I had arrived a day early in Puerto Rico for a trip with a friend. I had spent a full day out of the New York cold and in the sun and warmth of the Caribbean, and would leave in a few hours to pick Lisa up from the airport. Then came the text: Shit it’s canceled. It had recently started snowing in the city she was flying from, and it caused her flight to be canceled. It was a popular long weekend for travel, so finding another flight wasn’t feasible. She wasn’t going to make it, and suddenly this was a solo trip. I was flattened. I was missing out on time with my friend, and wasn’t excited to spend this trip on my own. I sat with that disappointment for a few minutes, and it was real. Then it was time to regroup. No, this was not what I had planned, but it could still be a good week. I started shifting direction and gathering my resources.
I had been handed a trip and a challenge I had not expected, but I had the resources for this change of plans. I started listing them for myself. First, I am by habit a solo traveler. I often choose to travel alone, and so I have the confidence of knowing I can enjoy a trip on my own. I put a whole bunch of resources in this bucket of experience: I know how to entertain myself while on my own, how to utilize my phone when I want to be connected to people at home, and I was comfortable talking to strangers when out in the world. Indeed, my friend who missed this trip was someone I met while we were both traveling on our own a few years ago. I continued to list what I already know about myself that would help me, and then I thought about what additional resources I was going to have to amass to make this work. I probably wasn’t going to want to spend as much time sitting on a beach when by myself or out as late at night. This meant I would be up earlier with lots of time to look around and explore. I started researching interesting places with longer drives. Where did I want to venture to? And so it went. It wasn’t going to be the trip I had planned, but I had the resources to make it an adventure worth having, and being ready for it started by thinking about what tools and resources I already possessed.
Often, when a client tells me about something they want, a conversation they want to have, a setback they are experiencing, or a change they are finding difficult, they feel like they are starting from zero. They see all the work ahead of them, and a lack of resources for accomplishing their goals. But they are never starting from nothing. They, too, have resources to start with. While explaining all the things they have yet to do, clients usually mention something they have tried or started on without even noticing they have done that work. We are never without resources. Whatever the task — finding a new job, having a tough conversation, choosing a path forward, adjusting to a change — there are resources we already possess. We may need to determine how to use those resources in a different way, or find other tools to add to our pile of resources, but it never starts with nothing.
Sometimes a challenge can be a large-scale concern like adjusting to a new home. Other times, it can be a smaller scale change like having a week’s schedule that is busier or different than what was expected. Whatever the challenge, there are a few questions you can ask in order to start gathering your resources and thinking about what other resources you need to find:
- What do you already know about yourself that can help you at this moment? What personality trait or strength can help you deal with this? Maybe you are very organized. Perhaps you are quite flexible. Whatever the strength, think about how you can use it to help yourself.
- What experiences have you had before that you can draw from? Maybe there is a time you tackled something similar and you approached it in a way that was helpful. Or maybe you had an experience like this one in which you were not successful, and you can consider why your previous approach did not work. Consider that previous experience and how you can apply what you learned to your current challenge.
- Who do you have in your family, social circle, or business contacts who you seek help from? Maybe there is someone who has gone through a similar situation and can talk to you about it. Or maybe you know someone who has a strength you need for this challenge. This is the time to connect with that person and see how they can help you.
Once you know what resources you have, the next step is to consider what other tools do you need to work on. If you need support around this conversation or another one, let’s chat.