In a recent newsletter, I wrote about how I handle the occasional basket of lemons life hands me. It is powerful to take a moment to reflect on the best practices you’ve developed for handling the ‘mess’ life sometimes tosses your way.

If you’ve found yourself in a mess (a situation or state of affairs that is confused or full of difficulties), it’s what you do with it and about it that counts.  

Your mess may be small or large. It can be internal or external. It could have been inherited or of your own design. Your mess may be minutely interesting or hugely life-changing. It may only take a change in your thinking to resolve it or it may take a village of support.

I’ve inherited a variety of messes at work and in my personal life. Frankly, I was born into a mess! What I know for sure is that lamenting about it for too long doesn’t really move your cause forward. Though I honor that it is sometimes part of the process.  

The energy it takes to blame and complain is better used to create resolution.

Here is the key to managing your mess: acceptance.

Acceptance is the place from which resilience is born. Resilience is your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. This is your toughness.  

I was born into quite a messy situation. Because my family moved often, I changed schools almost every year; to the tune of eight schools in 13 years. Imagine, cute little old me scared out of her mind every single year to start school. No friends. No familiar teachers. Starting over and over and over. (Did you know that the schooling curriculum is different in every state?) So, some years I would move and be in the “gifted” program for accelerated learning, and other years I moved and was years behind my classmates in math and science.

This was a mess one might be inclined to lean out of. I recognized the circumstances were out of my control and I chose to try hard every year. I put my game face on and made friends each year that I knew I wouldn’t keep. I studied extra hard to try to bridge the education gaps (though that wasn’t always possible).

Here is what accepting that early mess gives me today: I can walk into a room full of strangers and am not only unafraid but confident. Because I’ve done it a million times. I have an insane ability to take mass amounts of information, learn it quickly, synthesize it, and teach it to others. I’m keenly aware of how my social skills serve me all the time. When it comes to reading and understanding people, I am able to intuit things most others cannot because this was a survival mechanism for me as a new kid in school. These talents—whose development were fueled by my mess—have won me awards and promotions as a business person and made my success as an entrepreneur organic and relatively easy. I am also a wildly loyal friend, wife, and sister because I appreciate the stability these relationships give; support that was missing from my mess. If given the choice to live a life with a less developed version of these things, I would choose to lean into that mess all over again.

If you’re still swimming in the “this isn’t fair” mentality, that’s okay. You just aren’t ready to hop on the acceptance and resilience trains yet. You need more time. Sometimes, you need to get good and pissed off, or even better, find inspiration for accepting your mess. If you need inspiration, here is an article that highlights some of the most resilient people of our time.

So lean into your mess. It was meant for you in some way (no matter how twisted that sounds to you right now). These are your opportunities for learning and growth. What you do with it informs your ‘story’ and becomes your message. Choose to rise.

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