At some point in your career, youwill experience significant adversity. From a death in the family to an unexpected breach of trust to a major loss in business, you are destined to be tested. What happens to you is part of life. How you react to this experience and come back from something extremely difficult is what determines if you become better or bitter because of it.

After the initial shock, how does one "get back in the game" after experiencing a tragedy, loss or major setback? To answer this, we took a deep dive into the presence and power of resiliency with an award-winning leadership and brand strategy expert who turned tragedy into triumph for herself and her corporate clients.

Dr. Rachel Talton's Tragic Loss & Moment of Clarity
Dr. Rachel Talton became a widow at a young age. A sunny Tuesday afternoon in March changed everything for her. One moment, she was a strong, optimistic and successful banking executive married to the love of her life, a brilliant attorney with a promising future. By Tuesday evening, the woman with all of the answers was asking herself, "Why me?" After she suddenly lost her late husband, she vividly remembers the moment when she easily could have chosen to crawl under her bed and never come out--and no one would have blamed her. She had literally lost her best friend. She was devastated.

How did she deal with this? Thirty days after her husband passed away, a light went out in her living room. A self-proclaimed diva, Dr. Talton didn't know what to do. She went down to the basement, looked around at the fuse box and dropped down onto the floor breaking out in tears. "I was a pile of sadness and sorrow," Dr. Talton explained. "All I could think was, 'what am I going to do without him?' This experience was a metaphor for everything that was happening in my life."

Dr. Talton had a moment that felt almost spiritual. She had a decision to make. She could stay on the floor sobbing or get up and make something happen so that her husband's life and legacy lived on... that it meant something. It was at that moment when she decided to bring all of her and her husband's hard work to life through the lives of all the other people she would touch. She ultimately founded her brand strategy firm, Synergy, just a few months later, and Flourish 10 years later to honor the legacy of leadership he would have wanted for her.

Transforming from Pain to Purpose
These are the precise steps she took and would like to share with her fellow entrepreneurs, as she wished there was information like this she could have turned to when facing her biggest challenge.

Accepting Reality.
Princeton's Dr. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work demonstrating that an individual's decisions are mostly driven by emotions. Building on Kahneman's work, Gallup research has been able to quantify that 70% of our decisions are based on emotion.)

This realization came over Dr. Talton and provided her with a why, a reason to get up off the floor. It's not enough just to "accept the facts" intellectually. Full acceptance of reality occurs both emotionally and rationally. It's impossible to holistically go onto the next step until you fully accept reality both emotionally and mentally and get out of the state of disbelief.

2. Learning Lessons. Many times, though we face un-welcomed or unpleasant experiences, there is a positive or empowering lesson that usually emerges forth. Taking time to reflect when something bad occurs is really important. We must take a step back and understand what the lesson is here. Take the time to reflect on what the lesson really is, the impact on yourself as well as your company (including your employees and your customers) and what can be learned. Some examples:

There's no blueprint when you are in a state of shock after a tragedy. However, taking a step back after fully accepting reality will allow you look for what lessons can be learned and applied to the next chapter of growth that occurs after healing.

Leveraging Pain for Breakthroughs
Moving Forward with Renewed Purpose

This is where you focus on your outcomes and your legacy. Take those hard-earned lessons to heart. As you are experiencing pain, journaling is your friend. Write down what you're feeling and see what you can do with it. There is a definite continuum between walking around as a zombie after a major set-back to moving forward to moving with a renewed sense of purpose.

Living Unselfishly

Capture your feelings. Keep a journal. Write down what you're feeling and going through. Think about your why and your legacy. Understand who you are and what your foundational element is. It will support you. Your core values of why you were put here uniquely will prop you up when you need them. Get into a habit (i.e., every day) to look back and think about what your life means. Do it now while you can. And allow the adversities to help shape you in a positive way. You cannot escape difficulties in your businesses and your life. These steps will help you emerge on the other side of adversity a stronger person and a more effective leader.

Published on: Sep 10, 2015