• Karla Robertson

Springboards or Barriers: The Meaning We Make of Loss



We all experience life altering losses at some point in our lives. They come in all forms and impact all of us. The loss of a job and all that this can mean; the loss of some aspect of our physical or mental functioning, the loss of our identity when our kids leave and make their own way, the loss of a spouse or loved one, the list goes on. Losses happen in our work lives and personal lives. If you're a leader perhaps you missed your key goals, your team didn't make it's numbers or an initiative failed, or Wall Street isn't looking kindly on you and there are consequences. Stuff happens. There’s no way around it. The thing I’d like you to consider is this: We are the ones who choose the meaning we make of events that happen in our lives. What internal narratives are created from the meaning we make? The stories we create will largely determine how our lives go forward.


There is always the initial shock and awe and emotional response. This is natural, necessary and, in some ways, cathartic. You cannot and must not sidestep the grief. Emotions were given to us for a reason: They tell us how much someone or something means to us. Then, at some point, there comes a time when you make a decision that begins to move you on in a way that allows for a clearer line of sight to the next step you will take in your life. The question becomes: So, what am I going to do with this event that has happened? How am I going to let it shape my thinking and my choices for what comes next? Will that choice help you expand into a better place or contract you into isolation and darkness...or something in between?

Amy Purdy shared in her TEDtalk a very powerful message that ultimately we must decide how we will see unexpected tough experiences and losses that happen in our lives. Amazing what happened to her out of the blue and how, after months of personal implosion and retraction from life, she emerged as the author of her new chapter. Listen closely to the mindshift she made and how she chose to see her circumstances. She was able to deliver this presentation, walking back and forth on prosthetic legs because of how she decided to see herself and her options. She saw opportunity where some would have seen boundaries e.g. “Hey I could pick different length legs so I could be taller or shorter depending on the height of the guy I was dating.” Wow! What a way to think of it!

What is an event that are happening in your life right now that present you with the opportunity to choose the meaning you’ll attach to it? Will that meaning and resulting internal narrative lift you and others up? Or will it be the ball and chain that impedes your progress and weighs you down?

As leaders, when the winds from storms blow and cause loss or uncertainty, we must make the mindshift first in order to influence our teams to find their best way through the hard times. We have the opportunity to be a beacon of light that models the way for how we can deal with losses and challenges in our lives. How we can take this “thing” that has happened, shift our thinking, and turn it into a runway for us to accelerate our lives and give our efforts the lift they need to take off!

As we face forward to 2020, I wish you all the commitment to choose to see springboards where there seems to be only walls or adversity. How can you think differently about what you encounter so that you can use that perspective to ignite your imagination to see the challenges you face as a stepping stone to a greater achievement or insight? How would you feel if you were able to shift gears from seeing situations as stopping you to seeing them as offering you a way to be and do better?

And how would that change things if you were able to influence others to see the possibilities in the challenges they face? As Amy Purdy said, "It's not about breaking down borders. It's about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us."

Thank you all for your continued interest in the articles, shares, videos I post here and on social media. I appreciate all your comments when something I post hits a chord and you take the time to share your thoughts and perspectives with me. I always learn something. Thank you also to those clients with whom I have collaborated this year as you took action on plans you created to achieve your goals. You have helped me achieve mine as well.

Best of health, joy and wisdom to all of you in 2020. Make it a terrific year! Karla

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