It’s frustrating, to be sure, but so true: the “pop quizzes” that challenge us the most invariably provide the best and most long-lasting learning experiences…if we let them!
And that, my fellow humans, can be a big “if” for many of us, most of the time! That’s because the packages pop quizzes come in so effectively invite us to resist them.
The lessons can we learn from experiences that don’t feel good, and especially the ones that cause enormous turmoil and even emotional pain, are our biggest growth opportunities. Why? Because it really takes something to accept that they have happened, to persevere through them, and to be open to what they can teach us.
By definition, a challenging pop quiz will do one or more of the following:
- Interrupt the normal course of our day/week/month/year/and even life!
- Require resources (whether time, money, patience, knowledge, skills, a support network, etc.) that – just coincidentally of course! – are in short supply in that particular moment
- Put us in direct conflict with someone or something that we don’t want to have to deal with, even in good times
- Make us question our judgment, our abilities, our trust in others, and our assumptions about world – not only our place in it, but whether we are safe and secure in general
- Trigger feelings of irritation, anger, resentment, helplessness, victimhood or even hopelessness…to name a few!
So yes, pop quizzes are disturbing! But what if this event is here to bring us to a new and better place? If you’re like most people, you don’t make changes unless there is urgency. So if an event creates urgency, it opens the door to change, so you can make a decision about something and go from there.
We might learn to have a new level of awareness of parts of ourselves we typically don’t listen to. They might warn us of a bad choice we’re about to make or, conversely, drives us to from them. Therefore they are often our biggest gifts.
The growth that can come from a pop quiz is not always intangible, either. Here’s a clear example: problems with an outdated or even hacked website (one of the nightmares most small business owners always have in the back of their minds!) will in most cases result in a newer, better one. Let’s assume the website in question hasn’t been updated in years. That particular pop quiz could lead to an updated and more appealing design and a more enjoyable user experience for your customers, with clearer communication of what you have to offer and how to access it.
Having to rebuild and freshen up that website could lead to lots of at least one very tangible benefit: more people discovering that business and becoming enthusiastic, loyal customers – what’s not to love about that? Other than the painful process that came first when the site started having problems!
And that is exactly my point: while you’re in the painful part of the process, it’s hard to remember to remind yourself that something great can come of what you’re going through. Our feelings about the pop quiz often cause us to shut down, at least initially, our capacity to think creatively about possible solutions that will help get us through the challenge. Until we get back conscious control of our thoughts, have the self-awareness to set an intention for our desired outcome, and can imagine having gotten through the pop quiz successfully, we’ll be metaphorically stalled out on the side of the road.
Since the tech world changes, evolves and improves so rapidly, that business owner in all likelihood will learn about powerful new technology options for making business easier, more effective, and probably even less expensive. Those are some very tangible, very valuable, real life benefits to having had that pop quiz!
So here’s my suggested self-empowering “assignment” for you for the weekend and the coming week:
- Choose a recent or recurring pop quiz from your own life that is still causing you frustration, irritation, stress, sadness or any other “stuck” feelings.
- Acknowledge every “negative” thought, feeling and/or belief you had or are still having about that situation, its aftermath and the future you’ve imagined for it.
- Allow yourself to have those thoughts, feelings and beliefs as legitimate – remember, no judgments or “shoulding on yourself“ for having them.
- Imagine some uplifting, positive, inspiring thoughts, feelings and beliefs that you would rather be having instead.
- Using the “new, improved website” metaphor, envision being on the other side of the pop quiz, with it fully resolved and having benefits you never would have imagined coming from it (you don’t have to identify what those might be, just visualize the feeling you experience from having received positive, tangible results).
- From that space of possibility, now brainstorm about ways you might resolve that pop quiz that you haven’t thought of before, remembering that the rule in brainstorming is that you don’t shoot down ANY idea matter how unrealistic, outlandish or even crazy it might seem. Let your mind envision everything that comes up, and envision enjoying that outcome.
If you happened to come up with solid, usable ideas, bravo! But that is not necessary for you to get something powerful from doing this exercise. The most important benefit from doing it is to get you “unstuck” and moving forward again.
Just as we “can’t steer a parked car,” we will remain unable to navigate in any positive direction until we consciously decide to stop listening to the upset part of us and start moving forward again because that’s what we are committed to.
Rising above our pop quizzes, making new decisions and learning new lessons is the most constant part of life. As I’ve said many times,
“In school we get lessons and then the quiz, but in life we get the quiz and then the lessons!”
Remember that, and this process, next time a pop quiz appears in your life!