I pulled my coffee cup from the brewer and slid into to my kitchen chair. I picked up my pen to journal but there were so many thoughts fighting for space that none could win their way out onto the paper. All I could muster were tears.
I had just given an engagement ring back. I was divorced prior to that. I was in debt up to my eyeballs. My circumstances at that time left me feeling like I was wandering in the emotional wilderness. You could call it a “rock bottom” moment, which I define as hitting my upper limit of pain. I feared making the same relationship mistakes again. I wondered how I’d rebuild financially. Relationship wise, I thought maybe my “picker” was broken. I criticized myself for not being able to figure this out.
Have you experienced, or are sensing you need to make, what feels like a world-rocking life or career decision? Maybe you’re experiencing one that wasn’t of your choosing. If you’re like me, sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the chaos of the known. I think what caused the most stress was an identity crisis – If I’m not a wife, then who am I? If I don’t have this job or group association, then who am I? You see, my ego had confused my who with my do, and the untangling of those – that I am not what I do – can be a soul-searching process.
What Didn’t Work
- Fixing It: I overthought my problem and considered just going back to what was, but that didn’t fit. To paraphrase Einstein, “the same level of thinking that got us into the problem can’t get us out of the problem.”
- Numbing It: Either through busyness or ignoring it, I tried to stuff it away.
- Clarifying It: I hated the feeling of not knowing what was going on, so I set out on futile attempts to find clarity. I seldom found answers that brought relief.
But there was one simple thing I did in all of my low moments. I felt the urge to take a long walk, which is interesting, because navigating difficult transitions is a bit like exercise. Muscle must break down so it can rebuild stronger. We, too, must break down to build back up – to shed what needs to go and make room for growth.
Much to our disliking, this process doesn’t happen in one day, but consistently over time. Just like we don’t get fit from one workout, we don’t experience a season’s worth of personal growth in one day. Additionally, what grows a muscle is not overworking it. Counterintuitively, what grows a muscle after it’s been worked is rest, food, and oxygen.
What moves us out of rock bottom moments is not trying harder to fix it in one day, but consistently nourishing our new growth.
How I Used Walking to Find Wisdom
Every week, I took a long walk by myself. Many times, I didn’t bring headphones. I wanted to find a space to be with nature, get contemplative, and allow space to hear anything God wanted to tell me.
Here’s a simple coaching tip I’ve personally used to get through my toughest moments. Take your problem on a walk outside. Take notice of things that really catch your eye – an animal, a flower, a tree, a unique rock or path. Ask, “If this tree (or object) had my problem, what would it do?”
My answer in one walk was: Drop its dead leaves. Store nutrients for winter. Bloom when ready. Stay firm in storms. Accept seasons, don’t resist them. Know its value. Be loved. Build strong roots.
Then I asked myself: How can I drop what doesn’t belong, stay firm, know my value, be loved, and build strong roots?
This didn’t give me concrete answers, but it shifted my mindset from being a victim of my circumstances to the creator of my future.
Shift your mindset from being a victim of your circumstances to being the creator of your future.Kelli Thompson
The unknown hurts often because we have little tolerance for it. It was helpful for me to turn up my tolerance dial for allowance of the unknown. If I can offer a mantra, it might be, “this all feels disorienting, and that’s ok.”
I guess you could say that I walked myself up and out from rock bottom. Here’s a promise that’s stood the test of time. Things will fall apart in your life, what matters is the mindset we use to rebuild.
This is the first in a four-part series. Stay tuned for more ways to move from chaos to confidence.