Tag Archives: Dealing with Challenges

Peaks and Valleys: 8 Ways to Make Them Work for You!

Life is a Journey- Color Sign
Life- is- A- Journey-Image

Are you at a peak or in a valley? If you are reading this article, chances are you might be dealing with a difficult season, have just come out of a one or are heading into a challenging period in either your personal or professional life. But in this age of social media, where we are bombarded with images of people living their “best lives” through their highlight reels, it is easy to believe that some people have all the luck, while you are struggling or feeling stuck. Truth is, nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. Life is a every changing journey, filled with peaks and valleys or highs and lows that each of us go through. Since no one gets to go through life without experiencing peaks and valleys, how can we make the most of these peaks and valleys to make them work for us?

The Peaks and Valleys of Life

My latest read Peaks and Valleys  by Spencer Johnson,  answers this question by explaining that- when people know how to make good times and bad times work for them, they worry less and do better. And ultimately, they become easier to live and work with. According to Johnson, peaks and valleys refer to those high and low moments we experience throughout our lives. The peaks typically represent our successes and the moments we celebrate, feel good and content. On the other hand, valleys are seen as times of struggle, anger, disappointments, unhappiness, and failures. But that is not the sum of it. There is still good in the valleys. Valleys also provide opportunities for development and growth and can serve as preparation for climbing the next peak of our lives.

As I read the book, I found the simple yet deep insights of the peaks and valley approach helpful to rethinking my own approach to dealing with personal high and low moments.  So here are my top 8 top takeaways from the book that I hope might be useful to you as you make your personal peaks and valleys work for you:

Photo Showing Peaks and Valleys
Peaks- and -Valleys-_Photo by Temo Berishvili on Pexels.com

How to Deal with Peaks and Valleys

  1. It is natural for everyone everywhere to have peaks and valleys at work and in life: Personal peaks and valleys are as natural as the physical peaks and valleys you see in the landscape all around you. Peaks and valleys are scattered all around us and are connected in similar ways. You can feel “up” in one area of your life (career) and down in another (relationships). We all have ups and downs, and no two people experience similar situation the same way- we are all different.
  1. Peaks and valleys are not just the good and bad times that happen to you. They are also how you feel inside and respond to outside events. How you feel depends on how you view the situations you are faced with. The important thing is to separate what happens to you from how you feel about yourself as a person. Losing your job does not make you a lousy employee, nor does getting a divorce make you a failure. Separate your emotions from the act/event itself. You are still good, worthy, and valuable even if a bad thing happened to you. You can still feel good about yourself even when bad things are happening to you.
  1. Peaks and valleys are connected. The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times. And the wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times. There is no sharp difference between where the highest part of the valley ends, or the lowest part of the peak begins. Similarly, our physical and personal peaks and valleys are connected. A lot of what you and I will experience in the future will be determined by the choices we make in the present. This includes choices about how we spend our time and money, whether we invest in ourselves and the right relationships. When we waste our resources, make poor choices, and lose sight of what matters most, we are creating your own future bad times.
  1. Peaks are moments when you appreciate what you have. Valleys are moments when you long for what is missing. How you experience a valley has a lot to do with how you spend your time in it. We are all sometimes guilty of turning our peaks into valleys by what we choose to focus on. When we do not celebrate our small wins and the progress we have made and just focus on what is missing or lacking, we can change our personal peaks into valleys. Negative thinking (See previous post) can create valleys in our own minds even when good things are happening to us, and our goals are being achieved. One way we do this is by comparing ourselves to others and using their situations to determine how well we are doing. If you want to have fewer valleys, avoid comparison. Plus, we do not get to stay in our peaks and valleys forever.  The secret is to truly appreciate and enjoy the time for what is while you are living it.
Love Live EKG -Image
Love- Life- EKG-Image
  1.  You cannot always control external events.  But you can control your personal peaks and valleys by what you believe and what you do.  For you to change a valley into a peak, you must change one of two things: what is happening or how you feel about what is happening. If you can change the situation- great. If you cannot change the situation, change how you feel about it to make it work to your advantage. This is especially important in times when you are faced with hardship and adversity. Always look for the silver lining in the dark clouds and choose hope. Choosing to have a positive mindset usually leads to a better result.
  1. Between peaks there are always valleys. How you manage your valleys determine how soon you reach your next peak. It is easy to feel unhappy and demotivated when you are going through a valley moment. Therefore, it is crucial that you find and use the good that is hidden in a bad moment. Manage your attitude and invest in improving yourself and your skills to help you reach your next peak moment. Afterall, if you do not learn in the valley, you can become bitter. If you truly learn something valuable, you can become better.
  1. A plateau can be a time for you to rest, reflect and renew. Just as peaks bring us high moments and valleys bring us low moments, plateaus provide an opportunity for you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Personal plateaus are just as natural as personal peaks and valleys and can help you pause or press the reset button on your life.  Because plateaus are a neutral zone, they can help you to assess what is happening in your lives and gain clarity about your next move and steps. The trick is not to stay at the plateau too long since nothing happens there.
  1. A great way to get to your next peak is to follow your sensible vision. Imagine yourself enjoying your better future in such specific believable detail that you soon enjoy doing what takes you there.  Here is where you create the image of your future peak (think about your big dream or SMART goal) in your mind. Imagine what your future peak will look, sound, feel and taste like. When you make your future peak clear, meaningful, and sensible to you, it will serve as the pull that gets you through your valley when you encounter challenges in making it a reality. By imagining yourself enjoying the future peak or in that better place, you will start enjoying doing whatever takes you there.

