When split seconds make a difference, we must move with certainty. Getting to know our intuition is imperative to confident, precise action. When storms are brewing, perfection isn’t the goal: It’s safety; it’s survival.
Can We Prepare for Life’s Storms?
Yes and no.
We can’t ever know what exactly to expect from chaos.
We can’t predict the exact impact.
We can’t guarantee any outcome.
We can make educated guesses about what may be coming our way.
We can implement failsafes to keep us safe.
We can think about the things that make us happy, stimulating positivity amid the circumstances.
We can comfort ourselves and others.
The truth of the matter remains: We never truly know what will happen until the storm has passed.
How to Sail Safely Through The Storm
Sailboat captains use things called “storm tactics.” Storm tactics are proven choices; these are strategies they know will work to keep the boat afloat when the waves are crashing all around them.
We can create our own storm tactics for life to keep us anchored. For some, it’s family or religion. For others, it’s a hobby or comforting activity. What matters most is surrounding ourselves with the things that will bring us a sense of peace amongst your disaster.
Take a moment to think of your own storm tactics – ones that will soothe your fear and keep you safe.
Best-Case Scenario vs. Worst-Case Scenario
Preparing for the best-case scenario is the easy part. Everyone loves to dream of coming out on the other side unscathed, but we know that isn’t a reasonable assumption.
What’s necessary is preparing for the worst-case scenario. In leadership, while sitting with the worst-case scenario is often necessary, it can also be one of the most uncomfortable things to do.
In leadership, we are often preparing ourselves to jump into action whenever necessary. While having that bias for action is a wonderful leadership skill, knowing when to stay still and wait in an attempt to avoid extra hurt is just as valuable.
Leadership is about preparation for both the good and the bad.
Cleaning Up the Mess Left Behind
The rain stops. The clouds clear. The dust starts to settle…now what?
First off, thank yourself for holding it together. Making hard decisions in life’s most pivotal moments is always difficult. It’s okay to acknowledge when life is hard. You don’t have to brush off the storms of your life; instead, remember them as instances where you were able to practice great courage and navigate successfully through such a difficult time.
Step 1: Assess the Damage. What needs immediate attention? When our world gets flipped upside down, what parts need to be immediately snapped back together?
A lot of the time, the first thing that needs to be attended to is ourselves. Whether we’ve lost a job or a loved one, we are going through a hard time financially, or whatever other storm we might be facing, we must be well before we can be strong.
As leaders, it’s in our nature to jump into action. We want to be the shining light for someone else. We want to help, nurture, and provide; however, we can’t do those things unless we’re in a position to do so. No one gets anything out of being served from an empty glass.
Step 2: Address the Essentials. When we’re in fight-or-flight mode, some things get ignored. These things could still be necessary, but navigating a storm often leaves everything but survival neglected.
Look at what needs some TLC: relationships, goals, wellness…all of these and then some, can get really shaken up when life gets hard, but these are also the things that make life great. These are the facets of life that need regular nourishment. Define what is important, and start putting in the work to recover.
Step 3: Sort Through the Debris. After a hard time in your life, it may feel like everything is flipped upside down and strewn to and fro.
What can be saved? What needs to be let go?
Choose what you value in life, and sort it out from there. People don’t like to often admit that after the storm, the environment shifts.
Look at what you had before the storm vs. what you have after. Are there things left that don’t hold the same value since that hard time in your life? Do you find yourself paying closer attention to new things or giving your energy to different things? It isn’t uncommon for priorities to change or shift after life’s storms.
Now is an excellent time to evaluate what you have, what you want to have, and then decide how to create a clear path to achieve those goals.
The Moral of the Storm
As cliché as it may sound, I feel that we must remember that everything happens for a reason.
After life’s hardest times and life’s greatest moments, ask yourself, “why?” “Why did I go through this?”
In discovering the answer to that question, you will find your comfort. That is where you will finally be able to see the sunshine winking at you from just over the horizon.