Updated: Oct 9
Look back a bit to a difficult time in your life. It could've been an unexpected life detour or possibly a preventable detour but in looking back on it now, based on what you learned and how you've come through it, could you even say now that it was instead a grand adventure? Many times when we are in the middle or turmoil or what feels like a very difficult time in our life, it's hard to step back and take a bigger perspective of the situation and understand why it's happening or what you will gain but join me today as I talk about how sometimes these life detours really serve to strengthen you and prepare you for your next adventure.
Ok, so like I covered last week, the word "Adventure" brings to mind different images and definitions for different people but I truly believe the term can be applied much more broadly. I believe to adventure and explore supports living a life with a curious, non-judging perspective, and includes all sorts of new experiences that can generate wonderful stories and memories of a life well lived. I also believe it applies to some of the most challenging times in our lives, when life threw you a curveball or when you felt blindsided and had to really react or recover. First I'll dive into key questions and reflections to better understand what you gained from your experience and then I'll share some of my detours and adventures and finish with some recommendations to better help you keep living curiously and adventurously and try to stay focused on how these challenges are actually character and strength builders and how you'll actually benefit from this challenging experience in the end.
So let's get to you first. Time for me to ask the questions. Regardless of the time or story, one of the really important steps is for you to reflect back and learn from it. The questions and personal reflection hopefully not only gives you a bit of quiet time but investing a few minutes in yourself can only serve to help your mental, emotional and possibly spiritual health. And the really great news is that with each tough experience or challenge you overcome, you become mentally stronger, more resilient and more confident at what you can actually take on.
Think back a bit and identify an unexpected curveball or trying time in your life. It could be a problem you had during your teenage years or early adulthood. It could be disappointment from not getting a specific job, a relationship falling apart, a difficult health diagnosis, etc.
First question - were there signs that this was coming and could you have done anything to positively change the trajectory and avoid the trauma?
For example, sometimes we put blinders on in our current job when they're downsizing or when we see signs that we're not quite jiving with our partner. It's easier - but only at first - to ignore and think it'll just magically get better. If you had been more honest with yourself and addressed this earlier, would it have improved the situation? Like you changed jobs before it was changed for you.
It also often happens with our health. We may suspect something "isn't quite right" but we're too afraid to face it and then it only gets worse. Sometimes way worse. So as I've mentioned on previous episodes, not making a decision is a choice. And sometimes life-altering.
Question #2 - how prepared were you? Or did this detour find you before you were ready?
Next - Was it something that caused much pain or was it something that was just challenging physically, mentally or emotionally? Was it something you had to overcome or something that become a great adventure or both?
· What did you learn from going through this?
· How'd you quickly pivot to overcome
· Can you say that in some respects, it helped create an amazing memory?
Maybe not. But, what are all the positives that have either happened in your life or that have helped you personally grow as a result of that detour?
What if you consider that the experience was simply preparing you for your NEXT? For something in the future you may not ever see coming - even now. How did this experience help you better prepare for your next adventure or possible detour?
For me, there are a ton of possible examples and stories I could use here but I'll share two. Divorce for me, like many others, was extremely difficult. My divorce was a very difficult time and I couldn’t believe - probably like many others - that I was even in that situation. It took a long long time and it felt as though the time was never going to move so I could get past it.
I am the kind of person who thinks and thinks and thinks and evaluates options before making a really tough decision, but once I make up my mind, it's difficult to persuade me otherwise. Choosing to end my marriage was so difficult as it raised all my fears and what I thought was important, including the societal norms I'd be challenging. What if I end up alone as an old spinster? Or as Renee Zellweger stated as Bridget in the movie Bridget Jones' Diary, "I suddenly realized that unless something changed soon, I was going to live a life where my major relationship is with a bottle of wine, and I'd finally die fat and alone and be found three weeks later, half eaten by wild dogs." Yikes. Okay, so hopefully not that bad, but it still tapped all sorts of fears and insecurities that I had to face and decide whether to stay or go. Gut wrenching decision actually, but something every adult has had to face at some point.