At the end of the day, it is not about trying to avoid the ups and downs of life but learning how to make the best of them. The valley prepares us for the mountain top experiences.  Challenges give us opportunities to grow. Valleys are our reminders to keep showing up. If you do not appreciate your valleys, you will not be able to fully celebrate your peaks. There is a lesson to be learned from all our personal peaks, valleys, and plateaus.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Revisiting Resilience: I’m an Overcomer and So Are You!

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Robert h.schuller

Think of a time when you were faced with what seemed like the biggest challenge of your life. Or a time where you felt the odds were stacked against you, or when you were faced with a problem that seemed like a mountain that you could not climb and did not have the ability to handle. Each of us have experienced tough times or situations that have made us feel uncertain and unsafe. So, whether it was poverty, loneliness, loss of employment or income, death of a loved one, a life-threatening diagnosis or some other life changing event, we have all had to overcome something, we have all had to be resilient.

Resilience Word Cloud
Resilience Word Cloud

What is Resilience?

According to The American Psychological Association, “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. ” So, when we talk about being resilient, we are talking about one’s ability to bounce back from failures in life, push past setbacks and detours to overcome adversity when even the best laid plans go awry. The COVID-19 pandemic (See previous article) presented us with perhaps the greatest test of our resilience in recent times. Resilience became the super skill to master as both individuals and organizations grappled with the drastic disruptions in life and the world as we knew it.

Both individuals and organizations struggled to deal with the impact of the global shutdown, quarantines, social distancing requirements, masks mandates and guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We saw millions of people lose their lives, families experience immeasurable grief, the burnout of essential workers, unprecedented levels of unemployment as businesses closed and the global economy took a plunge. Organizations have had to figure out how to deliver services to maintain operations in a rapidly changing environment, retain customers and keep their workforce connected and safe. While individuals had to wrestle with how to cope with increased level of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty due to the loss of normal routines, social isolation, illness, and death of loved ones as well as the need to adapt to new demands to do work and school from home. And even today, we are still in the middle of the pandemic and trying to find the best ways to navigate what the new or next normal will look like.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Thomas Edison
Do You Bend or Break?-sign
Do You Bend or Break?-sign

 

Why is Resilience Important?

At some time or another, all of us have had our mettle tested and have found ourselves in situations where we have been challenged to dig deep, be resourceful and creative to cope and respond. Even in this pandemic era, the businesses and organizations that have emerged as the real winners, are those that have adapted quickly to the changes in their industries and used technology to upgrade existing services and find new and creative new solutions to serve their customers effectively. Similarly, the individuals who have managed to thrive during these times are those that have embraced change, identified opportunities from the problems they faced and demonstrated the ability to adapt and learn quickly.

I have observed this same display of resilience with people in my circle and across the world who are making tough situations work and finding ways to push through difficulties and just keep going. Though we all have varying abilities to cope with the stress and uncertainty, we build our resiliency skill by how we respond to the situations we face, that is our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. So, how do you respond? Do you fight or do you give in to fear? Do you hold on to hope or do you despair?

