All of us have faced adversity in some form. Sometimes this adversity can paralyze us and stop us in our tracks. Resilience is the key to getting us moving again - digging ourselves out of the bog and back on track. But what exactly do these "shovels" of resilience look like?
My father, who is not only a mentor to me professionally, he is also one of the smartest and kindest men I know, once said to me “the harder the challenge, the bigger the reward.” When you are in the midst of the challenge, being suffocated by it almost, this statement can be infuriating. It can be very difficult to see how you could possibly ever come out the other side of it never mind identifying a reward. I am so blessed to have had such incredible role models. I credit both of my parents for my resilience - I have a father who is philosophical about life, he’s a realist and a problem solver. And I have a mother who is one of the strongest women I have ever come across. She has taught me to tap into an inner strength which I have always drawn on when faced with challenging times. While I have always been quite resilient in challenging times, last year I was faced with one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever had to deal with, and in some ways I am still living through it (You can read more about my personal challenge here). I have thought a lot about the key attributes that got me through that 'muddy' time - My shovels of resilience that continue to dig me out of the bog whenever I feel immobilized.
Presence and Perspective:
When you are deeply stuck in the muddy waters, it is often very easy to keep your focus fixed on the muddy waters and how cold and uncomfortable you are. If we hone in on this discomfort, it is very easy to feel hopeless and sorry for ourselves. It is also very easy to miss the fact that the sun is still shining. Outside of the muddy waters, flowers are still blooming. Whenever I am feeling like I have lost control of my challenge, feel overwhelmed by what life has thrown at me, I take a few minutes to check myself and gain perspective of the situation. I try to focus on the wonderful things I DO have in my life, the things that keep me going. I remind myself what is important. C.O.O of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivered a powerful commencement speech at the University of California, Berkley, earlier this year, about tackling adversity. She says, “Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier.”
One of the most empowering lessons I ever learnt in my life was the power of choice. Even in the worst of situations you have a choice. You may not love the choices you have but you are still empowered to choose which path you take. This lesson taught me to always take responsibility for my circumstances and with this mindset always feel in control of my life. With this mindset I control my environment rather than allowing external factors to control me. Individuals who blame their circumstances on external factors are allowing these factors to dictate their future pathway and that is something that can potentially keep you very much entrenched in the mud.
Resilient people do not need to be super beings. All of us need support from time to time. Whether it is someone who will listen to you vent your frustrations or simply sit with you in silence. Someone who will do your laundry, cook dinner or pick the kids up from school. Someone who can help you figure out the next step or someone who will stand by your side while you take that next step. We are not alone in this world. We are surrounded by people who are willing and able to support us. However, asking for help can be tough for a lot of people. Perhaps it is because we feel it is a sign of weakness. Perhaps we feel like we don’t have someone in our network that can fulfil our need for support. I would challenge both of these assumptions because often we simply need to open our eyes and hearts to the people around us. I learnt this lesson this year, when faced with adversity, I was completely overwhelmed by the acts of genuine kindness. I could not believe how generous and thoughtful people, who were in many ways still strangers to me, could be.
Ultimately we are all going to face adversity in our lifetimes. Some more than others but there is no question that you will find yourself in challenging muddy waters. How will you get yourself out of the bog?