You may have heard this story before, but here is how it goes:
A young lawyer went to her mother and told her about how hard she was finding the COVID-19 restrictions and that NOW she was being made redundant when the economy was in difficulties. She was so tired of struggling, and fighting lots of other lawyers for a decreasing number of job opportunities. It seemed to be one problem after another, with no end or positives in sight.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three saucepans with water and placed each of them on the cooker. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last one she placed ground coffee beans. She didn’t speak to her daughter; she just let the pans boil.
After about 20 minutes, she took the carrots and the eggs out of their pans, and ladled out the liquid from the third pan, putting each into a separate bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘Tell me, what do you see?’
‘Carrots, eggs and coffee,’ the lawyer said.
‘Take a closer look, what you notice about them?’
She looked at the carrots and noted that they were soft.
When she looked at the egg, she noticed it was tough and after pulling off the shell, she could see it was hard-boiled.
Finally, when she took a closer look at the coffee, she could smell its rich aroma. Her mother told her to take a sip and its strong taste made her smile.
‘What does all this mean?’ the lawyer asked.
‘Each of these things has been boiled in water in exactly the same way. They have all faced the same adversity. But you’ve seen how differently each of them reacted to it. The carrot began as strong, hard and unrelenting but became softened and weak through its ordeal.
‘The egg was fragile, with only a thin shell to protect its liquid interior, though boiling it strengthened and hardened its insides.
‘But the coffee beans were unique. When they were placed in boiling water, they didn’t weaken or change. They changed the water.
‘So, the question is: which are you? And how will you respond when you feel the heat of adversity?’
It is a question you should ask yourself. Are you the:
- Carrot, which seems strong but with pain and adversity wilts and loses strength?
- Egg, which starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Do you have a fluid spirit, but after financial hardship becomes ‘hardboiled’? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside, you are have a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
- Coffee bean, which actually changes the water, the very thing that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases its fragrance and flavour. When the hour is darkest and your trials at their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?
Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
Coping with the emotional turbulence following redundancy
How will you respond when you feel the heat of adversity and emotional turbulence?
Whilst you give some serious thought to how you can handle the challenges of your current situation, I would like to share with you some insights on how the emotional turbulence you experience can develop over different stages of change. These stages are as follows:
The thoughts that surface are along the lines –
1. Shock/numbness is a natural reaction to loss which should prevent ‘overwhelm’ by the intensity of feeling
2. This quickly leads you to the second stage……This can’t be happening to me’.
3. Blame/anger (The boiling water period!) which focuses on the why – ‘why did this happen to me or why is this happening now?’ Therefore, blame can arise where you are blaming ‘others’ for the situation you find yourself in e.g. the government, the organisation, society. It can also take the form of self-blame, which can immobilise you with doubt if it takes hold. See the daughter’s reaction in the story above. This occurs as a result of the shock arising where there is a mismatch between your expectations and the reality of your situation. This can also occur with awareness that your values, beliefs and goals are incompatible with the change being experienced. Further panic cuts off your ability to think logically. Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and isolation can take you to a dark place of depression or lead you to harden yourself, like the change experienced by the egg in the story above. You will all know someone who is stuck in past hurt and blame, either in their working or private life
4. Acceptance (the coffee bean response). The reason why this stage is quite challenging is that there has to be a ‘letting go’ of the ‘old’ ways of thinking, behaving and/or any negativity before you can alter your situation and ‘flavour the water’. This is when personal growth happens. There are three types of acceptance, and these may be useful for you to understand if you wish to become more like the coffee bean:
- Acceptance of what is. Life is full of contrasts and being able to practise detachment will help you reduce or remove the emotional charge from a situation.
- Acceptance of self. Accepting all of you and your actions as you travel on your business (and life) journey no matter how you acted. If it is too hard to ask: ‘what can I learn from this?’ when the boiling water is at its most intense, then, after things have settled down, look for the ‘gift’ of personal growth.
- Acceptance of others. In the workplace, accepting that your partners, staff and clients are all doing the best they can with what they know at this stage of their journey, learning their own lessons.
It is important to note that you cannot ‘flavour the water’ with what you don’t accept.
5. Exploration, problem solving and testing (tasting the coffee). This is the stage where you may experiment with different flavours of coffee. The challenge here is not to start this part of the process too early; you must allow yourself time to assimilate the stages listed above. This is because whilst the major shock of the boiling water is the adverse event itself (such as the redundancy), there will be aftershocks as you process the subsequent effects of it. A positive attitude is invaluable here as well as a strong desire to learn. Some lawyers go on to share their experience of overcoming their challenges to light the way for others.
If your resilience and adaptability are being acutely tested due to the unprecedented changes caused by this pandemic….
I have the following options for you:
My workshop ‘Boosting your resilience in a time of change’ is now being delivered online, via Zoom, in September and October. This course specifically helps you with practical tools to control three key areas to enable you to be like the coffee bean. Click here for more details and testimonials.
If insight is your challenge (perhaps you want to assess just how strong your coffee is), then the MiRo Psychometric Testing will provide you with the information to propel you through the change stages. It takes only 15 minutes to complete online and is a complementary option with any redundancy coaching option booked.
Do you want to take time out to upskill, like many lawyers in your position, or are you going to use this time to set up your own business in law or elsewhere?
My book ‘Business Skills? Don’t be daft, I’m a lawyer!’ contains practical advice and strategic tools so you can forge your own path. It contains detailed, inspiring interviews of 29 ‘legal’ business owners who have done just that and has been endorsed by three Managing Partners of successful law firms.
The redundancy coaching option is to enable you to survive and then thrive against the setbacks you are experiencing. From a coaching perspective – it does not matter if you are seeking support as a carrot, egg or coffee bean. Coaching starts from where you are and assists you to move from whichever stage you are stuck on. I will create a personalised programme* just for you.
If you are not sure if this is for you at this moment, here is my blog to help you decide: “Is it time you started your own Law Firm?”
Once you have decided, I can fast track you to your goals with a specific business coaching package. Find out about my business coaching and mentoring programmes here
This personalised coaching programme* would be right for you if you:
- Are finding your self-confidence or resilience dipping due to COVID-19 restrictions, redundancy or continued uncertainty.
- Are wondering what the next step is in forging your own path and the need to produce a business vision and plan for your business or consultancy.
- Want an insightful industry and business expert on your side whilst you continue to develop your legal business.
- Want to boost your communication and networking skills to achieve your commercial objectives.
- Are struggling to cope with this constantly changing environment.
- Have never had to bring in business before or only sporadically and are trying to increase your client base.
I can enable and support you to move forward and achieve your business and personal goals.
Telephone me for a friendly, no-pressure chat on 07921540039 to discuss further.
YCFL delivers strategic coaching, leadership, management and interpersonal skills training for the legal profession. Since 2003 Ann has trained nearly 7000 lawyers in leadership, management, business and interpersonal skills. She has also trained with the Coaching Academy and holds a H.N.L.P. certificate in coaching as well as being an N.L.P. Master Practitioner. She is a member of the Professional Speaking Association and Professional Speakers Academy.