How to Turn Less-than-Ideal into a Growth Opportunity

This year I added something new into my annual hiking, biking, and chilling-out time in Vail, Colorado: the worst-ever yoga class.

The first clue came moments after Juan, the teacher, walked in. My friend Lori told him she had an injured knee. He replied, “A doctor will never be able to fix your knee, but I can.” (Hmmmm.)

You don’t often find ranting in a yoga class …

Juan spent the first 15 minutes of class ranting about how people come to yoga for all the wrong reasons and it’s not about the poses and you all think you’re happy but you’re not and even though I can do the most complicated poses imaginable I don’t ever do poses in my classes because that’s not what yoga’s about and who thinks they know how to breathe? Put your hand down because NO, you don’t know how to breathe.

Finally he started something that sort of resembled a yoga class. And after just a few minutes, with virtually no warm-up, he said, “Lift your right foot up to your ear.” (I’m a yoga teacher myself, and I can’t do that even when fully warmed up. In an un-warmed-up state it’s dangerous to even try, unless perhaps you’re Gumby.)

Now what?

At this point I was fully immersed in snarky thinking: This guy’s a kook. What a waste of time. You gotta be kidding!

Then I caught myself. The class was only an hour, but that’s still an hour of my life. I don’t want to spend that time in a state of irritated snark.

I considered leaving, but instead decided to stay and find something good in the hour.

As it turned out, three good things happened.

  1. I got to practice managing my mindset,
  2. We spent twenty minutes on glute (butt) work that was just what my back needed, and
  3. I got a great story!

This wasn’t just a “what-planet-have-I-stumbled-onto” yoga class. It was a metaphor for life!

We all find ourselves in difficult, frustrating, or unexpected situations … a new boss who’s making you crazy, a project bearing no resemblance to what was described, a volunteer activity that’s gone off the rails, a friendship that’s morphed from reciprocal to one-sided … or a bizarre yoga class.

We can all get stuck staying too long in a bad situation.  Sometimes the best thing really is to move on.

But other times we can see that quitting is the easy way out, a way to avoid sticking with what feels hard. And then the cost of walking away is a missed opportunity to grow, learn, and expand what’s possible in your life.

Where do you have an opportunity to turn “less-than-ideal” into “growth and learning”?

Here are five practices you can use next time you find yourself in a frustrating, difficult, or unexpected situation:

  • Practice Clarity. Be very clear about why you’ve decided to stick it out, and state your reason in the affirmative.

    Get rid of words and phrases like I have no choice, I can’t, and I have to. Replace them with I’m choosing to be here to learn and grow, to practice being positive, to expand my comfort zone, or [fill in your reason].

    Words create clarity and focus your intention.

  • Practice being intentional with how you show up. There are a million ways to show up … open, curious, calm, grounded, supportive, respectful, as a leader, present.

    And then there’s bored, snarky, checked-out, snappish, frustrated, victimized, argumentative…

    Your choice creates your experience.

  • Practice commitment. Once you’ve decided to stay in your situation, choose commitment.

    Second-guessing yourself, bouncing between “I made the right decision” and “What the heck was I thinking?” will do nothing but keep you on an emotional roller-coaster.

    If (or when) you find yourself starting to bounce, take a moment to re-commit by reminding yourself why you’ve chosen to be here.

  • Practice expanding your capacity for discomfort. The more comfortable you can be with discomfort, the more opportunities you’ll have in life, personally and professionally.

    Breathing helps. A lot!

  • Practice finding something good in the situation. There’s always something good to be found … forming a new relationship, deepening a skill, overcoming fear, rising to a challenge, learning something, growing your ability to find the good … the list is endless.

    The more you look for the good, the more good you’ll find.

Growth, learning, and development come from practice. And the more you practice, the more your days will align with the way you want to live your life.

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust


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