A Guide To Turning Every Crisis Into An Opportunity

Recently, I shared my personal story on GoodlifeZen. I shared how, in the middle of the biggest crisis of my life, I managed to start my novel, jump-start the process of creating my own life from scratch, and bring my blog to great success. I shared how the crisis that I thought was a going to end up being a very bad thing for me, ended up being a very good thing for me. 

I got many responses to my story. Some inspiring, some heartbreaking.

Then I noticed that some of the heartbreaking comments were shared by people who were going through their own personal crisis, but felt a bit more encouraged after hearing my personal story. After reading these comments, I realized that I still had some helpful advice that I could impart to these struggling individuals.

So, today, I hope to show these struggling individuals, and you, how you might go about turning your current crisis into an opportunity.

A Guide to Turning Every Crisis Into An Opportunity

Step One: Become Aware That You Are Re-living The Crisis In Your Mind

For example: if you are suffering from an emotional crisis because you experienced a recent divorce, you must always remember that this specific event only happened once. However, if you keep thinking about the exact moment when you and your husband divorced, it would make it appear as if your ex-husband (or ex-wife) was divorcing you a thousand times.

When he (or she) didn’t. It only happened once.

After that one moment, you may have begun to re-live that one moment in your mind; and by constantly re-living that singular crisis moment in your head, you explode the crisis into a juggernaut of problem that you cannot possible begin to cope with–much less find a solution to.

This re-living of the moment of crisis in your head activates the “flight-or-fight response” in your body, where your body is convinced that it is under attack and has to run for its life. When “the fight-or-flight response” is activated, you may feel panicked, afraid, anxious, and stressed. In this hyper-panicked state, you cannot possibly begin to move past your current crisis.

So, it is very important to understand that once your crisis is over–its over.

Truthfully, only about %1 of any crisis is the crisis itself, the other 99% is simply the recovery from that crisis.

Step Two: Quickly Abandon “Linear Thinking”

“Linear thinking” looks like this:

If I do “A” I will be rewarded with “B.”

If I do “C,” I will be punished with “D.”

You’re probably familiar with these popular beliefs from your childhood:

“If you’re good, good things will happen to you.”

“If you’re bad, bad things will happen to you.”

The above statements are common beliefs–but they just aren’t true. The truth is that if you’re good sometimes bad things do happen to you. Conversely, good things can happen to bad people. Being bad doesn’t automatically mean you’ll receive a punishment, and being good doesn’t automatically mean you’ll receive a reward.

Now, if you’re stuck in linear thinking, and you do something good that goes unrewarded, you may start to flip out. And then, when you start to see bad people going unpunished, you’ll start to flip out even more and become convinced that the whole world has gone mad.

But it hasn’t. It’s just that the lie of your “linear thinking” is no longer holding up against reality.

So what’s the truth?

The truth can only found in “circular thinking,” which goes something like this:

If you’re good you’re good.

If you’re bad you’re bad.

Or:

People who do good things are good people–whether they are rewarded or not. 

People who do bad things are bad people–whether they are punished or not.

Period.

But, when a crisis happens to us, we are prone to think we have done something bad. We are prone to think this way because our “linear thinking” tells us that only bad people get punished, while only good people get rewarded.

So, if we are experiencing a crisis–something bad–we are convinced that we are being punished for bad behavior. But this isn’t true.

If you are a good person going through a crisis right now, and you know you have done good, then that makes you a good person. And just because nothing is working out for you right now {just because you are not being “rewarded” for your good} does not make you’re a bad person, nor does it mean you have done something bad.

It just means that a unfortnate thing has happened to you, and unfortunate things happen to everybody, whether they’re good or bad.

Step Three: Shift Your Perspective

What if I told you that this crisis is giving you a chance to journey through life more “vertically,” as opposed to just “horizontally”?

Your life so far has probably been a story of you journeying from here to over there, then from over there to further over there, then from further over there to further further over there.  It has been a horizontal (surface) journey. But now, your life will be a story of you journeying from here to here to here and then to here. It will now become a vertical (below and above the surface) journey.

A vertical journey is a more difficult journey because it is internal, unseen, has no clear marks for progress, is almost impossible to describe, and is largely dismissed by society.

But, in reality, as those who have been through a crisis can attest to, this “vertical” journey is the only true journey you can be on. In fact, it was the only  journey you were ever on. You just never knew it, until the crisis hit.

So, if you look at this way, your crisis may really be the beginning of the greatest adventure in your life.

As you begin to realize that you are on a wonderful, transformative adventure I welcome you to:

The Final Turn

As you can see, with a little perspective, any struggle can go from being a moment of crisis to being a moment of great potential. All you have to do is chose to view your crisis as an opportunity. This shift in perspective will allow you to move out of the way of the crisis, until the crisis trips on itself, falls, and begins to serve you instead.

much love,

Ollin

Have you ever been through a personal crisis? What helped you overcome it? Any words of hope, inspiration, or encouragement for those going through a personal crisis right now? Please share your thoughts and words of encouragement with us in the comments below!

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11 comments on “A Guide To Turning Every Crisis Into An Opportunity

  1. Christina says:

    Hi Ollin:)

    Great post!

    What got me really tripped up when I was going through my divorce was not knowing why it occurred. It happened suddenly and I needed to get a logical grip on it. Except that was impossible because we were only speaking through lawyers.

    Then I realized that although we’re trained to deal with things logically, relationship and emotional problems aren’t logical.

