• Advice, Community

5 ways to process failure and emerge undaunted

At the beginning of 2015, I was invited to raise money and awareness for communities I'm passionate about - those who are homeless, folks with mental illness, good people struggling to make ends meet who need quality health care, and students, lots of students. Perfect fit.

I've worked at incredible organizations both in Kansas City and NYC, but this one, well, it was and is special. I met staff members doing life-saving work on small budgets, chaplains who reminded me why tending to the spiritual life is essential for health, and when I would walk around this nonprofit the beautiful diversity of KC was all in one place.

In other words, I entered this job with an incredible commitment to the mission and desire to help this organization thrive.

And then? At the end of my three month probation period, I was fired.

Now I can't share details for obvious reasons. But I can share how I felt: Misunderstood. Betrayed. Angry. Confused. Shocked. Sad. Incredibly sad.

In my personal life grief has been riding shotgun with me since 2011. Being fired was just another experience of the ground underneath me giving way. Yet another loss. In a sense it was another life of possibility that left me too soon. And I didn't know what to do. What could I do?

Well, as with most transformational experiences, the answer is not in the doing but rather in the being.

Here are five things that helped me. They continue to be essential in maintaining where I am today - loving my life – even if it is less financially predictable than the one I had before.

I hope they help you too.

1. Take some time off.

No, I didn't have the money to do this. I'm a single mom without much of a net, but I needed some time to process the experience. I needed to own what was mine in the firing and let go of the vast majority of it that wasn't. Doing that takes time. You can’t rush it.

2. Call in your troops

Your troops are people who support you with honesty. Reach out to the colleagues who worked with you for years. Talk to previous supervisors you respect. You know the ones who know you and know the quality of your work. Let them be a mirror and reflect back to you who you really are when it's hard for you to see it. Their experience of you and vision for you can be an anchor during this time.

3. Reflect

After giving yourself some breathing room, do some honest reflection. Abrupt experiences like this are a gift in that they have the potential to wake us up (Not to say I didn't take a lot of naps during those first weeks. I did.). But in that liminal space of being betwixt and between, it's a good time to ask questions and be open to unexpected answers.

4. Embrace a more wholehearted identity

As a culture, we support a process of being fired or laid off that is dehumanizing. One week you are being heralded for all the great skills you bring to bear, and then suddenly you can feel a target on your back. It may not have shifted that quickly for you, but sometimes it does.

So during the process, try to remember you are more than a job. Go look at photos of you at a time when you felt the most alive - those times when you were open to life and life seemed open to you. Remember what that felt like. Feel it.

Is there one small thing you could do to bring that feeling into the present moment? Write a poem, run a 5K, visit a museum, play in a toy store, take a long walk, finger paint, watch a movie that makes you cry from laughing, go sky diving, etc. If so, do it. Now.

5. Let go of old narratives

As a Catholic school kid for 12 years, I was encouraged to discern my vocation. I was told I had a calling, special gifts I had been given to share with the world.

I just turned 47 and am finally letting go of the idea that who I am called to be may not be how I make the money that pays for me to live on this earth. My values need to be in alignment, but they are not necessarily one and the same. I'm not going to lie and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this fact, but here I am living in middle age with the vocational construct of an eight year old girl. This has been the most liberating part of both being fired and then allowing that experience to inform my next steps.

Looking back one year, I am so grateful for the path that has unfolded. I launched my consulting business, started teaching social media and email marketing to all kinds of amazing people, and I feel for the first time in my life like I am really doing what I love.

Guess what? Had I not been fired a year ago? I wouldn't be here right now.

I know it's hard. Trust me. I know. You aren't alone. Hang in there. I hold all of you who are on this path with me in my heart.

One final suggestion, get a mantra you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to remember to slow down, breathe and remember who you are.

Here is mine, feel free to use it.

All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of things shall be well.

— Julian of Norwich, 14th century Christian mystic

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Jen Wewers Jen Wewers, principal of Give Gratitude, provides consulting services, trains staff and educates nonprofit leaders about the value of fundraising and marketing programs rooted in gratitude.

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