One of the treasured books in my collection is Losses and Gains, by the celebrated Brazilian author Lya Luft. She reflects on the cyclical process of life from the passage of time, maturity, family relationships, love, self-esteem, motherhood, career, and aging. Which of us has not experienced life’s joys and disappointments, victories and defeats, losses and gains? The outcome of those equations in life depends on what we can understand, assimilate, and evaluate.

As we are about to end this year, I wanted to share four takeaways I got from this inspiring read: 1) Losses and gains are ends on a continuum; 2) Even your losses can be gains; 3) Appreciate your journey; and finally, 4) Notice how far you have gone. I have illustrated them with examples from my coaching clients. Supporting their journeys has taught me so much this year!

  1. Losses and Gains Are Ends on a Continuum

There is a paradox in losing and gaining because they are polarities with different ends of the same continuum. For example, when we change jobs, we leave behind connections built over the years, institutional knowledge, commitment, and our emotional connection with the firm. A new job might offer better perks, salary, and even job scope, but there might be other elements that are not there. In every case, there is a tradeoff, we lose, and we gain.

This paradox is also present in the critical decisions we make in our personal lives:

  • Relocating or downsizing into a smaller home,
  • Leaving or joining a relationship,
  • Having a baby or or grieving the loss of a loved one.

In any case, personal change due to life events bring gains at the expense of losing. All are in the same continuing.

Robert left his job in a prestigious law firm seeking for a career path only a large institution can offer. Even though he appreciated the in-depth expertise in a more specialized environment, he found himself missing the job variety from his previous career. He sometimes feels homesick for what he left behind, and is hopeful he made the right career move.

Life is a process containing cycles and polarities. Learning to see the opposite side and integrating these perspectives can help you understand they are complementary instead of absolute, all or nothing type of approach. Instead of this or that, it is yes and.

“I seek to integrate the polarities in the continuum of my life.”

2. Even Your Losses Can Be Gains 

Losses, defeats, setbacks, adversity, and hardship create suffering because we resist. Life is a fluid experience, and the only certainty is change. When dealing with a personal or professional loss, perspective can help us turn these setbacks into gains if we are willing to perceive them as opportunities. Transforming the way we think, requires re-scripting our narratives about those circumstances, and being open to seeing the good. The pain and suffering we have endured help us become the ones with greater wisdom, compassion, understanding, and resilience. Life-changing events lead us to reflect on where we’re heading in our personal and professional lives, our values, needs, and aspirations.  

Marissa, a single mother of two, lost her job in the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic. It was a terrible loss that led to tremendous anxiety. Amid her struggle, she found a way to be there for her children while working in her job campaign. She learned the importance of being more present in their daily lives. When the time came to accept a job offer, she negotiated a hybrid work arrangement working from home three days a week. She also pivoted into another industry that gave her professional growth and more meaningful work. Her job loss ended being a gain for her career.

Bring perspective, knowing that everything has happened for your greater good. Even if you face a challenge, refuse to crumble in the face of difficulty. Life has not ended for you, and while it is life, there is hope. ‘This shall pass,’ and you will be able to see the gifts those challenges came to bring you. 

“My life’s perspective sets me free”

3. Appreciate Where You Are in Your Journey

Every year we start with great intentions and new year resolutions. After a year had passed, we feel frustrated when we realize we have not progressed as much as we wanted.

We are trapped in our demise when we cannot be happy or satisfied unless we achieve our goals. “I will be happy when I get the promotion.” “I will feel good when I buy the house or find my perfect partner.” An achievement-oriented fulfillment means that we make our self-acceptance conditioned to our successes. In other words, we make our self-worth contingent upon achieving external goals that might not be totally under our control.  

Another trap is when we want to accomplish something right now, even when we’re not ready yet. It takes years to become a great writer or achieve expertise and credibility in a new field.

When I left my corporate career to become a professional coach, I had expectations that my previous HR trajectory would lead me to easy access to corporate clients. I soon discovered it was not the case. A few years in the trenches of being self-employed had taught me the value of a focused presence, the importance of creating a relevant personal brand that resonate with my niche, and how essential it is to deliver outstanding services that lead to referrals. I appreciate my career change journey because every step has brought me where I am. Even when I still have a long way to go, I acknowledge my progress.

“I am grateful because every step in my journey is as important as the destination.”

And that connects me to my fourth takeaway:

4. Notice How Far You Have Gone 

Instead of feeling disappointed and judging ourselves for what we have not achieved, we can notice how far we have traveled in awareness, resilience, learnings, and growth, celebrating the positive changes and progress we reached.

Rossana was experiencing staff shortages when the second wave of Covid increased the demand for working hours in her hospital unit. She was dealing with more employee absenteeism and resignations than ever before in her entire career. She decided to tackle the issue from different angles: Leading a task force to keep existing employees from leaving, adjusting working hours to provide cross-coverage, organizing cross-training, and redesigning job duties. Despite feeling exhausted and frustrated, she came to terms with the immense resilience demonstrated and how adaptable and creative she has become. This staff crisis was not how she imagined closing the year, and yet, she is truly making the best in the current circumstances and growing exponentially as a more versatile leader.

Focusing your attention on what you have gained requires perspective and a willingness to appreciate yourself for who you are, even in your imperfections.  

“I acknowledge myself for all the growth and expansion I have achieved this year.”

Perspective is the art of reframing or finding different views about events and experiences in our lives. As we are ready to close 2021, I have learned that life is not a black and white, all or nothing destination, but a journey that can take many meanders and turns, leading to us growing, evolving, and becoming our best version. Learning how to count our blessings and making an inventory of how far we have gone can be the best way to close this year.

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