Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Resiliency’

Resiliency – the Winning Factor!

You are stronger than you think… take a moment and take stock. Over the past month or week have you had to confront an issue or challenge that you simply did not think would be possible to overcome? Yet, somehow you dug deep to find the strength to carry on and develop a plan to address the circumstance. You persisted until you could and see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and form a plan. Where did your strength come from… was it there all along just waiting to be tapped?

The answer to the question is yes…simply yes – but the reason behind the yes is even more enlightening because it was due to something called resiliency. Some people develop it early in life yet for others it may take much longer. Resiliency is more closely correlated to awareness than age. All of us can experience greater resiliency by learning what it takes to develop it.

Resiliency begins to form when we know that we are loved unconditionally – that someone (family or friends) are there for us when we need them. Further, when we have people in our lives that believe in us and frequently remind us that we have what it takes to be successful it helps us believe in ourselves and our own potential. In addition, when we are truly accepted regardless of our unique – maybe even challenging – personality traits and know that our ideas and opinions are valued and considered we develop greater personal strength. We begin to develop the real deal – authentic confidence. When we stop to think about it both the verbal and nonverbal messages we received from our family imprinted on our brains – early and often – as we were growing up. Were they messages of inclusion or differences? Another extremely important factor in developing resiliency is the need to live by clear and consistent boundaries in life. While some may think that boundaries are restrictive, unnecessary, or stifle a sense of independence actually the opposite is true. Boundaries give us a feeling of security which helps us develop into confident human beings. When we are growing up we may chafe at them but deep down they bring a calm, purposeful intent to our daily existence. Living with boundaries help us formulate the true North for our lives.

As the above conditions become integral in our life we begin to find our voice, develop positive listening skills and healthy conflict resolutions skills because we have a framework upon which to build.

Think about it this way, resiliency is like a chair with four legs – unconditional love from others, frequent positive messages about our own potential, clear and consistent boundaries, and positive communication and conflict resolutions skills. To be fully functioning human beings and support ourselves we need all four legs of the chair.

The importance of developing greater resiliency in life cannot be overstated. Without it we often see people who feel both helpless and hopeless – defeated before they even started. The good news is that we can become stronger, happier and more secure individuals when we work on developing greater resiliency in our lives and the lives of those we love. There is never a time limit on growth!

Have a great few days!

Adversity can be a Double Edge Sword!

We all know someone who just seems to experience so much more adversity in life than others. We may think to ourselves if they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have any luck at all. How do they cope with it? How do they continue to put one foot in front of the other and face another day? These individuals can teach us a great deal about compassion and resiliency.

Two studies soon to be published by Dr. David DeSteno and graduate student, Daniel Lim of Northeastern University help us understand the real effects of adversity in a person’s life. We may think that living through adversity would naturally cause a person to be more compassionate but there’s more to it than that. DeSteno says, “Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well.”

In the later case it seems our minds can quickly move into a judgment mode. The studies indicate that when we see someone living through an event similar to one we have lived through the natural human response is to downplay the difficulty we had in dealing with our life challenge and think to ourselves, ‘Well, I made it through and they just need to buck up and move on.’ Oh, if it were only that easy.

Each of us has chosen specific life challenges for the lessons involved. We cannot equate or compare one individual’s ability to cope to our own even in similar circumstances. Another way to think about it is that no two dramas are the same because of the human factor. We may have overcome a hardship or life altering event but it doesn’t mean that someone else can heal at the same pace. That’s what the stages of grief teaches us. Everyone has a right to heal and overcome at their own rate and time. Recognizing the needs of the individual and giving them the gift of time and understanding is where compassion comes in.

When we live through the loss of a loved one or experience,moor example, emotional or physical abuse the loss, fear and anger affects each of us in our own way. Some scars are deeper than others and take longer to heal. There is no blueprint to follow for the complex task of healing. Each of us struggles to understand and accept life according to our own strength, tenacity and reserve.

The next time we hear of someone who is experiencing a difficult time coping with an event in their life maybe we could put aside our own life experience, especially our words of advice, and just be there to listen and show we care. The greatest healing energy comes from the power and honor in the human connection.

