Resilience: It's All In Your Head

I remember sitting on the edge of my bed crying. I have a variety of issues with my back. A few years ago they were acting up. One day I rolled out of bed about 4 pm because I couldn’t get up any sooner.

I had a “why me?” moment. "Why is this happening to me?" "I’m not the type of person this happens to." (What does that even mean?) "This is never going to get better."

Beside my bed is a bookcase. As I leaned over, feeling sorry for myself, a book caught my eye. The title doesn't matter much. I chose what you would call spiritual or self-help material.

I slid onto the floor and started flipping through the book. I was reminded that I had more control over my situation than I was admitting.

I started with the main flaw in my thinking: “I’m not the type of person this happens to.” Self-pity raised its head, with a touch of entitlement and resentment sprinkled in.

After doing some reading and soul searching, I realized I was arguing with reality. Tip: Reality always wins.

Owning my situation shifted my mindset. What if I didn’t judge my physical condition, but looked at is as neutral? It just IS. It's just a “thing” – a thing I happen to be experiencing.

I consider this resilience, which, for me, includes:

  • Managing our thoughts so we can function in the face of challenge
  • Noticing when we’re using negative labels unnecessarily and shifting them to neutral
  • Deliberately cultivating the ability to counter a downward spiral

A shift in thinking goes a long way

I remember that day well. When I began to accept my situation, I was better able to think clearly, be resourceful, and make plans.

Since then I’ve made several changes so that I’m rolling out of bed much earlier than 4 p.m.

The magic of neutrality

We are born to be discerning, to categorize, to judge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This outlook streamlines our day. We quickly move through what needs our attention and what doesn’t.

Sometimes we give an event or circumstance more attention than it deserves.

When I don’t hear back from a prospective client, my thinking can immediately go to:

  • Did I blow our introductory discussion?
  • Did I alienate them in some way?
  • Did they choose another coach or trainer?

I can easily start making up a story and spin out. I tell myself I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I forgot a key step leading up to finalizing our agreement.

Then the prospective client gets back to me a week later apologizing. Something came up that delayed their response. Silly me.

Now when I don’t hear back when I expect to, it’s just a thing. It might mean nothing dire. Chill.

Watch what you are saying to yourself

Our self-talk can serve us or undermine us. I am fortunate to have friends and colleagues around to reflect my self-talk back to me, particularly when it is not working.

It’s easy to create a downward spiral. Instead, we must be vigilant with our self-talk. Examine our assumptions. Are they real or made-up? Don’t label a situation negatively, using words like upsetting or hopeless. Search for neutral language. Embed it in your mind.

Our situations, like with my back, or the waiting game with prospective clients, might not get better right away. But, using these tactics, we build a foundation to encourage ourselves, and remain buoyant despite our challenges. That is resilience to me.

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