The Road to Resilience: Part Two

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”

~Helen Keller

Last week, we talked about the importance of resilience. Adversity is unavoidable and comes in many forms, so we so we shared five tips for developing resilience, (If you don’t want to read the entire blog from last week, here’s a summary of our five pointers: Keep a healthy perspective, know your worth, tap into your support system, take care of your health, and forgive.)

While we hope these five tips will help you build resilience and avoid self-pity or defeat, we thought it might be helpful to talk about what resilience doesn’t look like. This way, we can evaluate our tendencies when dealing with adversity. So, without further ado’, here are five examples of non-resilience when facing trials:

  1. Making excuses and blaming. This is a common response when adversity stems from our own mistakes or underperformance. And, why not? Isn’t it easier to try to justify ourselves than to admit we’ve blown it? However, making excuses will never propel us forward, and it’s a colossal turnoff to others. If you want to better yourself and your relationships, remember to choose to accept responsibility and learn from your mistakes. It’s one of the surest signs of maturity.
  2. Using drugs or alcohol to cope. These are false comforts that mask the negative emotions (anxiety, despair, sadness, loneliness, etc.) we often experience when living through adversity. In fact, drugs and alcohol actually make things worse. Not only do they prevent us from dealing with the situation at hand, they can cause us to make poor decisions that only make matters worse. So, if you’re going through tough times, please reconsider reaching for that bottle of wine (or drug of choice). You will not come out on the other side with clarity, joy, or a solution. Rather, try those tips we shared last week.
  3. Withdrawing. It can be tempting to lean on ourselves or deny the problem when the going gets rough. Social withdrawal can be especially damaging because our friends, family, and other relationships are incredibly useful (and willing!) resources to help us deal with adversity. Isolating ourselves from the world and refusing to accept our current reality will only make matters worse—it can lead to self-pity, bitterness, and depression. Resilience manifests itself as the opposite of withdrawal. It means facing your challenges head on and relying on the support and wisdom of others to help get you through. #dontgoitalone!
  4. Whining. Nope—just don’t do it. If you feel that you need to be vocal about the adversity you’re facing, try using humor. (Humor, can, in fact, cause you to think more creatively. It’s great for problem solving and definitely more constructive than whining!) Whining will only damage your credibility—it won’t do anything to fix your problem. And, it’s BORING!
  5. Withering. In the last few years, we’ve witnessed a popular trend on campuses of seeking protection from anything that we either disagree with or might bother us. Such students are demonstrating an unprecedented level of fragility and hypersensitivity that is worrisome. Further, it reinforces the entitlement mentality that is permeating the younger generation. It’s time for administrators to step up. This is not preparing them for life after college.

 

Although it would be nice if there were a magic antidote to our adversity, we all know it doesn’t exist. It’s why developing resilience is paramount.

So, how do you approach adversity when it strikes? Do you have other examples of what resilience doesn’t look like to share with us? We’d love to hear!

The Road to Resilience

As much as we all wish that life was an easy, straight shot road to success and happiness, we know that isn’t the case. Even when we practice diligence, discipline, commitment, respect, honesty, and integrity as we work toward our goals, there’s simply no way to avoid pitfalls and obstacles in life.  We’ve talked about handling adversity before, but this week we’d like to specifically address developing the character quality of resilience.

Resilience is defined by Merriam Webster as: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Take a moment to reflect on how you usually respond to difficult situations in life. Do you bounce back quickly, or do you let life’s trials negatively affect your mood, outlook, relationships, motivation, and work/school performance?

Resilience is not a character trait we are born with. Sure, maybe some are naturally “tougher” than others, but it’s important to remember that resilience is a value we must develop within ourselves. Being resilient means making a conscious choice to not let adversity drag you into defeat or despair. It means choosing to look for a deeper meaning and potential life lesson in each bump in the road and forging ahead to the other side of the valley.

It is difficult to generalize on resilience because adversity comes in many forms, such as:

  • Personal underperformance—bombing the exam, being cut by the team, throwing a costly interception, forgetting lines in the play, getting laid off from the job, losing an election, etc.
  • Group underperformance—losing a winnable game, bombing a group project, losing a major contract to a competitor, etc.
  • Consequences of unhealthy/unwise/damaging decisions
  • Social/relationship struggles—challenges with making friends in new environments, maintaining friendships, break ups, family battles, etc.
  • Family dysfunction
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Death or illness of a loved one
  • Financial crises
  • Bad luck—life’s lemons that just happen…to us all.

As you can see, some adversity is from our own doing, but much of it is not. We don’t always have control of our situations, but we DO have control over how we approach our battles and challenges. And, that’s where resilience comes in.