The pay off to accepting where someone is at and offering an empathetic ear and caring heart is double fold. The person has a shoulder to lean on as they attempt to right themselves after the onslaught of their latest challenge and by bonding with them during a critical time in their life we fuel greater compassion and resiliency in ourselves. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!

A Message of Hope

“You can make a difference in the world. What better day to start than today? I encourage you to always know your purpose, follow it, work hard at it, choose to have a positive perspective on how to view the world around you, choose to overcome your own hard times and choose hope within them. Life, in fact, is all about choice and the choice is yours alone to make. Choose hope.” Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis the first grade teacher from Sandy Hook elementary that hid her 15 first graders in the tiny bathroom within her classroom ends every speech, as she did Friday night in Tempe, Arizona with this powerful message.

In her recently published book entitled, ‘Choosing Hope,’ she gives us a glimpse of the tragedy she lived through when 20 children and 6 staff members were viciously gunned down on December 14, 2012. We all heard the facts continuously repeated in the media. Yet, when you put a name with a face and hear the events reiterated by the person who was literally a wall away it impacts your senses. She explains what it was like to hear the gunfire and people pleading for their lives as she attempted to keep her loving charges quiet and hidden from ‘the bad man.’ It simply stops you in your tracks and you reflect on the importance of living bravely, loving fully and seeing gratitude in absolutely everything in life.

As Kaitlin said, ‘you don’t move on but can choose to move forward’ with your life. That is a powerful thought that needs to roll around in our brains to be fully appreciated. We don’t move on from death or violence but we can move forward.

She confidently explained the steps she had taken to help heal. Therapy and the ongoing support from a loving father, mother and fiancĂ© were all an integral part of her healing process. At first glance you might think she has been magically ‘fixed’ until an unusual sound in the room causes her eyes to flash as she seeks out like a laser beam the origin. Ahh yes, you think to yourself, you can recognize the sign of a fellow traveler whose life has been forever changed through a tragedy. We are just a bit more aware and cautious as we take in our surroundings. We are on alert as the deeply hidden wound in our psyche momentarily surfaces.

You can’t help but be amazed at her story. A feeling of hope cascades over you as you hear her talk about her ‘tomorrow’s.’ Here is a 31 year old woman who has been forever changed, marked if you will, through violence, fear and loss that most of us can’t even conceptualize yet she chooses to push us to focus on recognizing our own life purpose and live each day in a grateful, positive state of mind. Amazing.

You leave thinking about the immensity of her experience and naturally reflect on any issue that may have recently surfaced in your life that seemed to momentarily disrupt our flow. We feel humbled maybe even embarrassed at the comparison. Kaitlin’s journey can help us keep things in perspective and give us confidence to know that as human beings we are capable of incredible feats of bravery, understanding and healing when we keep our eyes forward on our tomorrow’s.

The next time we have a personal life challenge and become frightened that we may lose it, we will stop and remember … we really are capable of tremendous resiliency. We can make it though unbelievable life challenges when we choose to overcome rather than succumb.

May we live long enough to see less violence and more love in our world.

Have a great few days!

Humility Is Seeing the Greater Purpose

Recently I wrote a blog entitled, ‘The Power of Humility.’ I chose the topic after hearing about a college professor who actually listened to his students’ request for a change in schedule for a midterm progress report and then adapted his semester plan to respond to their request. Was it absolutely necessary – probably not – but was it a brilliant thing to do – absolutely! He gave his students two gifts – recognition and respect. Can you just imagine how those students will want to succeed in the course? This master educator had the confidence to take what could have been a power issue off the table, neutralized it and refocus on the individual’s commitment to learning. How many times have we seen examples in any walk of life where the person in charge is confident enough to humble themselves and listen then respond to a request for a change. To often it is a rare occurrence but one to be recognized, applauded and shared with others.

The term humility comes from the Latin word ‘humiliates’ which may be translated as ‘humble’ but there is another meaning to this definition and that is to be ‘grounded’. When we are grounded we are fully present and focused in the moment. We stay balanced, centered, and sure enough of our direction that we are able to control any knee jerk or defensive reaction coming from our ego. We are confident enough to welcome input, mid course corrections and even competition as we share the applause. Examples such as these highlight the difference between a pseudo and authentic educator, leader and person. The former is busy trying to demonstrate THEIR own greatness while the later is busy being sure you understand YOUR own greatness. Why? Because they are comfortable in their own shoes. They see a purpose greater than themselves. Who have you come across in your life that encouraged you to see your own greatness?

