A few days ago, a co-worker was talking about her Ph.D dissertation which is on the subject of resilience. I offered to let her pick my brain (what’s left of it these days), since it is at the core of what I teach my clients, many of whom have faced major traumas throughout their lives. Her questions were along the lines of: “What makes one person able to overcome such challenges, while others succumb? ” and “Can this be taught?” I had responses to both. The answer to the second was an emphatic YES! The answer to the first is a bit more involved.
Many cultures revere strength…gotta be strong…gotta stand firm, when in reality, flexibility and resilience are equally valuable. Nature provides us with poignant examples. When in the ocean, bending to the waves is less likely to get you knocked on your butt, than standing solid against the water. A willow tree that bends is more likely to withstand the storm than an oak tree that stands firm. I had a first hand experience of that a few years ago. While leaving the grounds of the hospital where I work, to go to lunch, in the midst of a September storm, the wind was whipping furiously. I parked the car by the admissions building to drop off paperwork. Before me was the lovely tree lined driveway where 50-60 foot tall oaks stood sentry. I had this fleeting thought: “Wouldn’t it be something if one of these trees came down?”….BLAM! No sooner had that image crossed my mind, then one did just that right before my ever widening eyes. I had a few simultaneous thoughts “Thank God no one was coming down the driveway at that moment.”, and “Holy smokes, what did you do?” I knew on some level that I didn’t cause the tree to crash earthward, but realizing how tapped in we are all, I did take credit for being aware of the possibilities, at least on an unconscious level. While that tree uprooted itself, more flexible companions remained erect.
I also told her about Roger Crawford who wrote the book “How High Can You Bounce?” which came into my life several years ago and it is my go-to source for teaching resilience skills. Born with congenital ‘challenges’ such as missing fingers and I believe, his leg from the knee down, Roger became a champion athlete and for the past 25 years has spoken world wide to audiences mesmerized by his passion for life. I love his quote: “Challenges are inevitable, defeat is optional.”
I have come to understand that the statement: “Most people do the best they can, given their circumstances.”, is incomplete. Rather, I see that “Most people do the best they are WILLING to do, given their current mindset/attitude/world view.” Each day, I see folks surpass their former beliefs of what is so and what is possible. Heck, I surprise myself by doing that too. No way, 15 years ago, would I have imagined that I would be doing all that I am at this point in my life, because back then, I was just coasting along, letting life have its way with me, rather than KNOWING that I had the right, responsibility and ability to create my life experience, molding and shaping them from the raw materials I am given each day.