Personal Growth Through Crisis

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New opportunities for growth almost always follow a crisis. When this occurs to me, it’s usually in context of world events and quotes from famous people.

If you google “never waste a good crisis” you’ll find quotes by everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, to Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton.

But, we probably learn less from public events than we do from personal crises, which are usually more immediate and meaningful to us.

As an HR practitioner, you likely deal with small scale crises on a daily basis, and it’s your ability to learn from each of them that prepares you for larger scale events.

Being mindful of new opportunities for growth within each event can empower and transform you personally and professionally. Here’s a recent personal experience that illustrates what I mean.

A Small Personal Crisis

A few weekends ago most of my family went out of town and left my college-age son and me to a quiet house and a long Saturday on our own.

As I helped my wife pack her car I noticed our dogs were out of water, so I stopped to fill their bowl in our utility room, which is where they spend most of their time.

As their bowl filled with water, I walked to the kitchen to start some coffee. My phone rang, and during the conversation I went to my office to look something up on my computer.

Sometime later I heard my son yell from the utility room on the other end of the house. I hurried only to find the dog’s water bowl had covered the sink drain, and the sink had overflowed.

Doors were wide open and the dogs were outside trying desperately to get back in. My son was standing in water and moving the larger, movable things out of the room. Adjoining closets were flooded as were all the cabinets and the stuff they contained. It was a big mess.

We spent the next couple of hours brooming water out the back door and soaking it up with towels, setting up fans to dry baseboards, emptying storage closets and cabinets and drying out or throwing away large and small items.

My relaxing Saturday was ruined by my embarrassing and potentially costly mistake. It was humiliating and irritating. My expectations of a great day were crushed, and I was the only one to blame.

Perspective and Transformation

After we got everything under control, my son left to run some errands. As I sat back down in my office, I started thinking about how proactive and helpful he had been.

As he took action I was reminded he’s now a grown man, making adult decisions and moving faster than me. Like most young adults, he’s busy and I don’t see him as often as I would like. So, even under frustrating circumstances, we enjoyed working on a project together.

Also, now that his Mom makes him do his own laundry, he was proud to give me tips on using the washer and dryer so I could wash, dry and fold ALL of the towels in the house. all. day. long.

Since I recently had the unfortunate job of cleaning out my parents’ home, I’ve been thinking a lot about de-cluttering my own house. On that Saturday I stopped thinking about that project and began doing it, starting with the utility room and its adjoining closets.

My small scale, self-induced crisis forced me to learn how to do some things I can now use to be more helpful to my wife. It enabled me to spend great time with my son. And, it forced me to do a project I have been putting off too long.

But, perhaps most importantly, the events of that day reminded me I’m capable of doing more than I think I can do. And, the experience has caused me to look more deeply into the small scale crises we all experience with our daily work to seek out the positive learning opportunities contained in each one.

How Crisis Can Generate Growth

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a work crisis, after the dust settles, spend some time thinking about what the event required you to do. You might identify a new perspective or application of your skills or you might have even picked up the beginning of a new skill without realizing it.

And, think about who you worked with and how they reacted to the event. Think about how you reacted to each other, whether it was positive or negative and how you might have done things differently. You learn what you and other people are made of when you’ve been with them in the trenches.

Most importantly, reflect to see if you’ve learned new things about what you’re capable of and how that growth of personal capacity might enable you to help others.

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