By definition, humility has two possible interpretations. The one we most commonly think of is lowering oneself in relation to others. But there is a much more powerful interpretation. It is having a clear perspective of one’s place in context to the greater whole – trying to make the world a better place – one person at a time. It is the difference of talking to someone and not at them. When we go the extra mile to make someone’s day just a little bit better it is a powerful example of just how important acts of humility are in our human pursuit.

When we practice humility we are not afraid to try new things because we realize it is an opportunity to learn. We are resilient and not afraid of failing because we recognize that even in momentary failure there is something that can be gained from the experience. In fact, we realize that there is always something to learn from everyone.

Maybe the power/humility thing just boils down to this … it takes a powerful person to demonstrate humility. Somehow that thought just feels right to me.

Have a great few days!

Are You a ‘Fixer in Charge?’

Lending a hand, occasionally, to help others in time of need is important. After all, we find joy and reward in knowing that we have been instrumental in helping someone through a crisis. As with everything in life the ultimate issue is one of balance. At some point we might have to evaluate our efforts and decide how much time or emotional and financial support we are offering. Is it still enabling them to grow and become all they can be or has our involvement become so frequent that they now rely on us to solve their next problem or guide their next step. It’s so hard for givers to accept the reality that it may be time to back off and let someone that they care for experience the stress and challenge of their own circumstance. But when we are strong enough to stop ‘fixing’ we’ll see them experience the ultimate pride and self confidence that comes from wrestling with and overcoming their latest issue.

Life is tough and each of us has had to face a boat load of challenges and uncertainties. Some may have temporarily stopped us in our tracks. What caused us to persevere and learn resiliency in the process? Could it have been that help was no longer available or we chose to work it out ourselves by thinking ‘if it’s going to be it’s up to me?’

As givers we feel good inside when we see relief spread over the face of an individual we care about. Yet, we really do know intuitively when we are contributing to a person’s growth and when we have morphed into the role of an emotional or financial crutch. When we are brutally honest with ourselves we can admit when our ‘hand up’ has become a pattern or been reduced to simply a ‘hand out.’ It may be easier to say ‘Yes’ yet much more powerful to accept it when it is time to say ‘Enough.’

Maybe the lesson in all of this is actually ours. After all you can’t blame someone for continuing to ask or rely on you if you have established the pattern of being the ‘fixer in charge.’ We may even try to trick ourselves into believing that ‘they didn’t actually ask but we simply offered.’ Really? There are a multitude of ways to ask without verbalizing it. Taken to an extreme we may even justify our help by saying we have more or we can work harder to help ‘this time.’ But maybe – just maybe – we are unwittingly eroding their belief in themselves and causing them to become dependent on us.

Could it be that true love and caring for another is shown when we recognize if a defeating behavioral habit has been established and are strong enough to stop being complicit? It’s hard to break this habit of being there, continual giving or even rescuing someone we care about yet don’t we owe it to them?

Ultimate caring results when we are presented with an issue by someone we care about and rather than jumping in to fix it we ask them, simply and gently, ‘What is your plan?’ We show them that we have confidence in their ability to overcome. That’s heady stuff! Don’t expect to be able to do this the first time without feeling guilty. Breaking the habit of being the ‘fixer in charge’ is difficult. We may even wonder if they will ultimately hold it against us. That’s always a risk but if you love them – truly love them – set them free to experience their own trials and tribulations in life. If they come back to you it will be with a new found pride of accomplishment and resiliency in themselves that will last a lifetime.

Letting go of the fixing habit is hard but holding on past an expiration date is not healthy for anyone concerned.

Have a great few days!

Ants in Your Thinking?

