”Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit”…Bern Williams.
As we look forward at the start of the new year, we often tend to reflect on what has happened in our lives over the past twelve months. Looking back, we may be surprised by the challenges we’ve overcome, and the way we dealt with hardship, when in fact, our capacity for resiliency shouldn’t be a surprise at all. When you search the word “resilient” on Google, you will see approximately 59,700,000 results. What a fascinating statistic for a word that encapsulates an essential character trait that lies at the core of every individual. What makes a person resilient? Can resiliency be taught or are some people simply better able to rebound from adversity than others?
Resiliency is defined as the ability “to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” However, in my experience working with individuals who are either at a crossroads in their careers, or with organizations where a risk-adverse culture dominates, we are selling ourselves short when it comes to tapping into our innate ability to bounce back. We tend to forget about past success in overcoming challenges that were even more daunting than those we are currently facing.
How do we recapture the essence of our capacity to rise above our dilemmas and find the strength to act? The answer lies in accessing our instinctive ability to trust that “all will be well.” This is more than practicing blind faith. We are eternally optimistic about the future because we possess an inner – knowing, based on our past risk-taking experiences, that ultimately, the peaks and valleys are part of the journey. By viewing current circumstances in these terms, we have already demonstrated an understanding of what it means to employ resiliency as a habit.
Findings based upon a meeting of the American Psychological Association after September 11, 2001, to discuss resiliency in relation to the impact of the terrorist attacks, indicate that it is innate. The degree to which we exercise emotional strength is influenced by several factors. Family of origin; our ancestry, definitely plays a role. My parents were my greatest examples of overcoming tremendous adversity during their living years and I know that their legacy lives on in me. Ask yourself: Who are the primary influencers that shaped my thinking? When we understand the significance of the impressions left by these individuals, we gain insight into the manner in which we respond or react to our current reality.
In order to rise above our challenges of any description, we need to focus on developing a mindset of managing rather than coping. “Getting a grip” is hardly a proactive approach! Yet, it is a business and life strategy that many individuals and organizations adopt to deal with adversity as well as uncertainty. Rather, the solution lies in the willingness to dig deep and gain strength from past experiences. We can overcome seemingly impossible challenges in the present by drawing upon our own inner resources.
Frame your reality
Ask yourself: “How do I perceive the enormity of my current challenge?” When faced with a predicament that feels overwhelming, reflect on a different time in your life when you felt similar angst and were able to triumph over the situation. Realize that you can give power to either negative OR positive thoughts and you can choose to be consumed by a pessimistic attitude, or otherwise. By dwelling on destructive beliefs, there is no room to move forward.
Flex your resiliency muscle
Every test we face in life will continue to serve us if we have the wisdom to view life in this fashion. It may seem bizarre to consider how an individual can gain from an experience such as war or financial ruin. Yet adversity provides an opportunity for insight. The question is whether we are able to tap into our capacity to look at the event in this manner. We are the sum total of all our life experiences and we can draw upon these anytime.
Find opportunity in challenging times
There are examples from every corner of the globe of individuals from all walks of life who overcame adversity. Their stories of doing whatever was necessary to rise above their circumstances are a testament to the power of adopting a mindset of resiliency. I encourage you to seek out these examples for inspiration, as they connect us to our own character and inner resourcefulness.
Being depressed, discouraged or disappointed at certain times is natural. Almost everything we experience on a daily basis is outside of our control; therefore, it’s no wonder that we often feel a sense of powerlessness, which can crescendo into a state of overwhelm. Adapting and/or reacting are part of the human condition. However, as we have seen, tapping into our inner resolve is within our control. Never underestimate the power of your own ingenuity and resourcefulness.
We do possess the capacity to flex our resiliency muscle, and we should choose to do so, or else it will quickly atrophy. In the words of Dr. Michael LeBoef: “Adversity is an experience, not a final act.” Think of what is possible when you choose to live in your imagination and begin to channel positive energy, commitment and belief in this direction.
~ Michelle Ray