Struggles happen. Challenges happen. Setbacks happen. Mistakes are made. Tramautic events happen all the time to all sorts of people. While almost everyone will experience some traumatic event in their lifetime, what happens after is what matters. While listening to the Global Leadership Conference interview with Sheryl Sandberg, she introduced me to the idea of bouncing forward, an idea she expands upon in her book, Option B.
Bouncing forward, or Post Traumatic Growth, according to the Psychology Department at UNC Charlotte, is “positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event”. Essentially, when traumatic events happen, you have three possible outcomes- you can get stuck in it, you can bounce back, or you can bounce forward.
So how can you bounce forward? This is something that will vary from situation to situation so I wanted to take a look specifically at traumatic events on a professional level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person has 11.7 jobs between 18 and 48 years old. That means people change jobs every 2-3 years and odds are, not all those job changes are voluntary. Professional failure is inevitable and has happened to some great leaders, from Steve Jobs being fired from Apple (before coming back to the company and helping be a major part in it becoming the first company with a trillion dollar market cap) to Walt Disney being fired for not being creative enough… the list goes on and on.
When that kind of professional failure happens, it can be easy to take the first of the possible outcomes (getting stuck in it). Blaming bosses or coworkers can be easy. If you are bouncing back, you might be fixing the wound. However, if you are truly going to bounce forward, you need to fix the root cause and that requires a great deal of self-reflection. There are three potential sources from which things arise- yourself, the other person, or the relationship.
This is where I think many people struggle. We all know someone who is quick to blame things on others. When leading people, having those who you lead who do not take responsibility can be potentially frustrating but the harder ones to spot and help grow are the ones who internalize everything. However, the ‘you vs. me’ dichotomy is rarely the real solution. Sure, it can put a band-aid on the issue and fix some wounds but they don’t get to the core of the issue.
What is truly at the heart of the issue? Bouncing forward means getting to the core of the problem. Ensuring you have built strong relationships with those around you can help prevent issues at a relationship level and when professional failure happens, you can have a support network. Reflecting on what happened honestly and looking at what lead to professional failure can help you assess what happened personally, among your team, and between you and your team. Knowing where the issues arose can help prevent the issue from happening again.
A quote that I always think about when things like this kind of failure (both professional and personal) happen comes from Morning Light. Graham Brant-Zawadzki has a quote toward the end of the documentary where he says, “the days that you go out and everything goes perfectly, you learn nothing from. It’s the days you go out and everything falls apart, that’s when you learn the most. Those are the days that you are pushed out of your comfort zone and those are the days that you grow.” I know this aligns with many of the things I have blogged about so far, like feeding the right wolf, remaining optimistic, to getting out of your comfort zone, but that largely is because it is so important to truly grow. Failure, to some extent, is inevitable so you need to be prepared to bounce forward. This means getting to the core of the issues, building strong relationships and support networks, and being able to honestly reflect back and see what went wrong. Having a growth mindset is important to being able to not only bounce back from failure but to truly grow and learn from it, finding yourself in a better place than before.