I learned I was stronger than I previously thought. I learned that I had boundaries and needed to protect them and me. It helped me refine what was important to me during the short time we have on this earth. And to be perfectly honest, this is not something I reflect on with a big smile or consider a wonderful adventure but how I came through it and my decisions because I chose to move on have created a much more wonderful and adventurous life than I imagined possible. I grew up thinking I'd be married, have the 2 kids and a nice job until retirement. Yea…..didn't happen that way.
So instead, I kept trying new activities and meeting new people and identifying what I really liked and enjoyed doing. Little by little, this very different world of exploring and playing outdoors became much more soul-gratifying and important. I never knew I liked snow sports or 4 wheel off-roading or camping but honestly, I really wasn't ready for this 20 years ago. Although I wish I had discovered it much sooner, it's like the aging of a fine wine and that I had to learn over many years of forming that I am an outdoors person and that I care about experiences over stuff. That I cannot believe how amazing life in nature and on the trail can be. That it generates feelings of happiness I've never found in a shopping center.
My second personal example is a bit more light-hearted but definitely an adventure I continue to learn a LOT from. My furry kids. I never had pets growing up and never saw myself as a dog or cat person but now I'm both! It started during my marriage with my first dog, Maggie. She was an adorable Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy and such a spunkster. I learned a ton and found that I really enjoyed having a cute, furry kid waiting to shower love and affection at the end of each workday. So - if you've listened to previous episodes of personal labels - I added the label of dog-lover. Years later, I reluctantly was a part of adopting a cat - after all, I was a dog person and at the time, not a cat person. And literally as I write this, my tuxedo cat Sophie - talk about a new definition of spunkster - is all over me and also showing me lots of affection. So now I know I'm a dog person AND a cat person and life is just that much sweeter because of it. Because of the sweet way my kitty laps up a bit of whipped cream off the table. Or because of the evening ball throwing with my adorable current dog, a retriever mix named Dharma - yes she also came along at the perfect time in my life and was so appropriately named by her foster Mom Debi.
Going forward I want you to keep these questions in mind when you're in a tough situation or an unexpected life detour. Maybe pausing to breathe a bit and answer these reflection questions earlier in the experience helps you more quickly move through it. Maybe you start finding the silver lining sooner and come out better and stronger on the other side. Consider these questions and then consider why it's happening. At this moment in your life. What is it making you re-evaluate or potentially confront? Is it a chance to pause and evaluate if you're on the course you want your life to be on?
Regardless of your answers, if you try to keep your head up, focus on how best to overcome and focus on living curiously and learning from the experience, you'll already be light years ahead of how you handled such challenges in your twenties or thirties. This life experience and adventure has tremendous value to leverage and your perspective and mindset is critical to making the most of it all.
I hope you have a chance to lean in a bit further with me and the DestinationU Community. and possibly read more in my book, Destination Unknown.
Our post in this week's Facebook Challenge is on identifying one of your detours that you can now claim as an adventure, so check it out and post your experience. I'll also post pictures of my adventures with Sophie and Dharma on Instagram and would love to see your furry kid photos and hear about your stories as well. I have some exciting news in the next few weeks, so I also hope you'll stay tuned as we dive deeper into leading in your own life, how to become more resilient and how to take the key steps to chart your course when you hit one of these life detours. What you need to pack metaphorically to come out successful and happy on the other side.
I hope today you remember the importance of living curiously and adventurously. To try to stay focused on how these challenges are actually character and strength builders and how you'll actually benefit from this challenging experience in the end, because with each tough experience or challenge you overcome, you become mentally stronger, more resilient and more confident in what you can actually take on.
Thanks again for reading and remember that it's never too late to plan your next adventure. Keep sharing your adventures with our DestinationU community and keep focused on you and your priorities and the key steps you will take today to make today and tomorrow your best next.