Whether you own your own business or work for a company, you have to be prepared to lose something at some point in your life. As business owners, we will inevitably lose clients, sales, vendors and employees. As a staff member, you may lose those same things and could even lose your job. People lose games, arguments and position every minute of the day. But, whatever type of loss you encounter, learning to face it gracefully; without bitterness, envy or anger; will always take you to an ultimate win.
I have to admit that I don’t like to lose and I don’t do it very often but it happens. As an athlete, I learned that Second Place is the First Place Loser. As a violin player, second chair was as bad as playing in the balcony. As a singer, get the lead and not the chorus. As a wife, I wanted everything in my relationship and home to be flawless.
As a mother, my child should be perfectly wonderful. As a business owner, I want client relations to be great. And as a person, I want my life to work well and be complete.
News Flash! Life has a way of doing as it pleases. Perfection rarely, if ever, happens and when things don’t happen the way you want or think they should happen – it can seem like a you’re losing!
People lose jobs, marriages, friendships, businesses, relationships, loved ones and sometimes we even lose a dog or a cat. Losing and winning are both a part of Life. We all know how to win at things. Winning always feels good. The easy emotions and good vibrations that come along with a win can be very addictive. Everyone loves a winner! Winners are applauded, showered with accolades, complimented and admired.
But, when we lose something, the “winner” in us can go into a tailspin, leaving us empty, enraged and feeling alone. When we lose things, it can often affect our self-esteem, work flow, damage relationships and make us resentful. But, there are some things that can help us turn what seems to be a loss into an ultimate End Game Win!
- Accept that you are human and human life is about loss. Everyone loses something. There is not a human being on Earth that has not lost at one time or another. We can go back to the beginning of human history and see that Adam and Eve lost the Garden of Eden. Then they lost their son, Abel. Moses lost out on being a Prince of Egypt. Haman lost to Mordecai. For a just a minute, it looked like Samson lost to Delilah and Joseph lost to his brothers. At one point, it looked like even God Himself, had lost.
In our modern times, politicians lose races, companies fold, reputations are trampled and jobs, friends, money, houses, husbands, wives and even children are lost. Loss is a human condition that happens from time to time.
- Know who you are as a person. When loss happens, you have to be sure of your identity and in touch with your authentic self. Stress and deep disappointment will seep into your soul, if you don’t have a connection to who you truly are. If you have been living inside of other people’s perceptions of who you should be and what you should be doing, loss will overtake you because you won’t have a firm foundation to stand on when it looks like things are falling apart.
We’ve all heard of the husband or wife who died and the spouse couldn’t find a reason to go on living, so they died shortly thereafter. People lose jobs and commit suicide; they lose a big client and delve deep into alcohol or substance abuse and depression.
You can grieve a loss but grief should not take such a stronghold that it kills you or leads you into an abyss. You had a life before that loss. Make sure that your foundation within yourself is so strong that loss cannot take you out of the game. Learn how to get back up again.
- This too shall soon pass. Whenever I was angry at my parents, saddened by something they said or did, or whenever something at school or with friends did not go the way that I expected it would, Mom would say to me, “This too shall soon pass.” Basically, she taught me to accept grief as a part of moving forward. She taught me that whatever I was feeling at that moment would diminish and go away. The pain would become less, the stinging would ease and I would be just fine as long as I got out of my own way.
I can clearly remember the first time I was ever fired from a job. I had actually been self-employed for about eight years, when this company pursued me to become their Director of Plan Education and Communications.
It sucked from the start. I had the title and the money but no autonomy or authority. And even though I felt totally trapped and was very unhappy, being terminated felt like a train had hit me. My vision blurred and the pain in my heart was actually physical. In just a few minutes, I experienced a gamut of emotions ranging from utter disbelief to deep and overwhelming sadness. I even got sick to my stomach and I sobbed as I packed my belongings.
I had been so invested in how good I was at my job that it never occurred to me that someone could or even would set me up for failure and dismissal. The words, “We’re letting you go,” cut through me like a knife and I could barely breathe. I went home that day and stayed there for the next three days.
Fortunately for me, I have a strong foundation about who I am and after I held my brief Pity Party, I got up and started to make plans to move forward. Within a week, I had re-launched my company and never looked back.
- Practice the Art of Surrender to the Situation. Simply put: Most things that happen in our lives happen externally. They are things that we didn’t create and cannot control. How others act or feel, who likes or loves us (or doesn’t), acts of nature, rising tides, the animal kingdom and the setting of the Sun (along with many other things) are completely out of our control. And there is nothing we can do about it. So, we need to develop the Art of Surrendering in order to cope and maintain our balance. Surrendering the outcome is a freeing experience because you are not tied to results but committed to right action.
I remember in the early 80’s, the mudslides that happened in and around Santa Cruz, California. To go to bed during a rainstorm and wake up to 3-4 feet of mud covering yards, driveways and roads, houses smashed to bits by uprooted Giant Redwoods, death and destruction all around, was a shocking and horrendous event in my Life. Being without food, power, water and the ability to drive was a frightening experience. It looked and felt like a war zone and it was all entirely out of my control.
The only thing that we could do was to focus on day-to-day survival issues; getting food, water and staying safe and warm. Anyone who has ever been in a natural disaster has learned two important lessons: (1) How to release control of the outcome and (2) How to prepare for anything that comes your way. I also learned that when mud moves, it smothers sound and you don’t hear it coming until it is so close that you cannot possibly get away. Loss is like that too.
- Avoid Anger and the Blame Game. Sometimes loss can be directly attributed to another person. Other times loss is nobody’s fault. There is nothing and no one to pin it on. In either case, don’t get caught up in the need to blame someone or something. Anger and blame are like a pair of fraternal twins. They may not look exactly alike but they come from the same source. Both can affect your mental health, your physical health and impede your everyday activities.
