Recovering From a Wipeout: A 4-Step Formula for Success

Do you ever wonder what goes on in the mind of the surfer after he gets wiped out by a huge wave? Riding high and then something comes along to take you out is an experience everyone can relate to. What do you do when you make a mistake or when life fires an unexpected curve ball right at your head? What happens when your carefully planned persona of competence and skill cracks open for all to see? When the going gets tough, where do you go?

Allow me to share a recent and public “wipeout” with you. I hosted the Unleash Your Brilliance Summit, a teleseminar event where I interviewed a number of well-known and successful women entrepreneurs about how they live in their brilliance. I hosted the calls live, but for scheduling ease had pre-recorded my interviews with the guests so I could play them back during the calls. During the last interview, my playback system suddenly stopped. Thirty minutes into a fantastic hour-long interview with Barbara De Angelis, it went dead. I quickly got on the line, offered my apologies for the technical difficulties, offered to give a recording of the interview away as my gift to all those who’d registered and ended the Summit 20 minutes early.

After the call I reflected on what happened and how I was feeling. The old Carolyn would have been wracked with inner turmoil and felt like a failure. The new Carolyn had a smile on her face. It took only a split second to shift from being in a place of “Oh no! This is a terrible thing to happen!” to “OK, What an opportunity to model in real time how one can demonstrate grace under fire!” I realized I had been acting upon a powerful and simple formula to help change an experience of potential embarrassment and failure into one of service and gratitude.

We all have those moments where we feel under fire or overwhelmed by our circumstance. We tend to get reactive, instead of creative. Let me share a simple 4-step formula you can use to shift your state of mind when confronting a challenge.

Step 1 – See Clearly

Look clearly at what’s happening. Simply look at the facts of the situation. Do not indulge in assigning any great meaning to it or add a lot of your own editorial comments. See things as clearly as you can.

Step 2 – Pause

Train yourself to pause for just a moment. Count to 10, or take a couple of deep breaths. Avoid the tendency to make decisions from a purely reactive mode. When you’re dealing with something unexpected, your emotions are bound to be high. Give yourself just a moment to let some of that emotional, reactive dust settle.

Step 3 – Choose Consciously

Now that you’ve stopped, even for a moment, consider your choices. Typically the fall into two categories of things you can do or say: a choice that makes you feel expanded and lighter or a choice that makes you feel contracted and heavy. There aren’t usually 17 options that present themselves that require an hour to analyze. Keep it simple and make a choice.

Step 4 – Act Powerfully

Once you’ve made a conscious choice, the key is to step into it immediately and take inspired action. Act upon your inner guidance. Drop the second-guessing or need for approval. Act from your heart and see your choice through the finish line.

Sometimes those “wipeout” moments are just what we need to help us step into our next level of leadership and self-mastery.

© 2009 Carolyn B. Ellis

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