Becoming Resilient In Challenging Times

Resilient mountain range above steep forested slopes and a winding road. Blue sky background

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.

—Cora L. V. Hatch, 1859

Resilient People Rise Above Adversity 

They bend with the storm, rebound from setbacks, recover quickly from difficult conditions. They see failure as feedback—a learning experience, and use it to chart a new course toward their goal—independent of circumstances and obstacles.

Faced with difficult circumstances—such as the Covid-19 pandemic—people lacking in resilience tend to break, stay down, and abandon their path or project. Or they keep doing the same thing over and over, wondering why they don’t succeed. 

Lack of resilience can lead to depression, anxiety, and worse. Unable to create desired results, people feel down, distraught, helpless. Sometimes even hopeless and despairing. 

Traditional thinking is all about what is.
Future thinking will also need to be about what can be.

— Edward de Bono

Most clients I coach want help clarifying what matters to them—the results they truly want to create. Others know what they want, but need help with how to create it. 

Some start but get stuck, stall, and fail to complete their result. Most do not have a well-articulate vision—a clear, compelling mental image—of their result, fully completed.

To get started, ask yourself, “What truly matters. What do I most want to create?“

Take a list of results you’d like to create, then prioritize it. Choose the top three and write out a description of what each would look like, if you brought it into being.

But vision, by itself, rarely leads to real and lasting results. To do so, it must be grounded in an objective, accurate description of current reality

Clarify Current Reality

Failure to objectively clarify reality, relative to a vision, is another stumbling block many clients face—especially in face of adversity, change, and difficult times. 

Even if you’re clear about your goal, if you don’t know where you’re starting, it is difficult, even impossible, to choose an effective path from here to there. 

Imagine you want to go to London, think you’re in Prague, but are really in Chicago. The actions you take will lead you away from your goal.

Stress, much?

Graphic of stress man holding his head, his eyes bugging out, and thought balloons reading "I can't do this!" I'm so stressed out." "Failed in the pat

Creating effective results and making your dreams come true is best driven by vision, grounded in reality, and focused on actions which help you get started, stay on track and arrive safe and sound at your desired destination.

Self-Talk And Success Or Failure

If you don’t like something change it; 
If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. 

—Mary Engelbreit

To ground a clear, compelling vision in reality, carefully assess your current state and circumstances, including what you have working you, and what you lack, and/or have working against you.

One of the best places to start is assessing your self-talk—that continuous stream of conflicting chatter your monkey mind serves up. 

Self-talk includes all that we say and think, both internally and externally. It’s that ticker-tape of ideas, thoughts, fears, sentences, and stories that flow through your head day and night—and for some, late into the night.

I’ve written before about how self-talk leads to either self-supporting beliefs, thoughts and emotions, or to self-defeating negative thoughts,and self-sabotaging emotions. 

Here’s a diagrammatic view of the process. 

Don’t Should On Yourself

Ground-breaking psychologist, Albert Ellis, summed up nearly seventy years of practice in one sentence, “Three nutty beliefs account for most of the misery I’ve seen in my patients.”

Those beliefs are: should do well. You should treat me well. The world should be easy.

When these “nutty beliefs” conflict with reality-as-it-is, they generate negative emotions, suck your energy, and get in the way of taking effective action.

But wait! It gets worse. 

The belief, “I must do well,” implies, “I must always do well, at everything I do. And if I don’t, it must be awful, terrible, and horrible.” These are demands, not desires. They can lead to absolute conclusions such, “I can’t stand it!”

Such beliefs are irrational. They do not square with reality. It is impossible to live up to such absolute demands. We feel conflict between what we think we reality should be, and how things actually are.

Such beliefs quickly lead to irrational feelings and ineffective actions. They damage your emotional mastery. They reduce your chances of creating what matters most.

However, once you’re aware of self-talk, it becomes easier to change.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions. 
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character. 
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.  

-Frank Outlaw

Challenge Shoulds; Change Demands To Desires

Graphic of blackboard with the words "It's only when we demand that we are hurt" - Henry Miller

Once my clients begin to notice their “shoulds,” I help them change the demands the impose on themselves into more reasonable preferences.

“I want…,” “I prefer…,” “I would like…,” work far better than “I should…,” or “I must….”

Try it: Think of something you “should” do. Say the sentence “I should do…” and insert an action or result. Note how you feel. 

Then, using the same action/results as above, say, “I want to do…” Better yet, say “I choose…,” and generate a deeper level of commitment and increased energy to act on what you choose—i.e. commit to.

So, to better ground visions in an emotionally neutral descriptionof current reality—describe reality, don’t judge it. Don’t should on yourself, others, or the world. Focus on what you truly want to create. Then choose to create it.

Becoming Resilient

If you do these things, you’ll increase your resilience. You’ll up your odds of succeeding. Creating what truly matters will become much, much easier. 

A thought is harmless unless we believe it. 
It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years.

Byron Katie

My next blog will delve deeper into how to overcome adversity, become resilient, and create results that matter most to you.

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Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.