Resilience: A Pollyanna Ploy or Perseverance?

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue is what counts.” Resilience has, I think, a bit of a Pollyanna rap. For those of you who didn’t grow up with either the book or Disney movie version, Pollyanna was a young girl who was irrepressibly optimistic. Yet in a crisis or traumatic situation, always looking on the bright side-as Pollyanna found out-can feel unbearably hard. Sometimes, before you move on or bounce back, you might just need to throw a pity party first. I don’t believe that resilience means you never have a bad day or that you accept everything that comes your way with a blithe smile and a song on your lips. During the three year stretch that my family went through one life threatening illness after another, I hosted a few pity parties – some of them fairly spectacular. At the time, the extra glasses of wine or spirals into dark thoughts seemed a logical outcome, given the fact that two of the men I loved most in life both had cancer. The real question is, after you’ve had your pity party, then what? Do you stay stuck in victim thinking? It can be pretty cozy, snuggled up in the cold comfort of feeling mistreated by the world. But for me, staying in that gloomy spot didn’t seem to get me anywhere. And, frankly, I didn’t like my own company that much when I was dining on negative thoughts and crooning over my hurts. That’s when I would find just enough energy to rummage around in my heart and remembered...

Going From Bad to Better: The Gratitude Strategy

Focus on the positive. It’s hard to believe that a serious life crisis and the word “blessing” would come in the same sentence. When my son and husband had cancer, idea of looking for something positive in our family’s experiences probably seemed hyper-religious or Pollyanaish in the extreme to some people. Spiritually, I viewed it as a form of radical surrender to an organizing framework of my life; practically, it kept me sane. Tune down the victim thinking. Leaving behind the “poor me” mentality meant walking away from the norm. After all, my family was going through hell. Didn’t I deserve to throw myself a pity party and invite a few friends? Yet, as comforting as it seemed initially to wrap myself up in the cold comfort of victim thinking or anxiety, or as easy as it was to allow the fears take over my day, I always came away from those internal, negative conversations wearier than before. And I couldn’t afford to add to my exhaustion. So, logically, anything I could do to grow the positive in my life made more sense to me than focusing on the negative. I needed all the infusions of energy I could get and I found that looking for and counting my blessings filled me up. Gratitude turned out to be the best antidote I could find for fatigue, anxiety, self-doubt and dread. Cultivate gratitude. Research bears the importance of gratitude. The Greater Good Science Center, citing the research of more than 30 scientists and graduate students, has found that gratitude impacts not only our emotions with increased happiness, joy, optimism, compassion,...

Going From Bad To Better, Part 1

In my last blog, “How to Avoid Going From Bad To Worse in a Crisis” I called out four actions that can make your current crisis even more dire than it already is. Now here are some ideas to that can make your situation more manageable: Get grounded before you make any decisions. Spend some time getting back in your body. Then solicit input and take some time thinking about all of the implications of the decisions that you are about to make. Unless an immediate, life threatening situation exists, there is usually time to sleep on a choice or get the perspective that a bit of distance or a second opinion can bring. For more ideas on how to get grounded, check out Six Ways To Find Firm Ground in a Crisis. Reach out and let others in. Find a way to connect with those people who will support you in the ways that you need during these tough times. And while you may have your own “first responders”–those people who are tuned into you and your life, ready and willing to help—spend some time thinking about what other skills, expertise, or counsel will be most helpful to you given the circumstances you are facing. For example, a client going through a divorce found that she needed more than just a lawyer and her usual circle of friends. Adelle found that a community of women who had survived and even thrived post divorce was also critical to her recovery. Once you’ve strategized about who you need, find a way to bring that into your life. How To Build...

Five Ways Your Crisis May Be Changing Your Life—For The Better!

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” ― Rumi What? My crisis has an upside ?? What kind of do-gooder, Pollyanna optimism is that? Don’t get me wrong. Every single crisis I have ever been through was heart wrenching, scary, and kept me awake on numerous nights when I desperately needed sleep. I don’t like crises. In fact, I coined a little acronym for them that explains just how much I would like to avoid them. I call them AFGOs, which stands for Another Frickin’ Growth Opportunity. And yet…..I grew. From every single one of them. Sometimes the growth was exponential—like finally seeing just how strong I was when my son and husband both had cancer within the space of three years. Other times, it was only in retrospect that I saw the impact of the crisis—the ability to buckle down and study in order to graduate with my MBA (something that was in doubt after the first two semesters in grad school.) So, what are some gifts that come from crisis? Researchers in post traumatic growth have found five areas where many people report a positive change in their lives, in the aftermath of a disaster or crisis: 1) Greater appreciation of self. While I owned, finally, the strength and resilience that others had always seen in me, my clients have had similar realizations. Angela (name changed) discovered just how good her business instincts and decisions were when her husband was incarcerated. She handed over the creative side of the business to others and began handling the day to day running of the company. In...
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