Career Advice

3 Major Life Setbacks That’ll Prepare You For A Comeback

We try our best to avoid challenges and obstacles at any cost, but there are some things in life that you just can’t avoid. And as much as we don’t want to hear it at the time, going through tough life moments can help us prepare for more responsibility in life — and work.

How? It’s all about leadership skills. Here’s a look at how three common emotional challenges can position you for a promotion and prepare you to be a better leader:

A Break Up Teaches You Emotional Intelligence

It doesn’t matter who leaves who — breakups are rough. Whether you thought you’d be together forever or just the opposite, going through a breakup can spike your stress levels, drain your energy, and all around make for a miserable month.

But let’s think about what really happens in a breakup: you acknowledge your boundaries, you compare what you want to what someone else wants, and you make a decision. This combination defines a character trait that executives and leaders need to have in spades: emotional intelligence.

According to the Harvard Business Review, emotional awareness is a critical leadership skill. In fact, Rutgers psychologist Daniel Goleman writes, “without [emotional intelligence], a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”

Understanding the signals that emotions send about relationships and managing your own and other’s emotions is a uniquely important trait for you to develop to prepare yourself for a promotion, and going through a breakup is a powerful way to learn those skills.

The Death of a Loved One Grows Resiliency

Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one, and nothing can speed along the recovery process— grieving for the loss of an important person in your life is not a process you should rush through.

It won’t take away any of the pain, but as you work through the stages of grieving you should know that you’re working your resiliency muscle, and it will help you work through challenging events later in life, too — especially challenging situations at work.

Resilience is another important leadership skill that can make or break your chances at a promotion, and it perfectly captures what we experience when we the death of a loved one throws us off our life plan: we must practice the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

As renowned psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl writes, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.” And compared to the experience of losing a loved one, the challenges you face in a work situation will seem increasingly minor and manageable.

The Birth of a Child Forces You to Master Time Management

The birth of a child is a celebration. But just ask any new parent what they’re feeling and you’ll find that adding a baby into the mix expands and challenges your emotions all the same. The emotional and physical impact is just as life changing, but in a much different way.   

What does a new bundle of joy have to do with getting a promotion? As stressful as the early days of a new baby can be, it also forces you to practice a valuable leadership skill: time management.

Just consider this: when McKinsey & Company polled 1,500 executives about how they spend their time, the company found that most leaders were not satisfied with their current approach to time management:

  • 9% of respondents were “very satisfied”
  • Less than half were “somewhat satisfied”
  • About one-third were “actively dissatisfied”

The news gets worse. Only 52 percent of respondents indicated that how they spend their time matched their organization’s strategic priorities and almost half said they were not giving enough attention on guiding the strategic direction of the business. McKinsey & Company concluded that time challenges influence the wellbeing of the entire company as well as individuals.

When you experience the birth of a child, your personal time management skills are forced to flourish. Tasks and activities that used to require hours are suddenly completed in half the time, and saying no to the non-essential (an invaluable time management strategy) is easier than ever. Both the ability to make tough decisions about your time and to complete work quickly and efficiently will position you for a promotion in no time.  

Call it corny, but you can’t deny that today’s challenges have a way of preparing you for future challenges. As you adjust to the life challenge or change you’re facing, remember that sometimes you can turn a tough break into a lucky break by focusing on the leadership skills you’re learning on the side.

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