The term ANTS refers to more than those pesky little insects that occasionally invade a picnic or our homes. I heard the term used in the context of thinking and it stuck with me so I am passing it on. ANTS stands for Killing Automatic Negative ThoughtS. I thought it was a great way to remind ourselves to work at controlling the negative thinking that can weigh us down and rob us of energy. You know what I am talking about – the negative self-talk that constitutes the what ifs… if only….why me, or why now… that causes us to spiral downward. When we look at a situation and see it in the context of the glass being half empty rather than half full it’s an exhausting way to live.

Sometimes people act this way for attention or they take pride in being the ‘resident critic.’ However, if you look closely at their lives they have few acquaintances and even fewer friends because they are simply too exhausting to be around. We feel an energy drain by their presence.

The good news is that negative thinking is simply a habit that we have allowed to become a part of our personality. Often, the habit of negative thinking begins in childhood from fear or modeling the behavior of a parent and through our repetitive thought process becomes who we are today. But it can be changed if someone we respect cares enough to get our attention. Our minds are so powerful that we have the capacity to change our thinking and change our life. It takes desire and constant effort to see life in a more positive context – to see possibilities rather than problems – but it’s so worth it.

The truth of the matter is the situation or event is simply what it is – no more, no less. Your choice is the spin you put on it. Negative thinking causes you to feel like there is no way out. Worry sets in and you feel defeated before you begin. By adjusting your perspective slightly you can look at the same issue and discover the possibilities in it. Remarkably, you discover ways and options to solve the issue at hand. The circumstance remains the same but the energy you bring to it is the defining variable. Looking for possibilities – the silver lining in an issue – helps you develop resiliency – a stronger belief in yourself and your capabilities to handle tomorrow. Resiliency is the life blood to happiness and success in life.

Maya Angelou said in her book, ‘Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now,’ “Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
This is something worth thinking about. We put our lives on hold in a constant state of fear when we allow the ANTS type of thinking to control our life.

Is it time to readjust our thinking patterns and look for the potential good coming out of what appears to be a challenge in our life? The practice of looking for the opportunity or bright side of something is a skill that we are all capable of learning. We simply need to decide to put in the effort to do so.

The next time you hear negatives coming from yourself or others …STOP – LOOK – and LISTEN… is this really how you want to spend the rest of your days on planet earth?

Let’s choose to make lemonade out of the lemons we are dealt in life and stamp out the ANTS in our thinking.

Have a great few days!

Greater Happiness by Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Science talks about open and closed systems. This concept has direct application to the way we behave as individuals. Whether it is a personal growth or personal suffering experience the idea of visualizing an open or closed system has significance.

A closed system is rigid and non-resilient. It has little or no interaction with the environment and does not evolve. An open system, on the other hand, is adaptable, resilient because of the ability and choice to grow and evolve.

As human beings we are a complex open system designed to grow, change and evolve through learning and life experiences. If we stretch and allow ourselves to move out of our comfort zones we are forced to handle new situations and learning occurs. We become more resilient to the ups and downs that characterize our lives. The more we experience life the more resilient we can become.

Resiliency is tantamount to confident living. Knowing you can handle circumstances in life offers a sense of well being. The trick seems to be to allow or even force ourselves to risk experiencing new situations without becoming overwhelmed with the changes. If change, in general, is so overwhelming, maybe taking small steps could be the answer.Just as an athlete trains to run a race, for example, they do so in stages. They don’t simply go out and decide they are going to run a 10k race and achieve their best time on the first go of it. They work up the strength and endurance by pushing their bodies bit by bit until they are able to perform at the level they so desire.

If we think about this analogy, the same is true of our emotional well being. Staying in our own comfort zone may help us feel, temporarily, more at ease or secure but over time our open, complex systems need greater stimulation, more experiences to thrive. There is a major difference between surviving versus thriving. Our emotional well being is predicated on the assumption that as life happens to us, regardless of the difficulty of our experiences, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start once again on our chosen path in life. It is, indeed, a challenge to push our comfort zones but it is invaluable to our overall happiness.

The choice is always up to us. Pushing ourselves to experience the new and different can cause all of us discomfort and a momentary feeling of being unsure. However, after each new experience we are basically moving up the next step on the ladder to greater peace, acceptance and resiliency.

Sure sounds to me like it is worth the try! Have a great few days!