Without a doubt, life throws us curve balls, conundrums and sometimes out-and-out catastrophes. These bumps along the way are inevitable, but our resiliency and inner fortitude can certainly lessen the feeling of overwhelming powerlessness that accompanies them.
Like most people, I've battled my share of challenges, most notably, addiction and clinical depression. What I used to hide from public view out of a crippling sense of shame, I now proudly display as battle scars that proclaim my ability to keep going when all I want to do is bury my head under the covers.
I'm definitely what you would call a slow learner in that even though something may have worked wonders for me in the past, I have a tendency to neglect doing the self-care required to withstand the next assault on my self-worth or general feeling of well-being. I thought I would share with you my five strategies for building resiliency.
1. Focus on the journey and not on the finish line.
If you're anything like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how good you'll feel when something is over, or when you have finally acquired something that you've been working hard to achieve. In no way am I a big picture kind of guy -- and at times, this can be of benefit, as I tend to focus on details. However, this gets me into trouble when I fail to acknowledge that reaching a goal involves the ability of mapping out the stepping stones to a sought-after destination. I know I'm in a funk whenever I start complaining about the drudgery of where I'm at now. It helps when I remind myself that enjoying the journey is as important as reaching the goal, and that sitting in anticipation can be more life-affirming than the reward itself.
2. Our words have power over our thoughts.
When I made my first foray into Alcoholics Anonymous, I was introduced to a phrase that I have come to appreciate more with each day. If you sit in on enough meetings, you're bound to hear recovering addicts talk about stinking thinking -- those inner monologues that haunt you and try to convince you that you're "unworthy" or "terminally unique," and thus, your chances of recovery are slim to none. I may talk a brave game, but learning to silence that inner critic is something that I battle with every day. I've found it helpful to step back and really listen to what I'm telling myself. A simple reframing of the vocabulary I use can have a monumental impact on my sense of direction and outlook. The best example I can use to illustrate the power of this shift is that I no longer refer to myself as a "victim" of childhood abuse, but rather as a "survivor" of childhood abuse. With this reframing of vocabulary, I've gone from the powerlessness of having something befall me, to a sense of empowerment and strength of survivorship.
3. Forward movement doesn't always look "forward."
I don't subscribe to the belief that what's past is past, and therefore has no bearing on the present. I look at my past not as a minefield to be avoided, but as a goldmine that can offer me nuggets of wisdom that if implemented appropriately, can furnish me with the tools to move forward in my life. Whenever I've been able to move forward, or even through a challenging period, it has come on the heels of my recognizing, and subsequently, altering a recurring pattern of stuckness. If I'm constantly focussing forward, I can't see where I've come from, and I believe that this impacts my momentum of growth because I'm apt to cling to or repeat counterproductive behaviours.
4. Solutions are in the moment.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the easiest thing to do. What I long for most in my life is simplicity, which I often confuse with predictability. I've had a backdoor introduction to mindfulness through my yoga practice. For me, it comes down to quieting the mind by emptying the mind of distractions. This is often referred to as nourishing the ability to stay present. When I actively try to sit quietly for 10 minutes, I become acutely aware of how much my mind races. Instead of rationally dealing with an issue immediately before me, I compound this problem with five others that my mind has fabricated. I remind myself that solutions appear in the moment when I'm grounded and attuned to what I most need to hear or discover.
5. Truth is stronger than fear.
How many times have you heard people say things like: "I have a healthy fear of... " or "I'm trying to overcome my fear of... ?" As a society, we are programmed to silence our fears instead of looking at what they have to tell us. Fear appears as I anxiously wait for my doctor to call with the lab results, as I confront a potential job loss, or even as I face the demise of a once-meaningful relationship. There is no doubt that fear can be debilitating and gut wrenching, but finding the truth that lies within that fear can be the most exhilarating freedom imaginable. In the presence of fear, I attempt to bring two things to mind -- fear breeds and breathes on my energy, so learning to stand beside it instead of battling into it diminishes its control over me. Also, fear has a shelf life, and with time, even our ugliest fear whispers a gentle truth that we can build on.
I'd like to end this post with the words of the inspirational speaker, Joyce Meyer who reminds us that our baggage and our hardships serve a purpose even though at times, we can't see their utility. "Your pain can become someone else's gain. Your mess can become your ministry if you will have a positive attitude and decide to let everything you go through prepare you for what is ahead."