With all that in mind, here are five tips to help you develop resilience in your own life:

  1. Keep a healthy perspective. Remember that everyone faces challenges and adversity, and some of the richest aspects of our life journey come from battling through our toughest times. We grow as a person and, in time, can use these experiences to come alongside others who are facing similar challenges. So keep the faith and work through the problem to the best of your ability, realizing that (in many cases), good can come from it. Today’s valley is NOT your new normal.
  2. Know yourself and your worth. When you have a strong sense of self, you are less likely to let insecurity and uncertainty drag you down. When you are self-assured, you can confidently handle life’s curve balls and know that mistakes or other negative circumstances are not a direct reflection of who you are as a person. And, you will be less likely to blame yourself for situations outside of your control. #Icandothis!
  3. Tap your support system. Whether you rely on your siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, mentors, or faith community (if applicable), it’s important to have a safe network of people who you can talk to and lean on during hard times. Make sure you have people in your life whom you trust to give you helpful, truthful, and constructive advice. It’s nearly impossible to be resilient when you’re going through life on your own. Surround yourself with positive influences through thick and thin. And, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
  4. Take care of your health. We’ve all realized at some point in our lives that our mental and physiological health are very closely connected. High levels of stress and other damaging emotions can lead to a greater increase of sickness, pain, and exhaustion. In order to handle adversity with resilience, make sure you are sleeping well, eating healthy, and getting in some physical activity. It matters much more than you may think!
  5. Forgive. Depending on the source of your adversity, it may involve forgiving yourself or others. It’s not always easy, but it’s difficult to truly recover without it.

 

When life hands you a lemon, your resilience, courage, determination, and positive support system will help you through. Being able to look beyond your current circumstances and knowing that your life is not going to crumble because of them is key. More often than not, our best life lessons and personal growth come from the hard times.  So, when you build resilience, every sphere of your life will benefit. You are a special and unique person—have confidence that you can always find a way to persevere, overcome, and make a comeback. #Yesidid!

Facing Adversity? Reach Out to Others.

Sometimes life just isn’t easy. Of course we wish it was, but bumps in the road, let-downs, and even heartbreak are inevitable. I bet you can think of more than a dozen situations when life just hasn’t gone your way. When we go through adversity, it’s easy to lose perspective and become consumed by our own situation. Sometimes, the hardships are significant and unquestionable. Other times, we might be making more out of our plight than it deserves, or as my mom used to say, we make mountains out of molehills.

Whether or not that is the case, there is a proven and effective solution for working through loss, obstacles, and adversity that may surprise you (and may even seem hard to do). It comes not by increasing our attention to our situation, but by focusing on others. You may not realize it, but it’s a total “win-win” situation. Let me explain…

 “A few years ago in a small, rural town in Oregon, a teenage boy died in a drowning accident. In all likelihood his death could have been prevented if an ambulance and trained medical personnel had been available. However, this small town was too poor to afford these services.

The boy’s mother grieved for the loss of her son, but she also transformed her grief into a service to her community. While she could not regain her son, she worked to prevent a similar tragedy. This resilient and determined woman became trained as an Emergency Medical Technician. After completing her training she raised money to purchase an ambulance and trained volunteers to help her. It is estimated that this volunteer ambulance service has saved the lives of over 100 people who might have died, like her son, due to a lack of emergency care. When interviewed, this woman said, ‘It’s easier to forget your own loss when you are busy helping others.’”*

If you’re currently in the valley and navigating a trial, find a way to help others even less fortunate than you. This could be a community service opportunity, a mission trip, or a visit to a soup kitchen, hospital, or just taking someone a meal. Or, reach out to a friend who you know is also going through a hard time. Offer to take them out to coffee and give them your undivided attention. Your compassion, encouragement, and maybe even your suggestions might make the world of difference.

When you look outside yourself and focus on others, truly remarkable things can happen. For one, you may find your situation isn’t as troubling or bleak as you thought. Learning of others’ struggles may make you feel more grateful for what you have. Secondly, you’ll experience joy and satisfaction from helping others. You’ll begin to count your blessings, which are easy to forget when facing tough challenges. It also helps you forget your own problems for a while and gives you a completely new perspective (which, many times, is exactly what you need!). Thirdly, just knowing you’ve helped someone out and lifted their spirits is enough to raise your own!

Have you ever reached out to other people in the midst of adversity? What effect did it have on your outlook? What became of your situation? As always, we’d love to hear from you!

*Story excerpted from The Healing Power of Service, by Edward V. Brown, as shared on www.energizeinc.com.