Fish Leaping from Full Bowl to an Empty Bowl
Fish Leaping from Full Bowl to an Empty Bowl

I’m An Overcomer

I remember my “Coming to America” almost nine years ago. I migrated from Jamaica to U.S. with my then 2-year-old daughter and settled in Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. As you can appreciate, one of my main priorities was finding gainful employment equivalent to my skills and professional background. I would love to say that everything worked out as planned but they did not. One of the first challenges I had to navigate was the weather. I had migrated in the month of November in what I now understand was a mild winter. However, coming from a tropical island, getting used to public transportation and the cold weather was difficult and required a huge adjustment. I remember carrying my daughter in my arms as we walked in the cold or waited at a bus stop. Nonetheless, I was keen to maintain a schedule as if I were working for both of us. So, I got up early everyday (Monday – Friday) and braved the weather to drop her off at day care so that I could report to the Employment Center at 8:30 a.m.

When I got to the Employment Center, I took advantage of their job fairs, workshops, and computer facilities and staff to help me do my job search and apply for jobs. Over the days, weeks, and months, I applied at least 30 jobs a week in what felt like the black hole of job search engines with each application requiring a tweaked version of my resume to hopefully get my resume in the hands of a hiring manager. Though I was qualified for the jobs I applied for, I had moved to one of the most competitive job markets in the U.S. with a high concentration of government and technology jobs. I was sitting in workshops with people with PhDs, security clearance and experience working in the states that I did not have. The process was long, disheartening, and frustrating as I did not have a network to lean on and had to build new relationships as I learned to navigate life as a small fish in very big pond.  After almost six months and many failed interviews, I finally landed a part time Administrative Assistant position with local government which was a level I had never functioned at.

The difficulties I encountered did not stop there. For two years, I worked without full benefits while still having to take care of expenses for day care and our one-bedroom apartment. I struggled to find a fulltime position in my professional field and at a level close to what I had done before. When I did find such an opportunity, it was as if I was starting all over again with my first job after graduate school. I tell people that I probably cried more tears in my first five years living in America than I probably did in my entire life. It took another five years until I finally got back into management.

Over that period, I dealt with many personal and professional setbacks and struggled with self-doubt and questions about whether I had made the right decisions to leave my home and job in Jamaica. But failure was not an option. Like many other immigrants before me, I was determined to stick to my plan and do all I needed to do to succeed with my goals and dreams. In the process, I had to reinvent myself, pivot, and adapt to my new environment.  I took advantage of every learning opportunity I could access, enhanced my professional credentials, networked strategically, and used informational interviews and volunteering to build relationships and a new network. I continuously sought out new ways to leverage my skills, engage with others and stay relevant.  And even today, the journey continues.

How to Become Resilient?- Sign in the Sand
Sign in the sand -How to Become Resilient?

How to Become Resilient?

So back to that challenging situation I asked you to reflect on earlier. Were you focused on just surviving the situation, bouncing back, renewal or learning and growing? Resilient people practice all the above. In challenging times, what you do and where you put your focus can make all the difference in the results you achieve. Therefore, when you are faced with the next difficult situation, where will you put your focus? How will you choose to respond?   

  1. Survive and recover:  In this mode, the focus is simply to get through whatever you are dealing with after experiencing one of life’s storm. Here the motivation is for things to get back to normal.
  2. Bounce back:  Setback after setback, are you built to adapt? In this mode, the focus is to embrace the changes happening around you and to demonstrate flexibility to adjust to the shifting circumstances while staying on track.
  3. Renew /reset:  This is the ability to begin again and resume something that you had abandoned after a setback. Here the focus is on finding your groove again to keep the momentum going in the direction of your goal.
  4. Reinvent/create anew:  Since necessity is the mother of all inventions, in this mode, the focus is on seizing opportunities presented by the problems you are facing and trying to find new ways to respond. What is another way I can get this done? What can I do differently?
  5. Change and grow:  How are you learning from your experiences? Here the focus is on the steps you are intentionally taking to improve yourself and your abilities. So, what will you do to help yourself and others?   

Our responses to life’s many challenges will undoubtedly be different, but by choosing faith and hope, we can find the strength to push through. So regardless of what your find yourself dealing with at this stage of your life, I hope you choose to thrive and not merely survive.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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