One of the most valuable lessons I relearned this past year is this: adversity is inevitable, but misery is a choice.
This is the story of how I recovered from adversity with a renewed mindset and the help of social media.
I entered last year with a formidable laundry list of personal and professional setbacks, which provided many reasons to be miserable. If anybody had earned the right to be despondent, bitter, anxious and depressed it was me. The ledger read like an excerpt from the book of Job:
Job loss. Over the previous six years, I got caught in corporate downsizing crosshairs four separate times.
Job search rejections. I ran through a steady stream of interview gauntlets, reaching the final round only to get passed over each time.
Relationship train wreck. Self-explanatory, but awful timing.
Financial depletion. After going through my savings, I was forced to tap into my retirement account to keep the lights on. Twenty years of saving wiped away in 24 months.
Health crash. The cumulative effects of stress combined with a concussion and a knee injury took its toll on my body. I had gone from earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and being in the best physical condition of my adult life, to being unable to walk across the room. And no health insurance.
What thoughts can do
There was a battle taking place in my mind. Mulling over my circumstances led to a series of self-defeating thoughts:
Why should I lose my job while other less talented and less accomplished people hold on to theirs?
Where are all those I have helped to advance in their career? Why can’t one of them open an opportunity for me when I really need it?
This economy keeps getting worse. How can I possibly hold on until it turns around?
I can’t believe how unfair it is to have to use up my retirement savings to make ends meet. How will I ever make up for that loss?
I should be in my peak earning years right now, instead of struggling to find work.
Maybe I’m too old to be a desirable candidate.
All those years I paid into health insurance and never needed to use it. Now when I do need it, I don’t have it.
This is destructive self-talk. It’s natural for the rational brain to get highjacked by emotions. That is how we are hardwired. But focusing on the problem only enlarges it. The key to winning the battle for your mind, and rising above your circumstances, is to shift the focus to your desired outcome.
That is the daily battle, the principle I had to relearn during my time in the valley. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) It’s a very practical summation of what I experienced. The word “renewing” suggests an ongoing process, not a one-time event. With regular thoughts focused on what I could do and where I wanted to be, I began moving toward it.
Social media therapy
I refocused my thinking on three things I could do: network, learn and write. I decided to create a high profile digital footprint.
I already had a good profile on LinkedIn, but I wanted to make it ridiculously awesome. I studied and took webinars on how to optimize my presence and expand my network. I grew my connections from 400 to more than 5,000 in eight months. I optimized my profile to where I show up in search results 50-70 times a day, and my profile is viewed an average of five times a day.
I did the same on Twitter. Starting from ground zero, I built a solid following and a consistent content sharing plan. In eight months I made many great connections with marketers all over the world that I can interact and network with.
Then I put my writing and publishing experience to work by launching this blog. Initially my plan was for it to be a platform to show what I know to recruiters and hiring managers. However, through social sharing and search optimization my audience grew to include other bloggers and marketers. I began to think more like a publisher than a job seeker.
Blogging and social networking quickly became a passion. Social media became my therapy for personal development in a number of ways:
- It gave me a sense of purpose. Each day of creating and curating content for the Web gave me an opportunity grow my network and engage with others.
- It gave me motivation for learning. Every activity around researching, writing and discovering social platforms ignited my passion to learn more.
- It gave me a path to develop my skills. The discipline of publishing a new blog post every week forced me to develop my writing skills and adapt them for online readers.
You could say social media helped restore my sanity. But it couldn’t happen until I took the focus off of what I didn’t have and put it on what I could do to improve my circumstances. My most important development goal for this year is to master my thought life.
How about you?
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