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Stay Resilient: 4 Ways We Deal with the Blows that Life deals us

Stay Resilient: 4 Ways We Deal with the Blows that Life deals us

I love good surprises, but the bad surprises aren’t so much fun.

I wake in the morning. Get out of bed. Get dressed in my best suit. I head downstairs and turn on the Nespresso machine. I wait while it warms up. I place a blue capsule in the space. I push the button for a long coffee. It cranks up its pump motor and coffee begins to pour out into my cup.

I take the cup and as I turn, I bang into my girlfriend. Coffee covers my clean shirt, my suit pants. I’m drenched in coffee. How do I react?

There are crap things that can happen to us in a day: from the little things like spilt coffee, unexpected traffic, lost keys, forgetting stuff at home through the bigger blows like a car crash, the end of a relationship, loss of our job, loss of a loved one.

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The blows in life push me off-balance. It is hard to enjoy life when I am off-balance. I am not productive when I am in this place.

What can we do?

Martial Arts and Intentional Reaction

Martial arts are about dealing with blows. In the case of karate, judo or aikido these are real physical blows in the form of punches and kicks. A punch in the face hurts. A kick in the ass hurts. Martial arts are about practicing to handle these blows so that you don’t get hurt too much.

Karate is about blocking the blow. Judo is about using the energy of the blow against the attacker. Aikido is another level of response entirely.

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How Aikido Deals with Blows

George Leonard brought the Japanese martial art of Aikido to the USA back in the 1950s. He and 3 friends opened a dojo in California. He spent his whole life practicing Aikido. He was asked to write a short article for a local magazine on the art of mastery. The goal is discipline of daily work to improve towards excellence. His article was requested so often by readers, that he was asked to expand the material into a book. The book is called Mastery. The book explores the path towards excellence. It may be excellence in chess, excellence in tennis, excellence in piano, excellence in karate, or excellence in living.

We don’t have space in this short post to go into all the ingredients of mastery which George describes. There is only space to cover one idea. The idea is the decision to react intentionally.

Are You Practicing To Be Frustrated or Practicing To Be Productive?

Imagine Mr A and Mr B. They both had coffee spill on their fine clothes this morning. Mr A is pissed off. Mr B is fine. Why does the same occurrence cause two human beings to end in two different internal states?  Mr A is in a negative, disempowering state. Mr B is in a positive, empowering state.

It is not what happens to us that really shapes our lives. It is how we practice responding. It is a little bit of choice, but a lot of habit. If I am in the practice of getting angry and frustrated, I am getting better and better at turning any start point into a frustrated state. If I am in the practice of seeing the bigger picture, I am getting better and better at keeping myself in a productive, empowering state.

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George tells us that there are 4 ways that humans respond to the blows of life.

The 4 Responses to the Blows of Life

The four ways of responding that are demonstrated by George Leonard are:

  1. Defensive/Aggressive – respond to the blow with anger and a direct attack. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I tell him that he was late yesterday.
  2. Victim – respond to the blow as a victim “Poor me, this always happens to me”. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I break down in tears.
  3. Denial – respond to the blow as if nothing happened. “I feel nothing, I will go on as I am.” My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I ignore it and dive into my donut.
  4. Leader – respond to the blow by centering myself, really feeling how the blow affects me, accepting the blow, accepting my feelings and then acting once I have blended the energy of the external blow with my own. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I notice that I feel attacked, I notice a surge in emotion, I notice an urge to respond. I pause accepting this energy and I say “It is 12:15. Do you still have time?”

The Practice of Resilience

This is a matter of practice, not choice. If I practice centering myself for the little blows, I am preparing myself to make good choices when the bigger blows hit. How do you choose to practice?

By the way I screw this up 8 out of 10 times but one highly empowering view from a Buddhist philosophy is this: if only once in your day you pulled yourself back from a knee-jerk reaction and made a conscious intentional decision – it has been a good day.

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Don’t put yourself in a guilty state because you reacted poorly this morning. The fact that you are now aware of that poor reaction is a good step forward. Get ready for life’s next blow. They come guaranteed.

Featured photo credit: alixroth via flickr.com

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Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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Last Updated on February 19, 2020

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

Books give us the opportunity to live vicariously through the lives of people with greater wisdom than ourselves. They stimulate our brains and help us not only solve the problems we struggle with, but also motivate and inspire us with new ideas.

One of the great things about people who think positively and live happy lives is that they love to help others do the same. There are countless positive-thinking books and these 15 are a great way to help you start living a happy life.

