Here’s an insider’s tip. . .
I read once that writers and coaches should share their stories after (and not during) they make it through the worst. When they get to the other side – that beautiful land of sunshine and sparkles – they’ll enjoy a higher perspective and then can share advice on how to make it through the dark and scary woods.
Love it! I thought. What a great suggestion.
Let’s be real, though. For over a year, I’ve struggled with this advice. The insanity of our times is ongoing, and let be me clear, I am NOT through it yet. But it seems a disservice to not acknowledge my own imperfect struggle down in the weeds, because I’m wondering if you share my challenges too.
Adversity can help us become more resilient, and that is a fabulous thing, now more than ever. Let’s take a looksee at our current environment:
• Our political landscape is a nightmare, and there’s no denying that the headlines affect us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
• Social media and our phones leave us craving more validation.
• Our work is becoming more demanding, complex, and time-consuming.
• Then we shame ourselves, when we don’t live up to our fantasies that we’re superheroes who can handle everything. Ugh.
It’s no wonder I fight my way to the sunlight daily.
Why Resilience is so Important
When we’re resilient, we’re tenacious after setbacks. We persevere through adversity, hopefully with some grace. When I’m feeling despondent, nothing is so effective as reminding myself of the bigger picture, and also that I’m not alone.
Our resilience makes us better and stronger. Emiliana Simon-Thomas at the Greater Good Science Center highlights resilience as one of the four keys to being happy at work. (Additional keys include understanding your purpose, engagement, and kindness.)
When we do enjoy happiness at work, we’re more innovative, creative, and efficient. We more quickly rebound emotionally and enjoy better health physically. It’s no surprise that there’s less turnover in happier workplaces!
With the current environment, it’s more important than ever that we be at our best. Our resilience will make a difference in our organizations, in the nonprofit world, and ultimately, across the globe.
Resilience is a quality we continue to learn throughout our life. As my husband would say, “You’re not cooked yet!” We can still create new habits. How can you transcend your challenges and become even more resilient?
Three Truths to Boosting Your Resilience
1. Every Setback is a Learning Opportunity
People who transcend their challenges choose to learn from adversity. “Failure” doesn’t exist when we have a long-term perspective that gives us the cushion to grow and learn.
Consider a situation that didn’t go as you planned. . . perhaps a donor declined to make a major gift. You can see you and your team as “failures,” or you can remember that a donor’s decision to increase her gift is out of your hands. You can instead evaluate your cultivation and solicitation strategies. What worked well with her, and what are the opportunities for improvement?
As a Wellness Inventory Coach, I help my clients understand the difference between Learning Mode and Protecting Mode. We spend our days sliding from one mode to the next, often unaware. When we’re in Learning Mode, our bodies feel lighter, and we approach the world with anticipation and curiosity. We explore. We release perfectionism and enjoy having a beginner’s mind.
When we’re in Protecting Mode, however, we may feel more tense and defensive. We think we have to be experts and often try to control people. While Learning Mode is rooted in love, Protecting Mode is centered in fear.
Self-awareness of your personal dance between these modes will help you become more resilient. Understanding what causes you to shift to Protecting Mode, to shut down and not take care of yourself, is critical to your wellbeing.
We all find ourselves feeling protective many times throughout the day, so I encourage you to respond to yourself with a load of compassion. Not judgment. Sometimes my clients share their concerns that they must be TOUGH on themselves, maybe even MEAN-SPIRITED, in order to achieve their goals and be stronger.
Being UNKIND to ourselves is an old way of thinking, that never served us. We’ll thrive when we extend compassion to ourselves, and deeply understand that we must be our own best friend.
In addition, you’ll be more resilient when you understand what helps you find your way back to Learning Mode. When you’re feeling scared and defensive, the key is to recognize your own discomfort and ask. . .
What can I learn from this completely crappy day? This simple question shifts you quickly back to a satisfying place of curiosity and exploration.
What can I learn, should I need to make amends?
What can I learn, so I can make better choices next time?
What can I learn, so in the future I can help others in the same situation to reduce their suffering?
2. Helping Other Folks is the Silver Lining to All Our Setbacks
Helping people is the key to us making our way through the dark forest of our fears and finding sunshine again. It’s the shortcut to our own resilience, and it increases our feelings of gratitude and abundance.
Memoir writers struggled big-time with life challenges like overcoming addictions, grieving the loss of parents, grappling with mental illness, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Each writer found value in their struggle and transformed it into words on a page that will inspire readers for generations. They transcended their challenges.
Likewise, every student in my coach-training class at UC Davis showed up with scars from life’s greatest challenges. It wasn’t a surprise when we discovered that our niche as a coach was often what we had overcome ourselves personally – from assisting families burdened by cancer to helping employees who are burning out!
If you’re thinking, It takes forever to write a book and I want to feel better NOW, I get it. The cool thing about helping people is that you can do it in the present, without having made it through the forest. In fact, helping people draws beautiful shafts of sunlight down onto our path as we find our way through.
Feeling overwhelmed by the headlines?
You can march at a rally, vote, write your representatives, and volunteer on a campaign.
Feeling distraught about the fires in the Amazon?
You can support your favorite environmental organization.
Feeling sad and alone?
You can call your own grandma, or even visit a housebound senior.
Feeling like something’s missing?
You can adopt a dog from a shelter and fill your days with joy.
If you want more of something in your life, share it with others and you’ll discover it comes back to you in unexpected ways. You’ll begin to heal and become more resilient.
3. Even When it’s Tough, Be True to Yourself
When we have a job that reflects our values, we’re more likely to feel satisfied. In fact, when we align our life choices around our core values (the internal guideposts we were likely born with), we experience joy and fulfillment.
If this were so easy, why do we often neglect to do it? Unfortunately, identifying our core values is challenging. . . and the process becomes even murkier when you consider that you also adopted values along the way from outside sources – such as the media, your family, and our culture.
You might be spending each day trying to align yourself with values that aren’t even your own! Sometimes our acquired values serve us, but sometimes they don’t.
Research at Science2Wellbeing showed that the more we focus on our core values, rather than acquired, the more we’ll feel motivated in our jobs. We also enjoy greater wellbeing.
When we understand what we most value, we can be authentic at work and increase our resilience. By being true to ourselves (rather than to the outside voices), we no longer have to pretend we’re someone we’re not. We eliminate unnecessary stress and regain our precious energy, so we can better manage challenges and adapt to setbacks.
We also boost our resilience when we understand how we make a difference in our organization. For example, you might see your job as just maintaining the database. Imagine instead, if you understood I’m helping to build relationships with donors so that they support our mission year after year. Reframing your job responsibilities is a great way to become more resilient.
Super-Cool Bonus Tips
Step away from work to rejuvenate and increase your resilience:
- We have cycles when we sleep, and likewise, it’s ideal to take breaks during the day every 90 – 120 minutes.
- Consider taking a 20-minute power nap in the afternoon, to keep your brain activity high all day.
- Banish any warrior mentality that leaves you chained to your desk and enjoy a vacation guilt-free. Remember to leave your laptop at home!
- When we worry about the past and fear the future, we become less resilient. Mindfulness practices, such as breathing exercises and meditation, are great ways to appreciate the present moment and handle challenges at work.
Writing these posts pulls me out of the wild funk I feel after reading the headlines, and I wanted to thank you for being there, helping me to gain clarity out of the mayhem in my mind. Together, we can keep moving forward – a force of positivity, strength, and resilience.
We can do it!
P.S. If you want to move forward – to feel more resilient and happy at work – then coaching may be right for you. You can learn more about transforming your life here.