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Turn Breakdowns into Breakthroughs

If you are living large… if you are putting yourself out there in a big way… if you are striving for incredible excellence… if you are shooting for the moon…

You will have breakdowns.

It’s part of the deal, and it’s a beautiful part of the deal.

In fact, if you’re not having breakdowns regularly, you’re probably not shooting high enough, jumping far enough, or playing big enough! When you have the opportunity to commit to a big project, breakdowns are inevitable.

Years ago, before I was into running, I committed to running a marathon. I have a wonderful friend named Gordon Starr who was raising money for the Hunger Project through running marathons. He had committed to raise a million dollars in ten years by running a marathon each year and raising money for every mile he ran.

I loved that he did that. So, I said to him, “If you raise a million dollars I’ll run that last marathon with you.” I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t raise the money, but he did!

My friend Julia Dederer was a runner, and she agreed to train me. I got up every morning at five o’clock, and I ran and ran and ran. I ended up running a marathon in Moscow right around the time of Perestroika, which was a huge privilege and a beautiful big deal for me.

As I was training, I had breakdown after breakdown.

I was starting at zero. First I was able to run a mile, then two, then three, and I thought “Twenty-six miles? There’s no way!”

Then I got to five. Then to ten.

These breakdowns along the way showed up like “I don’t want to do this anymore… who’s idea was this?” I had made this project public so people knew what I was up to, and I got embarrassed when I started to wane in my commitment.

The breakdowns that I faced all the way through that process (even when I was running the marathon and thought I couldn’t finish) turned into some of the richest and most powerful breakthroughs I had had in my life with my own body.

If you’re committed to something, you will have regular breakdowns. They are the opportunity for the breakthrough out of which you know you will become the person you want to be.

We have simple breakdowns daily. We can recognize them as any sense of overwhelm or upset. Sometimes we can’t fulfill on our word, or we have breakdowns in relationships, or projects don’t go the way we want.

When we get through these moments, we realize what the teaching was all about. It becomes a breakthrough.

The tremendous power of a breakdown lies in knowing that it’s the first step to a breakthrough that you couldn’t have imagined without the breakdown.

Now, I don’t mean to say that you have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough.

But to use it as a gift, a blessing, something that holds you accountable to be something greater than that breakdown. That’s the skill. It’s not something that will stop you but that will pull you toward the vision you had in the first place.

I recommend allowing yourself to declare a breakdown when you’re in one.

This can end up being much more effective than doing what we often do, which is to say “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with the world?!” These are perfectly common responses when things aren’t going well. However, they keep you disempowered.

To declare a breakdown is to declare: I’m in charge now. I’m going to compost this into a nourishing, powerful, unbelievable breakthrough.

7 Responses to Turn Breakdowns into Breakthroughs

  1. nice to know i will follow your advise

  2. So simple and yet so powerful. In the midst of a breakdown, the transformational opportunity can be difficult to see, let alone embody. Can one get to the stage of actually relishing a breakdown as it is happening? The other day, I swam 20 lengths in an Olympic-sized pool. I felt so proud of myself, as this benchmarked a week straight of achieving this goal. That is, until I pulled my forgotten iPhone out of my trunks pocket and realized I had drowned it to death. Breakdown! I felt ashamed and embarrassed and called myself “bonehead”.

    What I noticed was that this internal self-flaggelation didn’t last for days, like it might have in my past. I quickly began to look for habitual ways of thinking and unconscious behavior that led to my iPhone’s watery death. For one, I carry my phone with me everywhere…literally! Maybe I can look at how much I unconsciously reach for it or must stick it into my pocket. Maybe I can turn this breakdown into a breakthrough! And even thank my unconscious behavior for showing me how addicted I have become to social media and always needing connectivity (as distinct from connection).

    Thank you, Lynne, and others who have taught me this life skill!

  3. marilyn flower:

    thanks for this! In some ways, a breakdown is a way to acknowledge we are not in charge, but the soul-vision for our life appears to be as this is an opportunity to let go of what is old an not working and embrace an even bigger or more authentic vision for our lives. its the phoenix rising from the ashes of our lives…sometimes it helps to remember that birth and re-birth is messy, noisy, chaotic, painful and unpredictable. But what an opportunity to invite or be open to an even bigger vision of an even more authentic life!!! at times like this I like to ask open ended questions like: what could this possibly be preparing me for? What new idea or quality or life is trying to break through to me via this break down. as i am broken open, what then is revealed from the exposed vulnerable inside me?

  4. Lynne,
    This article is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today! Sure puts a better context around the current breakdowns/growing pains I’ve been experiencing. Thanks for sharing so vulnerably and for your ongoing inspiration.
    With love,
    Karen

  5. Maria:

    I had a work breakdown recently (actually perhaps a little string of them) and this reminder is exactly what I needed to hear. I am up to something big, and I do have a big vision! And I know these breakdowns will become breakthroughs – starting now. In the declaration. Thank you for this inspiration!

    Much love,
    Maria Dion

  6. Carolina S Berg:

    I really loved this … thank you.

  7. Maren Abatielos:

    I love that and this is what I actually did instinctively yesterday after having made a big mistake.

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