One of the consequences of the current pandemic has been disappointment: loss of jobs; delayed weddings; postponed events; graduations curtailed. Some of these are life events that can never be replaced. Some people find it very difficult to move past disappointment. They get stuck in blame and resentment. Others move through disappointment and find ways to grow in spite of the losses. What makes the difference?
One of the 5 pillars of happiness in the field of Positive Psychology is meaning. Finding meaning in the midst of life is critical to being able to bounce back from adversity. Those who are the most resilient, who move through disappointment into growth, are the ones who find meaning, even in loss.
Let me give an example. Lizzie Styles is a world class chef. She has worked at Minibar in Washington, D.C., a two Michelin starred restaurant, with Master chef Jose Andres. She was one of only 25 student to receive the culinary grant, “Ment’or”, to study the culinary arts around the world. She worked in restaurants in Spain and Australia with some of the finest chefs anywhere. She arrived in Nashville to work at the famous Catbird Seat restaurant where she was the Chef de Partie. She was clearly a young chef on the rise. And then the pandemic hit and, for the first time, Lizzie found herself out of work.
Lizzie was out of work for two months and then she was offered the position of Signature Experience Server at Arrington Vineyards in Arrington, TN. This was not a vocational direction that Lizzie was planning, but it was a job and it paid the bills.
At this point, it would have been easy for Lizzie to become frustrated and to move home to Maryland with family and wait for the pandemic to end so that she could get back to her career as a chef. She could have become bitter and gotten stuck in her disappointment. But Lizzie found meaning in the midst of the disappointment. She determined that working with wine would only add to her culinary experience. She decided that rather than simply a disappointment, this was an opportunity to grow and to learn. She has set for herself the goal of completing the WSET Wine Certification program and has redirected her career to eventually become a personal chef.
Lizzie is a wonderful example of finding meaning in the midst of disappointment and loss. Her example inspires me to consider how to take my challenges and look for new opportunities. If you need a word of encouragement during these difficult days, just remember Lizzie’s story.