Resilience, Self-Acceptance, and Forward Movement
How to make the most of everyday (even the stressful ones)
“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” Bern William
When writing this post about resilience, I was aware that I had to combat the serious factor for my readers. Yes it’s true. It is far more light-hearted to write about spring flowers, wine and cheese pairings, and where to find the new spring/summer line of Manolo Blahniks. And while I adore such entertaining fare, as an executive and personal coach I must admit that for me, a discussion on resilience is about having a light heart.
Resilience is a hallmark of a strong will, but it requires patience and positivity. It is also something that none of us are born with and instead, we must cultivate it. While we may want to be taller than we are, have blue eyes instead of brown, or curly hair instead of straight – there is little that we can do. However, the much more important characteristic of resilience is ours for the taking.
Some people think that resilience means a lack of emotion, sensitivity, and/or requires one to be detached and even-keel. This is simply not true. One can have very complex and intense emotional reactions to trauma such as hysteria, anxiety, and/or depression. However, when it is all said and done, these very same individuals then make an active choice to see themselves as distinct and separate from the traumatic events. They are able to “bounce back” because they experience the difficult feelings, put them into context, and then move on through and past them.
Another misunderstood aspect of resilience is that it is not necessarily the end result of having had loving parents and a happy childhood. While that may help, some individuals who have suffered extreme hardship throughout their childhood actually have greater levels of resilience. They were forced at a young age to find a way to unhook from the emotional toxins or physical trauma around them. They had a choice to either succumb or survive, and so those that survived did so by developing an outlook that enabled them to move forward and out above the danger.
So how do we cultivate and strengthen our own resilience? One way is to see any stressors as learning experiences and to try to find a positive aspect to the hardship. This is definitively not the same as “positive thinking” or keeping “happy thoughts” which to me is only a superficial strategy at best. Instead it is finding a positive detail or aspect to what has happened and focusing on that - even if the feelings around what has happened are harrowing. A very real example of this would be with regard to the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While so many people suffered from the catastrophic events of that day, the individuals that were able to view themselves as “survivors” rather than “victims” healed better. Further, if they went on to focus on having “gratitude” for being alive - that helped them to heal as well. This is a great example of finding a positive aspect and using that aspect as a tool to bounce back.
We all want to be happy all of the time, but given the vagaries of life that is virtually impossible. However what we can do is to develop greater resilience so that the difficulties don’t have quite the same negative impact. In coaching, I work with my clients to help them cultivate an outlook that supports them and strengthens their resilience. While we don’t have to be happy about the unanticipated stressors in life, we can make a conscious choice as to how we process them. We can come to know that we are bigger than any hardship that comes along and we can choose to move forward with a light and lightness that makes everything else that we experience in life a lot more bright and beautiful.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly” Richard Bach
Liz Hoffmann BA, MBA, CPC is a successful Executive and Personal coach and owner of Atlas Coaching LLC in Fairfield. Liz coaches her clients to successfully navigate change and find greater satisfaction in their lives. Her expertise is in relationship challenges, career situations, and health. Her coaching style is fun and interactive, and Liz’s true passion is in helping individuals to shed self-limiting beliefs, negative thought patterns, and unnecessary stress.