The Blog

A Chance to Break Through: How You Can Use Crises to Transform Your Life

In the course of a recent conversation with Tony Robbins, we realized that we both had been thinking about a similar problem: how can people faced with enormous challenges carry on without collapsing under the burden?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

A month ago, when Tony Robbins was passing through New York, we met for a drink. In the course of our conversation, we realized that -- from our different perspectives -- we both had been thinking about a similar problem: how can people faced with enormous challenges carry on without collapsing under the burden?

I had just finished my upcoming book on Third World America in which I write about the millions of middle class Americans who are suddenly finding themselves without a job, or without a home, or without the possibility of giving their children a better future. By the end of the book, I found myself consumed with identifying practical solutions and sources of help that those struggling could use right away -- instead of anxiously waiting for government to act. And I recognized that it all starts with each individual's inner strength and resilience.

Tony, meanwhile, had been working on "Breakthrough with Tony Robbins," a series of primetime TV specials for NBC focused on the stories of people who had been dealt an incredibly bad hand by life. He showed me a clip and I was not just deeply moved but, more the point, I was struck by how these people were able to find the strength to transform their lives -- even in the most extreme circumstances.

The clip I saw was about a newlywed who jumps into a swimming pool on his wedding day, hits his head, and instantly becomes a quadriplegic. When we first encounter them in Tony's special, premiering tomorrow night, he and his wife are trapped in their house -- the wife feeling depressed and angry; the husband feeling guilty and at a loss for what to do. The transformation in this couple's lives that we see by the end of the hour is stunning -- and I knew it would be really inspiring for anyone going through difficult circumstances of their own (most of which, of course, would pale in comparison to becoming a quadriplegic).

By the end of our meeting, Tony and I had decided do something on HuffPost that would focus on solutions instead of problems. The result is Breakthrough: The Power of Crisis, which launches today.

I now turn this blog post over to Tony:

Arianna and I have been friends for two and a half decades and when we recently met we talked about what a different America we're living in -- one where, for the first time in our history, we have a generation of people who believe the quality of life for themselves and their children will be lower in the future than it has been in the past.

It's not so hard to figure out why this is, all you have to do is turn on the news -- and hear about the job losses and the foreclosures and the bankruptcies and the destruction of the environment in the Gulf.

No wonder so many people are feeling like life is beyond their control. That numbing feeling tends to create what we call learned helplessness. We begin to almost expect to feel like we're puppets on a string reacting to events as opposed to free human beings directing our own destiny.

It's a dangerous place to be because, once we believe it, we accept it and we no longer even fight the challenges.

The question is, what do we do? Arianna and I have talked about this extensively. For me, it was creating a television show to remind people of what they already know. When you actually witness real people making real changes, two things happen. Yes, you are moved -- maybe even to tears -- but, more importantly, you are inspired.

The series, I hope, will remind people that we are more capable than we think we are -- that we all have greater inner strength than we give ourselves credit for.

We wanted to start a conversation about this on HuffPost. We both agreed the strongest approach is to focus on solutions, not problems, because most of us are already all-too-good at sharing the story of our problems. We know them so well, they can end up controlling us. And the most powerful way to find the solutions that can turn our lives around is to reconnect to what we already know so we can learn from ourselves and from others around us.

We've all experienced multiple crises in our lives -- be it health, career, financial, family -- and most of us have found ways to eventually break through.

What exactly is a breakthrough?

It is a moment in time, an opening when what seemed to be impossible becomes possible. You meet someone and get inspired, you learn something, you're given a strategy or tool. Or maybe you get angry enough to finally do it -- you take decisive action and your life changes.

Either you use stress or it uses you. Some people go through terrible things and are able to move beyond them and, indeed, use their experiences to help others.

How do you react in a crisis? We designed five questions that are very simple, but can be very useful. Answering them will trigger you to remember the path you took in your past to solve your own crisis, and allow you to share your breakthroughs with the HuffPost community.

Using HuffPost's social slideshow tool, you can give your answers in writing or in a short video. Here are the questions:

  1. What was your life like right before the challenge or crisis hit?
  2. What was the crisis you faced? What happened -- what did you feel and experience?
  3. What pulled you through this difficult, unjust, or impossible time? What was the trigger or catalyst for change? Was it a belief, a strategy, a faith, a person, a tool? What made the change possible?
  4. Once you turned the corner mentally or emotionally, what did you do to turn your life around?
  5. How is your life better today because you lived through the crisis? How have you transformed? How are you stronger emotionally, physically, spiritually? What gifts do you have to give because of this?

Back to Arianna:

Each week, our community will have the chance to select the top five examples of breakthroughs posted on the site, and we'll feature them. And each week Tony will come on HuffPost after his NBC show to join the discussion -- and to offer specific tools and strategies for overcoming crises.

So check out our Breakthrough blog, and answer the questions. Do it on video or do it in writing, but remember to focus on the solution, rather than the problem.

Together, we can use our collective knowledge and experience to support and help one another through even the most challenging times.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community