So, most agree that RESILIENCE is about bouncing back from adversity. That’s an honorable description. But what happens if there is no adversity? Be assured RESILIENCE applies also to sameness, to boredom, to just being me. How do I be resilient with me, with or without adversity?
There are different ways to develop RESILIENCE. For physical resilience we are told to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, no smoking, and modest amounts, if any, of alcohol. For cognitive resilience, we are told to focus on novelty or pleasure, cutting down on mind-wandering (it wonders perhaps as much as 50% to 80%), moderating our natural fears or threats. But, the most helpful to me has been to pay attention to my emotional and spiritual resilience, anchored in timeless principles which are espoused in all of the world’s wisdom traditions.
Gratitude: We hear a lot about gratitude these days. It’s a sturdy anchor for resilience … being grateful. Finding what went right within what went wrong. Taking no one nor anything for granted. Finding pleasure in the smallest details of life.
Compassion: Recognizing that everyone suffers, even though well camouflaged. The only reasonable response is kindness, trying to relieve another’s suffering, including our own. Recognizing suffering is an opportunity to practice compassion.
Acceptance: How can we accept what we have? Acceptance isn’t resignation nor apathy. It’s engaging in what is right now present in front of us, even if we want to make it better. And on that subject of better…what if we were more accepting of ourselves and others? What if there’s nothing to fix in us? What if we were perfect as we are? Perhaps one person’s perfect is another’s person’s irritant. So, maybe perfect doesn’t lie elsewhere.
Meaning: What gives us ultimate meaning? Are we doing meaningful things…meaningful to us? John Hollis wrote an excellent book on this subject: Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Our Lives. That means >35 years old. What is your soul calling you to do, he asks?
Forgiveness: Tough subject. Forgiveness is never for the other person. It is always for ourselves so we won’t be imprisoned by our resentments for another’s actions. That includes forgiveness for ourselves too, so we aren’t tied up in guilt and “poor me’s.”
And finally, play, and celebration, and fun. We are told to think as an adult, but play as a child finding wonder all around us.
RESILIENCE…easy to talk about…more subtly challenging to be … day in and day out.
Carla Paonessa is a retired founding partner of Accenture, past Chair of LeaderShape Trustees, benefactor of LeaderShape and Mayo Clinic, and lives with Russ Paonessa in Scottsdale, AZ and Chicago. They have 3 children, 5 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. She is eternally grateful to Dr. Amit Sood of Mayo Clinic for teaching her about resilience, and she is enormously proud of LeaderShape for offering a program on RESILIENCE.