Straightening That Skid: 3 Lessons In Career Crisis Recovery Using Resilience

Have you checked in on your resilience lately? Perhaps my recent article Preemptive Power: How To Cultivate A Resilience Mindset has you meditating on resilient ways to bounce back from career crises. Or maybe you’ve invented some creative ways to be proactive, thereby keeping your resilience on guard, ready to preempt those crises.

Possibly the most valuable lesson from that article relates to my metaphor of “steering out of a skid”, with the skid representing the crisis at hand, and the steering representing your degree of control, which is based solely on experience. As promised, today’s article will point to a few ways you can acquire that experience, turning career challenges into cakewalks, and spinouts into straight-ahead cruises. Start your engine, and shift into resilience mode.

Skid Lesson #1: Separate Yourself from the Challenge

Even the tiny annoyances of daily existence can quickly grow legs and morph into seemingly BIG deals. When we don’t create distance between ourselves and the challenge, we start to fixate on the challenge until it becomes a problem or crisis. This is when our brain enters into a negative energy loop. I call this mental tailgating.

Think of a time when you were overwhelmed by an all-consuming problem. What was your emotional proximity to the problem? If you were too close, your brain didn’t allow you to look to the horizon and see the road ahead. A good solution in the future is to talk to yourself in the third person. This signals your brain to look at the situation from a different camera angle. It can then pull out from a closeup to a wide landscape shot.

I used this third-person technique to steer out of a skid just last week. I was becoming increasingly concerned that I would leave out a detail during my presentation to a client. Suddenly, preventing it became the most important thing on my to-do list, when it shouldn’t have been. I started physically feeling the anxiety, as the fear of over-promising and under-delivering took hold. The world was closing in on me, when just a few hours earlier I was on top of the world. I decided right then to say to myself out loud, “You are not a brain surgeon. If you don’t nail it 100%, the workshop will still be a shining success. Besides, this little value-added detail wasn’t even part of the proposal for the event.” I supplemented this by controlling my breathing, which allowed me to settle down and consider my alternatives. As I write this today, the video I’d offered to make for my client in a moment of post-skid creativity is being edited! Mission accomplished.

Skid Lesson #2: Begin A “Big Picture” Practice

By considering the question, “How’s this going to look in a year?”, you can initiate the good habit of seeing the big picture of any career circumstance. Such a habit, when practiced daily, gives you the space to reengage your prefrontal cortex instead of being stuck in amygdala agitation, also known as panic mode. Try it the next time you’re feeling reluctant to start a difficult conversation or troubled because you’re falling behind on a last-minute assignment. Before you panic, pause and literally ask yourself what the broader implications are for your present state. Then get proactive by sorting out realistic ways to avoid this state of mind in the future. Your new skid-proof perspective can cross over to help in your personal life as well!

Skid Lesson #3: Look Backward To Look Forward

Here’s a great example of armchair quarterbacking that steered a client of mine out of a dangerous skid and went on to become a valuable lesson to help with future skids. Abigail gave me a 9-1-1 call seeking advice after she’d been asked last-minute to fill in for a colleague and present at a huge meeting. As we talked through the ways she would deliver the basic needs to fulfill her obligation, I could sense her becoming more relieved. She, after all, was an expert on the content she would deliver. Furthermore, the audience had never been privy to her colleague’s intentions, agenda or talking points in the first place. Abigail had the freedom to make this delivery what she wanted it to be. To top off our discussion, we collaborated on some questions to keep in her arsenal that would help her simplify these situations when they occur in the future. By looking back on the experience, Abigail will be equipped to cruise forth in her career, straightening out her skid long before it fully takes hold.

Keep an eye open for my next article exploring even more skid lessons that all professionals can relate to.