Ongoing anger at external events can destroy your self-esteem, do great harm to your relationships and can even kill you. Anger has been linked to heart disease, strokes, Cancer and a host of avoidable diseases. If you have out of control anger, then you need to seek professional help. But, most often talking your anger through with someone whose counsel you trust can help you bring it under control.
The saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” is absolutely true. When I catch myself falling into anger, I look for things that will make me laugh. I might turn on a show, pop in a movie or call one of my funnier friends. Comedy Central has helped me more times than I can count!
- Guilt is a wasted emotion. Feeling guilty about loss is ridiculous unless you did something to feel guilty about. But, even if the loss is your own fault, get with someone and confess your sins. You will find that simply opening up and talking about what you’ve done will make you feel better. If you’ve wronged someone and created your own loss, simply say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. It will never happen again.” If someone can’t forgive you after that, then move on and lose the guilt.
If you are feeling guilty and you’ve done nothing wrong – STOP! Access the situation, talk it out with a friend or confidante and get on with your Life. If someone is trying to make you feel guilty when you have nothing to feel guilty about, lose them! Life is too short to worry about nonsense.
- Shame. Shame. Although many people believe that guilt and shame are synonymous, they are two entirely different emotions. Guilt is externally focused on behaviors and expresses itself by saying, “I did or said something bad.” While shame is internally focused and expresses itself by saying, “I am a bad person.”
The shame of losing a job, divorcing a spouse, losing your freedom in the judicial system or even losing a baby can make you want to hide yourself away and pretend that things never happened. When people experience shame, they want to hide, if not literally, than most certainly figuratively. They may hide their true selves in order to avoid further hurt and pain. They may hide behind a cloud of denial to the true circumstances surrounding their loss.
This type of shame is based on how others might or might not view your loss. It is based on how others perceive you and your value system and judgments. Until you come to a genuine and clear belief about who and what you are, you will continue to be a mere reflection of what others think and how they feel about you. And when that feeling turns negative as a result of your loss, you will feel shame.
- Stand your ground. The hardest thing to do is to stand your ground in the face of unfair and erroneous accusations – but do it anyway. Your integrity to you and your own values and standards is more important than going along to get along.
All too often people become boiling cauldrons of resentment because they back down when standing up to adversity, accusation and misplaced dominance is the thing to do. If you know you are right then stand firm in your righteousness. Don’t be bullied into taking a position that you are opposed to no matter how much the pressure of loss weighs on you. In the end, you will be happy that you drew that line in the sand and stood firm in your convictions and the people around you will be happier with a happy you.
- Release and forgive. No matter the situation, you have to be willing and ready to release and forgive. You must release the negative emotions that you are feeling and forgive the person, situation and sometimes God for what is going on in your Life.
Significant loss can trigger fear. Even small loses can trigger a host of negative emotions including anxiousness, insecurity or helplessness. You have to be willing to let these things go. Get a piece of paper and write down all the feelings and emotions you are experiencing. Write down how you feel about the person, place or thing that created your loss. Take a match and set that piece of paper on fire. Make sure you go outside. You don’t want to burn down your house and, depending on the size of the fire that is a distinct possibility.
I’m being facetious but I want you to burn those feelings and watch the smoke rise into the sky and dissipate. Let that ish go and move on. You will be happier, those around you will be happier. Your world will become a safe place for you again.
- Get on with your Life. Now it’s time to make your next move. You’ve accepted your loss, reckoned with the outcome, overcome your anger and grief and it’s time to rebuild. I know a woman who completely reinvented herself after the death of her husband. She went from stay-at-home wife and Mom to CEO of a very successful business. She took her baking hobby and opened up a cupcake shop. Now she has nearly a dozen shops in three States.
If you don’t have a hobby, now might be the time to get one. Do you love to walk? Take up hiking! Got an eye for design? Get a degree in decorating. Don’t let age be a barrier to your dreams. Remember that Colonel Sanders didn’t become a professional chef until he was 40 and he started Kentucky Fried Chicken at the tender young age of 62.
If your loss is work related, think about taking your genius and starting your own business. If you can’t do that, don’t wait too long before looking for a new position. If it’s a client loss, replace them as fast as you possibly can or reassess and move in another direction.
If your loss is more personal, take time to fully grieve but don’t get mired in it. Whether someone left you or died, there is nothing you can do about it. When my uncle died, I looked back on his life with profound happiness. I remember everything he taught me and how much he loved me. I could see that he lived a good and full life and I chose to focus on the more positive aspects of it.
- And finally, remember that no matter what happened, who caused it or the implications of the situation, you will be okay. Not only will you survive, you can thrive and live fully after loss if you remember that “This too shall soon pass.” Know that your feelings are normal and with time, they will soften and eventually go away. The sun will shine in your world again.
Try to keep loss from interrupting your daily routine. Keep exercising and eating – but don’t overeat because of grief. Continue to interact with your loved ones on a meaningful level. Maintain your hobbies and those things that bring you deep joy. Don’t let loss steal your Happy.
If you are a person of faith, pray about it and hand it over to God. If you are not a religious person, think about it and give it to the Universe, chant over it or bury it in the earth. Just get those negative emotions and feelings out of your head and heart. and turn them over to something bigger than yourself.
When I was a kid, I wrote poems, music and short stories about my pains and perceived losses. As an adult, I talk about it with God, close confidantes or my Mom. Then I take it to paper and write or blog about it because I know that if I am having this experience, others are too. No man or woman is an island unto themselves. Use your experience to help others find their way in the darkness. But, please remember that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. I and many others really do have your back! In the end, handling loss with dignity and grace will lead you to the Winners Circle.