    And then it hit me – oddly via a logical approach. Does it even matter why? What would I gain by knowing? I was actually better off by myself, maybe not financially, but I had gotten my peace of mind back.

    So I told myself he was, thankfully, someone else’s problem now.

    • Ollin says:

      Good point Christina. Maybe in a crisis logic can’t really solve our problems because the issue is so complex, multilayered, and so much bigger than us. Maybe we should just do what you do, and just let go and move. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us!

  2. Kerry Meacham says:

    This is so timely for me. I’ve gone through much tougher times in my life, but the last few days seem to be overwhelming due to some choices my wife and I have to make where there is no right or wrong answer, which are usually the most difficult. The “it only happened to you once” approach is soooooo true, but I’ve played our situation over and over in my mind until it has caused paralysis through analysis.

    One if my all time favorite lines in rock is from the Rush song “Freewill” that goes, “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” I just need to distance myself from the emotional craziness and understand that I need to make the best, conscious decision I can make based upon the information I have today.

    Thanks for a timely post. Know that you’ve touched a life Ollin.

    Kerry

    • Ollin says:

      It’s the least I can hope to do. I can only give tools that have helped me in my experience though. I think for some they’ll simply have to invent their owns strategies to cope with live’s many crisis.

      I’m glad you found it hopeful.

  3. Mollie says:

    Great post. One thing that helps me through a crisis is realizing that things always seem to work themselves out in the end. Most of my crises have turned out to be much ado about nothing in the end.

    I’m curious though, as a writer, how do you feel about writing about past hurts and crises? If we write in depth are we allowing those past hurts to haunt us again or will it put them behind us? I have a story I’d like to write but each time I begin I am reminded of some really painful things. I feel as though I can’t possibly write about them without experiencing the pain all over again.

    • Ollin says:

      Mmm. Interesting point mollie. Well, I remember that when I was an actor they would recommend I re-live past pains in order to get myself to cry or get angry on stage. They have you do these image exercises that even have you envision very tragic things happening to your loved ones to get you to reflect “real” emotions.

      I hated that. And after a while one of the reasons I left acting was the fact that you had to do that thing every night of a show for months at a time. Re-live your past pains, or create pains that never existed. Really, the best actors torture themselves to get a great performance. That just was not for me.

      For me writing is different. I really only have to re-live any past pains once, and I let it go. I think writing is more healing than acting–with writing there is a sense of closure, once I work it out, I let it go, and I never return to it–ever again. But on the stage, you could potentially re-live past pains for the rest of your life–if you want to hit that right note of emotion every time. So, I guess what I am saying is that I think it’s okay to revisit past hurts, however, I would say, and I recommend this to all writers or artists, you should always accompany anything like that with therapy and not rely solely on art to heal any emotional wounds. That’s just my opinion. Some disagree, though.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mollie!

      • Mollie says:

        Thanks for responding, Ollin. I agree, writing can definitely be healing. Actually, I recently wrote a short memoir based on my ex-husband. My writers group loved it. The interesting thing is, as I wrote it took on a humorous tone and ended up being very funny. It’s always amazing where our writing takes us in the end!

  4. Jessica Zisa says:

    This is such a wonderful post! The process of healing is definitely the process of turning a crisis into opportunity. A year ago I had a terrible break up with my ex-fiance, who suffers from PTSD. It was the most heart breaking experience in the world! I pushed through my own personal pain to try to be there for him even as he pushed me away. It took me a long time to realize that I was so concerned with his emotional wellbeing that I was aware of how much I was being wounding myself in the process. I realized you cannot make someone take care of themselves or give them hope if they do not really want it for themselves. It was painful learning that keeping hope for someone else but it should never destroy your own. I found reading quotes of about healing, courage, strength, time and perseverance very empowering! (My facebook will account for that…I accumulated quite a few!) There is something comforting in the words of other’s both past and present. The feeling that although you feel no one understands your pain exactly, you are not alone for feeling it.

    I loved what you wrote about re-living the crisis! That is so true. I feel that all my fears and perceived past failures bind themselves together in my times of emotional crisis. Breaking them down and combatting each one on its own, makes the process of letting go much less daunting! Each time a memory creeps up, I let myself mourn the loss but then I tell myself to let it go. I do not hold on because the pain from the past has nothing to do with who I am today. I think it’s important to remember the process of letting go is indeed a process and not a one-time action. With consistency and courage to grow, you can become stronger and stronger each day. I found writing through this process so wonderful. Looking back to read at the progress I have made, helps me move forward with confidence I am on the right path.
    .
    Thanks for your post! It is a great encouragement!

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal story, Jessica. You are right to make that point: the process of turning your crisis into an opportunity is a process. What some might call the “recovery” process. So it takes time and we must be patient. I am glad you’re wise enough to see that and you are healing and moving forward. Good for you!

  5. Hi Ollin,

    This post is a genuine reminder that “sometimes our greatest obstacles can lead to our greatest blessings.” Hard to see when we are in the middle of a crisis (which we all have at some point or another) I think the question “what will all this mean five years from now” can help put things into perspective. I have learned over the years that crisis can be an opportunity for growth. I guess the challenge is convincing ourselves of that when we are ” up to our elbows in alligators”9 You really got me going on this one!
    Love this:” move out of the way of the crisis until it trips itself and begins serving you” Brilliant!
    Thanks again for sharing your story so openly.

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