There is a common thread between those who lose a business and professionals who find themselves out of work, after years invested in building a career. It hurts, and the emotional impact is just as great as any physical loss.
Work offers status and identity, but building a business or career is personal. It’s endowed with our dreams and aspirations for the future. It’s who we are (or believe ourselves to be), and how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. Yet faced with its demise, our self-image can change dramatically and the feelings of loss are immeasurable.
Few people talk about it, or understand how this type of loss challenges our sense of self. Practicalities take precedence and the emotional pain is either repressed, or temporarily allayed through prescribed or self-medication.
With any loss there are feelings of grief, but business or career loss is a different kind of bereavement. This loss brings judgement and shame. It knocks our confidence, making it hard to talk about how we feel, or receive the emotional support needed to move forward, rebuild and thrive.
In 1991, the recession that decimated the construction industry, left my husband unemployed after 19 years in architecture. He was great at what he did and just 2 years earlier, had turned down 5 senior roles in one week. Yet in the space of 6 months, his high-profile company went from renting 4 floors with 600 employees to just one with only 60 people.
My husband was out of work for two and a half years and during that time, I learnt much about the way people define themselves and others by what they do for a living. I was shocked to hear victims of that recession describe themselves as ‘nothing’. Vast numbers of intelligent, talented people felt powerless and worthless in the face of a situation they had never experienced before and they struggled to see a way forward.
Such a disempowering definition is hard for anyone to move on from and tragically, the media had regular reports of suicides amongst professional men who could see no alternative. Others lived in denial, putting on a suit and pretending to their wives they still had a job, as powerfully depicted in the film ‘The Full Monty’.
When the full reality of our situation kicked in, I knew we had a choice. We either ‘jumped off a bridge’, literally or figuratively, or we found a way forward. It led to a game plan that completely changed our approach to the situation we were in. Financially, life was still a challenge, but we learnt how to not just survive, but to THRIVE.
These are the steps we took to emotional recovery …..
Step 1 – Reclaim your power!
When you’re dealing with a highly stressful situation, it’s easy to become more reactive. When you react, you give away your power and increase the potential consequences, which adds to the stress.
So take control and direct your stress into some form of physical activity or exercise. Just do it! Your mental state will improve, you’ll feel calmer and happier and you’ll make better decisions. It’s a no-brainer!
Step 2 – Manage your mindset!
Mindset is all-important to any outcome. You have to learn to manage yours. Don’t waste your time and energy thinking or talking about why this has happened. It won’t change anything thing and it’s the quickest way to spiral down into depression. You are going in a different direction. The only question you need to ask yourself is:
‘What am I going to DO about it?’
Step 3 – Take action NOW!
Whilst you have to deal with the practicalities, you’re the key to your own success, so you must include your well-being in the plan. How you feel and respond makes all the difference, so focus on those things that are within your power to change right now. Then, take action! Plan your days and work the plan, whether you feel like it or not.
Step 4 – Make every day count!
Life is about learning to ride the waves, so enjoy the calm bits and learn how to manage the rest. Sometimes in life, the best we can do is tread water until the next wave hits, but always remember …
You have the power to create any number of highs in your life every day. Small things make a difference, so let every day count!
Step 5 – Create your own definition of yourself!
Forget what anyone else thinks. People have opinions, and opinions vary. Write a definition of yourself that’s based on your values, your life experiences and who you are, rather than what you do or have. Include all your previous successes, big and small, and remind yourself what it took you to achieve them. With this new perspective, decide on who you want and need to be, for the future you want to create.
Failure is life’s stepping-stone to success and it’s not the falling down that matters, but whether you stay down. Remind yourself that no-one is a victim, until he or she decides to be! The strength, resilience and learning gained from this experience is going to stand you in good stead for the opportunities that lie ahead. You need to be ready for them!
About the Author: Linda Everett is a Business and Executive Coach, a Trainer and the author of ‘Game Changer: How to take control and increase your confidence, personal power and business success.’
She is the founder of Inner Power www.inner-power.co.uk, a coaching consultancy that specializes in performance, working with business owners and career professionals who want more confidence, less stress and the personal power to deliver the outcomes they want.
Please be advised that all views expressed in these posts are those of the author and not of James Rosa Associates ltd.