How do you deal with setbacks, seeming mistakes or failures that inevitably happen because you’re alive and human? Have you been taught about resilience, or thought of the ability to bounce back as a basic life skill? It really is, and one that you need to get good at since life isn’t really skipping down a yellow brick road, and Oz turns out to be more fantasyland than the real world.
Resilience is a wonderful thing, and has become one of my favorite life-fitness words. Curve balls come at us every day. Stressors press all the time, and things so often don’t go the ways we wanted. It’s easy to get discouraged, lose your mojo and confidence, and even feel like giving up. Maybe your spouse cheated on you, or said s/he’s done, or was abusive and you’re traumatized and had to leave. You got a poor job performance review; a co-worker was promoted while you weren’t; someone let you down; you’re applying for schools or positions but keep getting rejections. Maybe you lost a deal, or bought stocks that tanked or a car that’s a lemon. You didn’t make the team or land the job you had your sights on; missed a putt or catch or free throw that would have won the game; broke your sobriety with a drink or drug or cigarette; missed a flight, or showed up to the wrong place and missed an important meeting. Maybe your phone was lost or stolen, or your account hacked. Examples go on and on, and trying times accumulate most every day.
Almost every motivational speaker has their story of bouncing back from hardship, to inspire persistence, vision and resilience. TV networks show the challenges and sacrifices of Olympic athletes so that watching them compete blows us away that much more. We all lose loved ones, and are touched to tears seeing people grapple with and overcome devastating illnesses, injuries, natural disasters, traumas, tragedies.
Then there are the tales that never get old, of celebrities we would never suspect endured major failures on their way to fame and fortune. Elvis was told by his first manager: “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son, go back to drivin’ a truck.” Walt Disney was fired early in his career for “not being funny enough”, and it took him 302 tries to get funding for his Disney World dream. Colonel Sanders was turned down over a thousand times before he found backing for his fried chicken recipe. A casting director once told Oscar-winning black actor Sidney Poitier: “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Fred Astaire’s first screen evaluator failed him: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.” Albert Einstein’s teachers thought he was “slow” because he didn’t speak fluently until age 9, and he was expelled from school and didn’t get accepted to technical college because he was too rebellious. Elton John nearly died of an overdose in 1975, and Drew Barrymore was in and out of rehab as a child/young actress before becoming an adult film star and producer. Steve Jobs lasted only one semester in college before dropping out to backpack travel and take psychedelics – which later inspired his Apple genius. And Oprah’s first boss told her she was “too emotional” and “not right for television”!!
Resilience stories are always so amazing, and I never tire of hearing them. Take time right now to reflect on or write about your own personal experiences. What difficulty or setback occurred? How did you feel? What helped you bounce back? Where did you go from there? Was there a gift in what happened? What did you learn, and how did your life evolve as a result?
So many stories start flooding my mind, from big crises to small troubles. Like stumbling over a hurdle to lose a 6th grade track race; dumping salt instead of sugar into a giant yoghurt-&-fruit salad I was helping make, that ruined dessert for over a hundred people; sitting on the sidelines for months from sports injuries; years of asthma attacks and migraines; to so many impossible moments caring for our beloved mother through the terrible twists and turns of Alzheimer’s disease.
I look and see my tendency to sink into doom and gloominess. There are so many ways to go down – in fear, anxiety, frustration, helplessness, pessimism, judgment, stress. Freeze, fight and flight reactions. I can feel negativity set in, and crippling energies wanting to overtake me. Then, surprisingly, somehow amidst all that, I can sense something inside that manages to bubble up, an inner spirit that always seems to appear to help me help myself through. The miraculous power of resilience won’t let me stay down, and rises within to help me rise back up and move onwards.
Bouncing back is really a trip, and so essential and empowering! Knowing the ins and outs is so important, so here’s a roadmap: 12 Steps to WALKING THE RESILIENCE ROAD.
1. REST: Take time out. Setbacks hurt and usually are draining, so start by taking time to retreat and rest. It’s okay to sleep, lick your wounds, and give yourself some down-time. 2. RECOVER: Realize you’re in a recovery process, from some level of trauma. There are feelings that need to be felt, thoughts and beliefs that need to be explored and expressed, and wounding that needs healing.
3. REMEMBER: ‘This too shall pass.’ Your body, mind and spirit like to feel good, and resilience is built in to you. Bouncing back is part of the DNA of your cells and systems.
4. RELEASE: Discover how to let things go, and you’ll feel better surprisingly quickly and be able to move on. The past really is over, but negative memories and pain linger and ruin the present when we hold on instead of letting go.
5. REVIEW & Take RESPONSIBILITY: Look for lessons learned, strength gained, and silver linings for the future. Take responsibility for your part in things then, and your thoughts, actions and resiliency now.
6. RE-SET: Everyone has personal patterns that get triggered by difficulty and defeat. Recognize and reset yours!
7. RESTORE: Trust. Harmony. Self-esteem. Respect. Confidence. Optimism. Hope.
8. REFRESH: Give yourself energy boosts by eating and sleeping well. Get moving, have fun, and do little or bigger things daily that allow you to feel positive, accomplished and upbeat.
9. REVIVE & RENEW: As you refresh your energy, renew your passion for having what you want!
10. RE-FOCUS: Choose and re-focus on your next moves, with excitement and commitment, so that you can get up and go after your good in new and renewed ways.
11. REVIVIFY! Feel your life-force strong and revived, revitalizing all you think, feel, say and do.
12. REJOICE! You’ve survived and are on your way to thriving, probably stronger and better than before, or quite possibly ever.
Resilience doesn’t require going through every step, unless you feel the need or want to, but keep to the general order. If you’re not sure you need to take bounce-back action, pay attention to your mood and mindset; feelings of apathy, anxiety, depression; shame and blame; intense sadness or anger; ongoing worry, dread or despair. Are you defensive or down on yourself? Short with others? Having trouble sleeping? Eating poorly, or self-medicating with addictive behaviors?
Prolonged negativity can be dangerous to yourself and to others. Resilience is positive energy and attitudes, coming from your core and leading you outwards into constructive action. It is an innate healing resource right inside your body, heart and mind. Turn to it and turn on its power!
Thomas Edison was told by his teachers as a young boy that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” It was by mastering resilience and the art of bouncing back that he grew up to become a legendary and prolific inventor: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.” It took Edison a thousand tries to get the electric light bulb to work, and he’s the person who famously said: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
It’s worth wondering if you might be one of those people - and being sure you’re not. If you’re struggling or discouraged right now, or next time you are, remember to climb up somewhere onto The Resilience Road. And remind yourself what Yogi Berra so rightly said: “It’s never over ‘til it’s over!”