What is true crisis in our work lives? How can we tell we’re heading into crisis, versus simply going through a really bad time? What are the signs of breakdown?

As defined in the Webster’s dictionary, a “crisis” is:

  • The turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever
  • A paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function
  • An emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life
  • The decisive moment (as in a literary plot)
  • An unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome
  • A situation that has reached a critical phase

Clearly, we’re taking about a “no turning back” situation – a time in which a reckoning is necessary and a re-evaluation called for. The definition of “crisis” used in my forthcoming book Breakdown, Breakthrough pertains to the occurrence of a deeply troubling, heart-wrenching, or grueling event or series of events that brings you to a recognition, finally and irrevocably, that change must occur now. Crisis pushes you to your knees, and cracks open your awareness that to repeat this experience (or this feeling, event, or situation) again in the same way would be close to intolerable.

Crisis and breakdown in the professional arena simply means that you suddenly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that how you work, what you work on, who you work with or who you are when you work, and where you work —these elements are causing damage to you, your life, your body, and your spirit. Crisis can often seem to strike out of the blue, yet we rarely get to crisis without some warning signs along the way. Crisis may look different for each person, but there is one unifying theme that defines it:

Crisis wakes up the individual who faces it. This wake-up call demands our attention, and often leads us to have a “breakdown” or compels us to “break down” once and for all what isn’t working, and shed it. Crisis reveals that significant revision in life or work is required immediately.

If you’ve had any of the following thoughts or considered these actions in the last year, you may be heading for crisis, and now is the time to head it off at the pass and embrace what it’s trying to tell you.

Have you ever:

  • Called in sick just because you couldn’t face what was on your plate that day at work?
  • Flirted with sabotaging your colleague’s or boss’s work because s/he’s been so awful to you and you hate him/her so much?
  • Allowed money and financial “benefits” to keep you in an abusive relationship at home or at work?
  • Been fired or let go (or failed at work) more times than you care to admit?
  • Wondered to yourself “What the heck is the purpose or importance of this work that I do?”
  • Snuck out of the office, or lied about why you are leaving, so that you could see your child’s soccer game (or performance, concert, etc.)
  • Realized that you can’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself?
  • Blamed yourself for “not fitting in” and feeling so alone at your current job?
  • Recognized that your company and its employees are unethical or worse?
  • Spent more time gossiping and complaining about work or your colleagues than in doing your work?
  • Believed you might have a nervous breakdown just getting done what has to each day for work and for home?
  • Fantasized frequently about another field(s) that would be very exciting to work in?
  • Sensed that you are missing important aspects of your family’s life, and will never get them back?

If you’ve had any of the above experiences and thoughts, you’re most likely heading for a major turning point in the road, and it’s time to grab control of the wheel.

Is a wake up call on its way to you?

Please post your wake-up call experiences here. What have you needed to revise in your life and work?

Thank you for sharing!