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Resilience: The Key to Surviving Anything

Resilience: The Key to Surviving Anything

    Have you ever seen bamboo shoots in a storm? I have. I remember huddling in a hut in Thailand watching a raging typhoon sweep through the mountains. The clump of bamboo outside the window was completely flattened by the raging winds. The wind was so strong that it lifted the roof right off the hut and I began to fear for my life. Then, suddenly, the winds dropped. I looked out and saw the bamboo shoots rise up again unharmed. That’s resilience. It’s the most important thing we can cultivate in these uncertain days.

    The global financial melt-down is creating hardship for many people. Maybe you too have some fears about how your life and that of your loved ones is going to be in the future? And it’s not only financial problems that we can suffer from. Health problems, or we can lose a loved one. Or we can suddenly be faced with unemployment.

    I myself lost a lot of money when a rogue builder decamped to a South Sea Island with the money that I had paid him to build a new house. In the end the half-built structure had to be sold at a great loss. This experience made me think about how we can overcome difficulties. What I learned was that my life started getting back on track the moment I started accepting that my life had changed for ever.

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    I learned that there are ways of responding to life that make it easier to regain control and find ongoing happiness. One of the ways that we can do that is to become more accepting and thus more resilient.

    Resilience helps us to overcome anything

    Resilience and acceptance are closely linked. It’s when we face our difficulties square on that we tap deep into resilience.

    The first response to disaster is usually denial – which is the opposite of acceptance. It took a long time for Linda D. to emerge from denial. She came to see me soon after she was released from hospital. Linda, a young mother, was in her mid-thirties and looked fit and beautiful. Glossy chestnut curls framed her face. But I noticed that her smile was strained as she told her story. Some months ago, she said, she had felt a persistent ache in her belly but had put it down to indigestion. A while later she went to the doctor. He ordered a scan, then exploratory surgery.

    “Imagine my shock, “she said, “when I woke after the operation and the surgeon told me that they had sewed me up again because there was nothing, absolutely nothing they could do for me. They found cancer all over my liver. My first thought was: ‘No! Ben’s only four. I can’t leave him on his own. I just can’t be dying!'”

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    It took Linda some months to accept that she was going to die. In that time of denial, her emotions were in turmoil.

    It was late spring when Linda came to see me one last time. She was frail and her skin was like
    parchment. I settled her into a chair on the veranda. The wisteria blooms were a sea of purple. We were silent for a while. She told me that she was dying.

    “How do you feel about dying?” I asked

    “I feel at peace now,” she said. Then she raised her face to the sun and shut her eyes. “Everything is so precious. Now I know how precious each moment is!”

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    She died some weeks later. Because she was ready, she was able to let go of life gracefully. Her healing journey had led her from denial, rage and dread to a place of acceptance and peace.

    The path to acceptance

    A new beginning can only happen when the old form disintegrates. Look at what happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly: When the time for transformation has come, a larva wraps itself in a cocoon and becomes a chrysalis. Just imagine how that might feel! Suddenly the larva is constricted, can’t move anymore and darkness closes in. Then disintegration begins. Some cells die, others revert to an undifferentiated state, some cluster together as discs that carry a genetic blueprint for new structures. If you compare a caterpillar to a butterfly, they seem worlds apart and yet one transforms into the other. In some sense, you could say that the caterpillar dies. From this death, a new, beautiful form arises.

    Before something radically new can appear, the old form has to die.

    Acceptance is the first step of healing. It grows slowly over time. There are some simple exercises that help the process of acceptance. One of the most powerful techniques is Expressive Writing therapy as the story of
    Marion P. shows.

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    Marian’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack in the first year of their marriage. It happened just weeks before she gave birth to her son, Josh. Years later, she said:

    “I just couldn’t accept that I was now a widow with a baby. I so wanted to be part of a little family! I spent four years railing against my fate. Then I realised that I had to look to the future. After a while, I began to realise that Josh and I were now the ‘little family’. Acceptance marked the beginning of my healing process.”

    This is like the bamboo shoots righting themselves after the storm has passed.

    How can we practice acceptance and build resilience?

    I think the most important thing is to be honest with ourselves. Sometimes it takes courage to look reality in the eye. But when we do, we can learn to overcome anything.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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