I woke up at 3:30 am this morning.
It happens sometimes, and I’ve learned to roll with it. Ah…the joy of retirement.
After laying in bed in a futile quest for a bit more sleep, I conceded defeat.
I decided to start my day.
Waking up at 3:30 am is far from a crisis, but it serves as a decent metaphor. The mindset I applied to my early wake-up is one that you may find useful if you’re facing a real crisis.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…I learned something very early this morning. The value of a crisis. It all started with a Tweet... Click To Tweet
The Value Of A Crisis
Since I was awake, I decided to put the time to good use. As a result, I learned an interesting lesson, and that lesson led to the writing of today’s post.
Rather than stumble around in our living room and risk waking my sleeping wife, I headed out to my writing studio, turned on my heater to chase the morning chill from the air, and woke my computer from its slumber. It didn’t seem right for her to be sleeping while I was wide awake.
I decided to check in with Twitter before starting to write and was rewarded with a serendipitous journey down a rabbit hole that ultimately resulted in this post.
It all started when I read the following tweet:
Christine’s tweet pointed to a great post in Forbes titled Making The Most of Midlife Crises, by Tim Maurer. I was drawn in by the quality of the piece, and responded to Christine’s tweet with one of my own, citing another great quote from the article:
By 5:00 a.m. my Twitter work was complete and I started writing the words you’re currently reading. Words that captured my thoughts, inspired by the article referenced above.
The Definition of A Crisis
In Tim Maurer’s article, he focuses on the value of dealing with a mid-life crisis. It’s an appropriate focus for his article, but I’d like to encourage you to expand the lessons to other types of crises folks face. The lessons are valuable, and I encourage you to consider how you can apply them to whatever crisis you may be facing, or will face in the future.
While we often struggle to find value in a true crisis, I think it’s worth the effort.
My wife and I struggled with a multi-year crisis several decades ago, and we learned some lessons from the experience. One of the best things we did was write James 1:2-4 on an index card and tape it to our bathroom mirror. It’s interesting to note how the lessons raised in Tim Maurer’s article are so well aligned with that verse. BTW, that verse cites “trials of many kinds”, which is my basis for suggesting the lessons can be applied regardless of the type of crisis you may be facing.
The Value of a Crisis – Examples
As I read through the article, I captured the following examples of how we can achieve value in spite of troubling times. I’ve included quotes from the article under each of the headings below, followed by the thoughts I had as I read them.
1. They Can Lead To Finding A Deeper Source of Purpose
“In the second half of life,” he continues, “we discover that it is no longer sufficient to find meaning in being successful or healthy. We need a deeper source of purpose.”
I’ve known many folks who question the purpose of their life when experiencing a crisis. I remember when my Mom died, and how it caused me to reflect on the brevity of life and the limited time we have to make an impact in this world. Capture those thoughts as you endure your crisis. In time, your life will likely return to some state of normalcy, and it’s important to retain the lessons you learned in the dark times.
2. They Can Lead to Personal Growth
We grow “much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.”
Abraham Lincoln is a great example of how we should face our failures (which, I would argue, could be viewed as a crisis). As I looked through this list, I counted 11 major failures that he endured prior to being elected as President. Remember that most crises you endure will be temporary, and try to focus on the things you can learn from your situation.
3. They Can Lead to Wisdom and Peace
While some never submit to life’s lessons, only hardening and embittering through old age, some of us experience more pain, sooner, and through it are gifted a hard-won wisdom and its uncommon accompanying peace.
I remember talking to a guy whose company had been bought and sold many times, while my company remained stable. I asked him about it, and he mentioned that, in time, you gain peace through the process. You realize that life moves on and you adjust to your new reality. I’d say he also gained some wisdom in the process.
I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I’ve found I have more Peace as I age. Perhaps it’s the recognition that situations continually change, and if you’re in a dark period you can have some Peace in knowing that brighter days are likely ahead. If things are great, I’m enough of a realist to know that there are likely more crises I’ll deal with before I leave this world.
That’s life, and it’s most enjoyed if you embrace the reality that it will continually change.
4. They Allow You To See What’s Truly Important
But I’ve thankfully seen more people accept and acknowledge life’s challenges, allowing those moments and seasons to soften their responses to disappointment and refine their approaches to life, work, and money.
I love the concept of allowing your challenges to soften your response to disappointment, and using them to refine your approach. Take advantage of those dark times to reflect on the things that really matter in your life, and refine your approach to reflect your true priorities. Having a family member pass, for example, may make you realize you’ve neglected dedicating time to those you love. Don’t just recognize the fact, but commit to making a change and spending more time with those you love.
4. They Can Make You Realize You’ve Been Chasing The Wrong Goals
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
I’ve known people who have been very successful in their careers but have destroyed the things that really bring happiness in life. I think of how they must feel when they ultimately leave the workplace and all of their secular success, only to be left with a gut-wrenching emptiness. Take time during your journey to reflect on the goals you’re chasing. Are they the ones that truly make your life better?
If not, make a change.
You won’t be working forever, and the things you once thought important during your working years will become significantly less important when you retire. Pursue the things that endure beyond your working years.
Pursue the right goals.
When I woke at 3:30 am this morning, I could have gotten upset about how the lack of sleep would negatively impact my day. Instead, I chose to focus on the positive and do something of value with the extra hours I gained in my day. In retirement, I’m trying to be intentional in maintaining a positive mindset regardless of the situations I’m facing.
I realize an early wake-up is FAR from a crisis, and my thoughts and prayers go out to those of you who are facing a real crisis in your life. I think of my friend, Jimmy, and worry that this post could appear insensitive to those who are going through the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one. There’s nothing further from the truth. The reality is that none of us can get through life without facing crises of various sorts, and I’m sharing these lessons simply because they resonated with me this morning. I hope they resonate with you, and perhaps help in whatever situation you’re facing.
If/when you face a real crisis in your life, I encourage you to try to find something positive you can glean from your difficult situation. I know it’s easier said than done, but I strongly believe it’s worth the effort. Hopefully, the list above will provide a starting point in your thinking.
Just like my early morning wake-up, we can’t always control our situations.
We can, however, control how we respond to them.
P.S. As I was writing this conclusion I received the following comment from Eduardo on my latest post, Retirement Is Nothing Like I Thought It’d Be. I found it a perfect summary of what I’ve been trying to say throughout this post, so I’ve included it here:
“I take to heart a great quote from Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist,
“The purpose of life, as far as I can tell… is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.”
Your Turn: Looking back at some of the crises you’ve endured, have you found any benefits gained from the experience with the passage of time? Are there any other tips you’d suggest for those dealing with a crisis?