1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

mans search for meaning

    This book goes through the horrific struggle of Viktor Frankl who survived holocaust concentration camps. The only thing that kept him going was his idea that everything, even the worst of human suffering, had to have meaning. If you’re struggling through anything in your life, I guarantee the words of Viktor will give you courage to press on and find happiness.

    2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

    tuesday with morrie

       

      What is life’s greatest lesson? Morrie, a retired professor with a fatal disease, opts to use his predicament to share that message as opposed to just giving up and dying. Following the last few months of Morrie’s life will help you realize what is truly important in life.

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      3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

      Lecture_Book

        Similar to Tuesdays with Morrie, Randy is a college professor who finds he has a fatal disease with only a few months to live. It is customary for professors at his university (Carnegie Mellon) to give a final lecture with the basis of ‘what wisdom would you impart to a large group of people if it was your last chance?’ Randy stays incredibly positive throughout and even keeps the lecture humorous and entertaining. Amidst it all, his wisdom is a powerful reminder about how to live a happy, full life.

        4. Earning Freedom by Michael Santos

        earning freedom

          Michael Santos was sentenced to 45 years is prison for selling drugs. During his term he fought hard to earn a masters degree and half of a doctorate (halted by the warden) while writing numerous books educating students about the criminal justice system. This book provides a fascinating window into his entire sentence (released in 2012) and how a positive attitude and strong work ethic got him through it. If he found happiness in prison through positive thinking, we can do it anywhere.

          If you don’t have the attention span to finish a long book, the following quick reads are shorter but just as powerful.

          5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

          little engine that could

            This book has shaped childrens’ minds for years. It illustrates the undeniable fact that when you think positively and believe in yourself, you can accomplish extraordinary things.

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            6. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

            The_Giving_Tree

              Happiness is found in giving. What does it mean to love someone? What would you sacrifice for someone you love? This children’s book teaches a valuable lesson about unconditional love and what it truly means to be happy.

              7. The Dash by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson

              the dash

                “When your life is over, everything you did will be represented by a single dash between two dates—what will that dash mean for the people you have known and loved?” (Linda Ellis) We don’t choose a lot of things about our life – parents, birthplace, etc. – but we can choose what that dash between those two dates means. This short book will give you a great perspective on making your life worthwhile.

                8. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

                As-a-Man-Thinketh

                  “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state… Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.” (James Allen) This book might be short, but it is jam-packed with statements that will make you stop and think. We truly become what we think we are. Negative thoughts affect us more than we know. Positive thinking = happy life.

                  9. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald  Miller

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                  a-million-miles-in-a-thousand-years

                    You are the author of your story. No matter how boring or dull your life has been, you can always turn it around. Donald was in a rut in his life. He had no desire to get out of bed and found himself questioning the meaning of life. Eventually he realized he wasn’t a slave to a pre-written script. He used that mindset to turn around his thoughts, actions, and life. When the closing credits roll on the story of your life, what will people say? Never forget that you have the power to push your limits and live an interesting, happy life.

                    10. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

                    travelersgift

                      The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story about a man who is overwhelmed with life and finds himself thrown into numerous true events from history – including Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He interacts and learns important life lessons from seven different experiences. The book is full of ways to think more positively and find more success in life.

                      11. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

                      david and goliath

                        Malcolm Gladwell motivates you to challenge your preconceptions of underdogs and misfits in this thought-provoking book. When you break down the facts in the story of David and Goliath from the Bible, you find that David really wasn’t an underdog at all – he was the one with the advantage. This book outlines story after story after story of people who were at a disadvantage and learned to find the strength in their weakness.

                        12. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

                        how will you measure

                          How would you feel if you got to the end of your life only to realize you had been measuring success wrong? Clayton provides a mass amount of wisdom and advice on how to live a life you won’t regret.

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                          13. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

                          Dont_Sweat_Small_Stuff

                            The small things we worry about every day may not seem like a big deal, but they wear us down slowly and stop us from living up to our full potential. Learn how to get rid of those worries and negative thoughts and live a happier life.

                            14. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

                            mere christianity

                              C.S. Lewis, who used to be an Atheist, explains how he came to find meaning in life through Christianity. He breaks down all the reasons we doubt and falter in life and how living the principles of Christianity fixes our weaknesses. Lewis is famous for his deep, thought-provoking quotes and this book is no exception.

                              15. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

                              bushido

                                Bushido is based on the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. The document’s purpose was to shape the mind and the spirit of the samurai warrior.

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                                Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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