You cannot control the events in your life, but you can control how the events in your life affect you.
Two weeks ago the oldest of our "fur babies'' took a bad turn. Blood work showed that she was dangerously anemic and our vet suspected a problem with her spleen. The next day we made the two-hour drive to Missouri University’s Veterinary Hospital and, after hours of tests, more blood work, x-rays and a sonogram, the supervising vet cried with us as she gave us the diagnosis. Cancer. A tumor on her spleen was bleeding, and it had metastasized into her lungs.
Everyone who has made a dog part of their lives will know this was devastating. Our 80+ pound angel has been my constant source of companionship, comfort, entertainment and joy for seven years. Not having her with me physically will leave a huge hole in the fabric of my life.
Events such as these can easily lead to overwhelm, even anger and despair. I’ve coached clients who were dealing with similar situations with parents, spouses, even children. I was my father’s primary caregiver during his last months with bone cancer, so I’m well aware that there are more painful experiences than the one I am going through now. And I know how difficult it is to manage a business when the events of your life draw you into an emotional whirlpool.
While none of us can really prepare for a crisis such as the illness or loss of a loved one or a pet, the patterns we cultivate now can, and will, determine how such a crisis will affect our life and business. Here are four practices I’ve created since nursing my father 29 years ago that have helped hundreds of clients through a variety of emotional roller coasters, and are now supporting me as I stay productive and effective in my business while navigating what will likely be the last days with our precious Miss Moira.
Practice self awareness.
I was 14 when my father was diagnosed with cancer, and 23 when he left this Earth. I barely had a clue who I was, let alone what I needed to move through emotional trauma. Now I know that I need space, private time, meaningful mental engagement and physical outlets. To effectively manage my business and provide for clients, I know I have to demand all of those things for myself.
You also need to know yourself well enough to know when you need to ask for more time on a project, or let a client know that you might not be as responsive as normal. To be prepared for crisis, you need to practice willingness to adjust boundaries and expectations as needed.
Practice choosing people who get you.
While not all my clients are dog lovers, and being supportive and understanding of my love for animals is not a criteria for becoming my client, it’s instructive that every one of my clients has shown instant compassion when they learned of Moira’s diagnosis. While many of them have questioned if I really want to continue with their sessions, they readily accept that working with them is one of the joys of my life, and immersing myself in the work we do together is the best thing I can do to bring balance to my life. They trust that I have the ability to set aside my emotions and be fully present and as impactful as ever. They also trust that I have the integrity to tell them if I reach a point where I cannot do that for them.
My friends and clients don’t all value the relationship with a pet the way I do, but they value me and they honor what is most important to me. Surround yourself now with clients, employees, vendors, colleagues and friends who offer that kind of understanding and support and I promise your business will be better prepared to weather a crisis.
Practice experiencing emotion without getting stuck in it.
I used to practice stoicism. Professionalism, to me, was being able to move through emotion without anyone knowing there was anything amiss. Now I practice gentleness with myself. I don’t hide my emotions from the people in my personal or professional life, I allow them to see my humanness. But I also practice maintaining a balance and moving beyond the emotion quickly and gracefully.
Practice releasing your need to control.
The most important practice of all. I’ve come to realize that the events in my life are often outside of my control. But so long as I accept responsibility for my thoughts, my attitude and my actions my business can and will survive, even thrive, through any emotional crisis I encounter.
Related: Taming Your Inner Control Freak