Learn to Handle Disagreements Like a Pro

With election season in full swing, we’ve all been seeing our fair share of disagreement lately. Whether it’s a politically-charged rant on Facebook (followed by the common “If so-and-so becomes president, I’m moving to Canada” threat) or a heated, televised presidential debate (and its subsequent media frenzy), disparities abound. Facebook friends fight with each other over who they believe is the best person for the job, and candidates throw insults at each other in order to be seen as the victor in the public eye. The political scene has always been divisive, with bravado and name-calling the order of the day.

Why is this? One reason is that differences are often irreconcilable due to underlying philosophies, values, and worldviews. Another reason is that most people don’t exactly handle disagreements well. They resort to verbal warfare—name calling, condescension, threats, and insults—in order to convert their opponent to their point of view (or in the case of political candidates—to marginalize their competition).  While negative campaigning often works in politics (sadly)  it’s an unhealthy recipe for life.

Let’s face it: opinions vary extremely, and most people arrive at theirs after legitimate, heartfelt thought. Often, differences are based on deep philosophical or religious views when there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong answer. Reasonable people may agree on the goal, but differ in methods. A good example is whether government spending or tax cuts do a better job at stimulating the economy. Democrats tend to favor the former while Republicans prefer the latter. Both sides have valid points. They just have different approaches to achieving a common goal.

Politics aside, I am here you to tell you this:

Throughout life, you’ll be in situations with others who aren’t “on the same page.” It might be with a family member, friend, or work colleague. When you’re interacting with someone with whom you disagree, it’s important to be “agreeable” in your demeanor. After sharing your thoughts and genuinely listening to his or hers as well, it’s okay to “agree to disagree” if you’re unable to come to a compromise. When each party is passionate about their point-of-view, compromises aren’t always possible! Whether it’s about politics or something else, remember to avoid making it personal, and recognize that differences of opinion are a part of life. In most instances, you’re not going to change their mind anyway!

Do a self-check, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you keep your cool and a respectful attitude when you are debating with others?
  2. Are you able to separate the person from his or her belief? Are you genuinely interested in hearing his or her point of view? Do you notice the difference between the two?
  3. What is your knee-jerk reaction when someone disagrees with you?

Above all, strive to be a thoughtful, open-minded, and agreeable disagree-er. It will benefit all parties involved and help you avoid a needless war of words!

 

4 Tips to Help You Learn from Your Defeats

In recent years I’ve had the great privilege of visiting an alternative high school that serves the neediest and most challenged of students. One particular encounter with a high school  principal—a man who had given his life to reach and impact disadvantaged youth—left me inspired and encouraged. His stories of the ups and downs of working with that student population reminded me of the unforgettable introduction to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” when the narrator would dramatically announce, “…the thrill of VICTORY and the agony of DEFEAT.” Seeing a homeless student with a violent gang background graduate from high school—victory! Seeing another go back to the streets—defeat.

No matter where our life path takes us, we’ll experience victories and defeats. Whether it’s sports, contests, career, dating, education, or business ventures, you win some and you lose some. Most of us don’t have too much difficulty with the winning part.

But sometimes, we don’t win. But does this mean that we’ve technically lost? No!  Many of our “losses” prepare us for our victories later on. They can be a major stepping stone—that is, if we choose to learn from our defeats.

Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to say that winning “is the only thing.” Famed basketball coach John Wooden, on the other hand, simply asked his players to play their best, and that was good enough for him. Although he set a very high bar for his players, he was more process driven than outcome driven.

I’m probably more in John Wooden’s camp (despite growing up 20 miles from Green Bay!). Winning may be an important goal, but I don’t believe we’re losers if we don’t finish in first. The key is to learn from a defeat and use it as input for the next practice and for future strategy.  Want a couple tips for making this happen, just in case? Try these:

  1. Don’t see a defeat as an “end all.” In most cases, it’s not the end of the road. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities, new relationships, etc. Something better may be around the corner! Consider if it’s a teachable moment and a catalyst for personal growth. As Helen Keller said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn.”
  2. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Change is not always a bad thing.
  3. Accept that you are not always right and you won’t always have the best strategy. Seek out advice and perspective from others.
  4. Approach situations with the mindset that you’re going to give it your all. You can’t be dissatisfied when you’ve done your very best!

It pays to humbly celebrate your victories and gain and grow from your defeats. You’ll be positioned you to do better the next time (perhaps with a better outcome!), and it will take some of the sting out of your losses! Helen Keller had a great perspective.

How have you handled your victories and losses? Do you view a short-term loss as a learning experience?? Are you satisfied with the outcome if you did your best?