What happens when the rug is suddenly pulled from under you?

You can make all the brilliant, perfectly considered plans in the world. But what happens if the world has other ideas? How do you pick yourself up, cope with your emotions and carry on?

As I learned when I was suddenly forced to leave my job by my employers, sometimes the rug gets pulled out from under you. Your world is turned upside down and you find yourself trying to plan a new strategy while coping with a maelstrom of emotions (not to mention panic!).

And it’s not just me. Over the years, we’ve heard hundreds of stories of women up against, and beating, the odds. Of facing sudden adversity and winning. So we loved this triumphant personal account by Sonya McDonald on Steel Heels – kindly shared with us by founder Sharon Warburton.

Change was forced on me before I was ready

As Napoleon Hill says:

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

But sometimes you don’t have a choice – career transformation is thrust upon you because of some external circumstance or because something deep inside is pushing you along. And whether you cope or not comes down to how your brain works.

In my case, transformation was triggered through trauma. Change was forced onto me before I was ready.

I was abandoned in China by my husband

If you’d known me a few years ago you would have known a scared and lonely woman, abandoned in China by her husband, and left to raise their daughter alone.

I’d given up a thriving career and left behind my friends and family to move to China and support my husband in his career development. But suddenly I found myself in a foreign land with no money and no-one to help me and my daughter other than the Australian Consulate. I felt that I couldn’t sink any lower.

I returned to Australia lost and overwhelmed

I packed up and returned to Australia with nothing much in the bank and a pretty crappy Holden sedan waiting for me. I was so lost and overwhelmed, but I had to keep strong and pull it together for my daughter.

Soon, through the haze of my anger and grief, I began to have fleeting ideas which gradually became stronger and clearer. My brain had begun to kick in.

And here’s the thing. Your brain can help you or hinder you. When change comes, neurons in the central amygdala are activated and can trigger a fear response.

The future looks scary and all we can see are the potential traps and dangers awaiting us. Your brain becomes a foe as it shows you a future of risk and failure. (Of course my brain did that to me, didn’t it?)

Our thoughts can change our behaviours

The good news is that your brain can change. Neuroscience has shown that our thoughts are powerful enough to change not only our behaviours, but also the very connections within that brain itself.

Dr Michael Baime at the University of Pennsylvania showed us how regular meditation actually alters the pathways through the brain. The more you use a pathway, the stronger it becomes.

I thought long and hard about leadership and opening my own business. I thought about success and what success would look like. I pictured myself creating a happy and secure life for my daughter.

I am now CEO of a leadership consulting business

My brain become my ally by learning to concentrate on the positive messages rather than the fearful ones – that’s what gave me the edge I needed to make the blind leap of faith into my future. It’s how LeadershipHQ came to be.

I am now CEO of an incredible leadership consulting business and where our amazing empowHER program was born. We are inspiring and helping others be the best they can be. To gain the confidence and clarity to take that next step.

Our minds have the final say in what we do and how we do it. That’s the key message I want you to understand. Never forget it.

If you are ready for a career transformation, it’s up to you to make it happen. When your brain is your ally, you can take your life and career in the direction you choose, and not the one into which you are pushed.

What to do if the rug is pulled out from YOU

Having the rug pulled out from underneath the life you’ve worked towards is something that we at Steel Heels have some personal experience in.

But we believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Here are our tips if you find yourself in a difficult situation:

  • Meditate and heal. If you can afford to, take a break to heal yourself or come to terms with your new situation.
  • Navigate the not-so-perfect storm of emotion. Try to harness it for the good. Even if you are not feeling positive, you can make positive changes and success is always the best revenge.
  • Dream big and make a plan. Being at ground zero or starting over is a great opportunity to choose the life you want.
  • Rein in your network. Not just your professional network to help you put the wheels in motion on your plan, but your personal support base to keep you in a positive mindset.
  • Be your own cheerleader. As our guest’s blog points out, you are the most powerful person in your life. It takes courage to re-start your life, so be kind to yourself and encourage yourself to keep getting back up after you get knocked over.

Finally, we congratulate Sonia on tackling a brave and very personal topic. Life throws us all big challenges and change and these periods more than any other, define us.

We agree that harnessing our brainpower is vital. Mental toughness and resilience are important but more than anything we need at these times the ability to imagine a better future.

Sharon Warburton is the founder of online mentoring site Steel Heels.