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4 Things to Do When Life Gets in Front of Your Ambitions

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life gets in the way

Life happens. Usually at the most inopportune time. Years ago, a long-time client of mine came to me with some tough problems. In the past year, she had lost her job and was considering a new path in the healthcare space that would be more fulfilling to her personally.

At the same time, her husband asked for a divorce leaving her and their two children without much financial support. Then she discovered that her mother was terminally ill, and while her mother had help with doctor appointments and treatments, my client still wanted to be with her mother as much as possible, even if just for emotional support. That’s a lot for one person to handle.

Her biggest question, however, was about timing. How could she continue to look for the type of work she loved, even pursuing additional certifications to make her a qualified candidate, while still answering to the demands that have temporarily forced her off course?

We’ve all been there. Maybe not this bad, but we’ve all been challenged at the most inconvenient times to us.

Here are four tips that will help get you through the valley between those peaks.

1. Look at a bridge as an opportunity

There’s no shame in knowing that you’re going through a difficult period and that you have to do what needs to be done in order to survive. Sometimes it means selling your house and moving back in with your family, putting your children in a different school, or taking on jobs that you thought you would never return to. But these options put money in your pocket. And that’s the point. A bridge lets you go from one opportunity to the next without too much hardship.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

2. Set hard priorities

For my client, insurance, childcare and income were much more important to her in the short-term than finding that perfect job right away. Because she knew exactly what she needed in the short-term, she was able to take an entry-level administrative job at a large community hospital to satisfy those needs while always keeping her eye on the future.

3. Make a plan

When developing a career strategy with my clients, I always suggest a three-year or five-year plan, and then dive into the smaller three-month and six-month goals. It gives the client a nice vision of what could be, as well as realistic goals for how to get there.

It doesn’t need to be ambitious either. If you’re just starting out, sit down and take stock of where you were a year ago, where you are today and how much farther you need to go in the next three years to shape your five-year plan. Are you behind or ahead of where you thought you would be by now?

Then ask yourself why. For my client, staying at her job for a year meant she would qualify for some certifications and training that would help move her into her desired career. Even though it took her longer, this was something she was more than willing to do.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

4. Be forgiving often

This is about forgiving yourself, especially when you don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to have that difficult conversation, don’t want to sign those papers or show up for what you know will be more bad news. Spend time outdoors and breath.

Spend time with your children or your pets (or both). Go for long walks in nature. Do anything that will help restore your balance. Find a trusted friend or professional that will listen to you, but most of all, don’t be hard on yourself. If you couldn’t handle it, you wouldn’t be going through it, and having that mindset actually puts you in a position of power.

For my client, eventually she met someone new, she spent quality time with her mother before her passing, and she is now a registered nurse. Being a leader is not what you do; it’s who you are. Sometimes who you are has to be very strong.

What did you do when life got tough? How did you recover from it? Leave your thoughts below!

Christina Holloway is a management and strategy consultant, speaker, and leadership coach. She brings 20+ years experience working with visionary clients who want to restart their careers and pursue new goals. As the founder of a small independent consulting company, she spent the last 15 years working with large multi-national businesses, and now leverages that experience to educate, inspire and empower female executives and emerging leaders to develop their skills in effective leadership. To learn more about Christina's work, click here.

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