From time to time we all experience crises in our lives. They could be personal crises (sickness, accidents, death in the family), professional crises (unemployment, bankruptcy) or societal crises (big disasters, large epidemics, financial downturns).
These events inevitably bring a lot negative effects; pain, grief, crushed economies, and as such we should try to avoid them, and when not possible try to minimise the negative consequences.
But a crisis will per definition also bring change, and any change will bear the seed of new opportunities. Indeed, the Chinese word for crisis, wēijī, is a composite of wēi, meaning “danger” and jī, meaning “change” or “opportunity”.
There is a lot of truth in the old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Going through life with no hardships will make us bland and unappreciative of the beauties in life, and when every day is similar to the previous one, the impetus for change is small.
Many years ago, I was working as a young doctor in a child oncology ward. The internal life and emotions at that ward was oscillating between hope and despair and between elation when a child was cured and deep sorrow when another child lost the fight against the grim disease. But in all this turmoil of emotions, there was an intense appreciation of all the small joys in life, and most days were seen as a gift even when they contained moments of pain and sickness.
Contrary to the days stuck in rut, a life crisis may shake our fundaments and make us think whether we are living the lives we want to live. The crisis tears down the boundaries that have kept us in place
Having gone through a divorce, or almost lost the life in an accident, will inevitably change the way we are looking at things, and these life crises, although bringing pain, may also open up new possibilities and eventually bring positive change.
The disastrous Ebola epidemic in West Africa, was a much-needed wake-up call for the global public health community to get their act better together. The new WHO Health Emergency Programme, will hopefully result in better preparedness against new epidemics or pandemics and a quicker and more effective response next time diseases break out large-scale.
Losing your job, may perhaps be the signal to start your own successful business, and having gone through a difficult divorce may be the opportunity to find a lasting loving relationship. The word crisis comes from the Greek krisis, meaning turning point. When you are in a crisis you will need to know in which direction to turn.
Opportunities will be there, but you will need to be able to identify them, and that will require a mind that is open to new possibilities and not submerged in self-pity. Focus where you have the freedom to choose a new path, and accept with no regrets that some doors may just have been closed, a life strategy which the old stoics called amor fati, or “love the fate“.