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Falling Up

Have you ever experienced a traumatic life changing event or adversity at some point in your life? If yes, how has this changed you?

I wanted to explore this somewhat depressing and also potentially uplifting topic in the Collective Results blog today.

For myself, I have experienced a few personal traumatic events over the past five years that have profoundly change my life – in a good way. One of those experiences took place 5 years ago on the day my second son was born. It was not known during my pregnancy, but it was discovered during his birth that I had a condition called placenta accreta, a rare condition that occurs in about 0.2% of all pregnancies. That day, I almost died due to the amount of blood that I lost. After multiple blood transfusions and time to recover and heal physically all was “ok”.

Why am I sharing this with you now? Well, while it was not immediately obvious to me, that day profoundly changed my life and who I am. This event has made me better, stronger and clearer about what I want and need to live a happy and fulfilling life.

I didn’t fully understand why my world felt so different in the years following that event until I recently read the book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage. At Collective Results, we are creating a library of books that we take turns reading, and this book was one of them.

The Happiness Advantage has lots of great content but the chapter on the concept of “falling up” really stood out to me. In this chapter, the author talks about three mental maps that we can fall into following adversity:

  1. You remain where you currently are,

  2. You are far worse off following the event and

  3. You move towards a place where you are stronger and more capable – post-traumatic growth.

Apparently, there has been lots of research in the area of path #3 and we now know that adversity or trauma can actually lead to positive change across a wide range of experiences. With every setback comes opportunity for growth that we can teach ourselves to see and take advantage of.

After I read this book, I reflected on the past 5 years and was able to take note of a few things that gradually changed for me following the traumatic birth experience of my son.

1. Settling was no longer satisfying: In my professional life I started to look at everything through a different lens. I realized that I need to work for an organization and with people that are motivated to make positive change in the world. Happiness is so much more than a fancy job title, a good paycheque and benefits - it runs so much deeper than that. I slowly realized over time that the job that I had no longer checked all of my new boxes.

2. Make the best of everyday: I know this sounds so cliché but it is so simple to do and it goes such a long way. I have a crazy busy life with my partner and our 3 kids, but I now take the time to journal, focusing on the good that can be found in each day. I have also become much better at appreciating the small things – like the times that I laugh until I cry or the small moments when I cuddle up with my children and read a book.

3. Work isn’t the only thing in life: I have learned that I am happiest when I have balance in my life. I know that work never goes away and it is very important to disconnect from work and fill life with the people and experiences that are most important.

I know the past 20 months or so have been very difficult for most people as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic or during a previous life experience, have you ever been able to make the most of a difficult situation and use it as a stepping-stone to greatness? We would love to hear about how you have capitalized on a setback to become happier, more motivated and even more successful.

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