Getting Out of the “Muck” During Challenging Times

Getting Out of the “Muck” During Challenging Times
February 23, 2024 Jen Ryley

We live in interesting times, whether we like it or not.

The world around us is changing rapidly and even the foundations of how we lead others have made significant shifts over the last few years. Sometimes it can feel like we are waist deep in the mud and can’t get out.

A friend shared an amazing photo he took of a 3-foot-high lotus flower. What a great reminder that “interesting times” can create the adversity we need to grow. Lotus flowers only grow in the mud. They struggle and work, finally able to lift up their beautiful petals during the day and retreat again each night. They need the “mud” and the struggle to show their beauty.

Challenging times, our mud, is much the same. It creates the environment that gives us a choice. We can go through the struggle, learn from it and come out the other side as a beautiful, evolved lotus flower or we can fall back into the shadows and try to survive, hoping it will pass.

Some say we are destined to continue experiencing the same challenges until we learn the lessons required to overcome them. I agree with that. As leaders, and people, how can we recognize these lessons and work with them head on when the “muck” feels so thick we think we will never survive, much less thrive, and grow?

Here are a few tips to help us be more “lotus like” when we are stuck in the global and/or personal “muck”.


1) Self-Awareness

If you know GVG, you know this already. Self-Awareness is ALWAYS step one. Let’s ask ourselves a few simple questions.

“What is working and not working for me in this situation or environment?”

“Am I playing a victim or a full participant in my own life / work and the lives of others right now?”

“How am I helping or hindering myself to get “unstuck” from the mud and rise up?”

Answering these questions honestly and getting curious (without judgment) about our answers can often lead to some insights that help us move forward. We rarely stop to truly assess our role in challenging times. Being deliberate and making choices starts with self-awareness.


2) Choice – Focus on Emotional Intelligence Skills

If we had to choose one thing to focus on during challenging times, it would be Emotional Intelligence.

Research proves that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more resilient. They handle stress more productively and are able to lead others through change.

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the ability to understand your own emotions and also consider and even influence the emotions of those around you. Some people may have more natural ability than others, but for most humans, Emotional Intelligence can be learned. It’s like a muscle, it needs to be worked on in the right way to make it stronger.

Start by assessing your Emotional Intelligence skills and pick just a few areas that are most important to work on. Personally, I prefer Genos assessments, but there are several valid tools available. We know from research that when we lift one or two components of Emotional Intelligence, we can elevate the whole of our skill set. Unlike some leader specific skills, Emotional Intelligence is a competency that can support and help every aspect of our life when we focus on it. We often need a “whole person approach” during “interesting times” while surrounded by “mud”. Singular focus may not always help.


3) Connect with Tribe

We are a social species. Regardless of the situation, we are never alone (especially with technology today). In times of challenge, we often internalize and go within. Ask yourself these questions to re-engage with others.


“What kind of support do I need and where can I find it?”

“What mentors or leaders can I turn to for help or advice?”

“Who do I know that has been through something similar and came out stronger?” Reach out to that person


We know that happiness shared is doubled and suffering shared is halved. Find your tribe or others who are there to help. Reach out to professional resources if needed. A therapist, coach or consultant can make a huge difference in supporting your journey.

We are certainly living in interesting times. My wish for us all is to rise up through the mud and bloom as a 3-foot lotus flower as we enter into our next season.

“If you know how to make good use of the mud, you can grow beautiful lotuses.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Can we help you through your leadership “muck”? Reach out!