Thriving in Turbulent TimesTurbulence means disorder, chaos, and instability. Turbulent times are unpredictable, disruptive, and confusing. Sound familiar? Yes. It sounds like life.

While it’s tempting to want stability, predictability and orderliness, be very careful what you wish for. Writer, academic, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature Germaine Greer warns, “Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.”

Our greatest and most challenging turbulence comes with loss. That might include loss of a loved one, a job, health or mobility, a relationship, finances, certainty, or power and control. “Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight,” Emperor Augustus observed. Although we might like Nature to delight us more gently or less often, loss itself is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. How we deal with it determines whether it’s good or bad. We can become bitter or better. Turbulence can be the hallmark of the best of times or the worst of times. The choice is ours.

To thrive on turbulence is to be vibrantly alive. To avoid turbulence is to wish life away. We must find ways to harness this powerful energy force for positive change throughout our personal and professional lives.

A critical element of dealing with change — and vital to leadership effectiveness — is hope. In a Psychology Today article, “The Remarkable Power of Hope,” Joseph T. Hallinan a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer cites research studies showing that when we have hope “it can carry us. When we don’t, we can drown.”

One of the experiments he discusses took place years ago — when the ethical standards for laboratory animals were lax — with rats placed in water tanks and forced to swim or drown. Those rats that were pulled from the water just before drowning, held for a few minutes, and put back in the water survived much longer than the rats left to believe their situation was hopeless. Hallinan concludes, “there are obviously many differences between humans and rats. But one similarity stands out: We all need a reason to keep swimming.”

When we, or those we lead feel the rat race (or rat swim) is overwhelming and we’re drowning, hope is a vital life giving force. Hope can transform us from victims to victors.