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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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