Do you know what the toy in the photo is? These are called a number of things, I know them as push puppets – you push the bottom of the toy and it collapses; as soon as you release the pressure, it springs back to form again. My niece Sophie made this one for me and whilst it’s a toy for some, it’s a great reminder for me of what I need to do when struggles and chaos descend.
How often do you feel like collapsing? How hard is it to re-form once the pressure goes? We might re-form, but a couple of things have changed – in the example of the push puppet, the head will be the wrong way round and the legs a bit wonky.
Quite often though we don’t have a choice, we HAVE to completely re-form and we have to do it FAST.
How do we do this?
Well, through talking to people, reading about it, facilitating workshops on the topic I have found five things you need to focus on to create a strong foundation of Resiliency, and they are:
Let’s start with Strength:
Two areas are important for Strength, your Personal Control as well Ownership over what is happening to you.
In Personal Control, how self-motivated are you, do you have self-moderation? Can you self-discipline and exercise self-control when necessary? On the other hand can you be self-compassionate and be kind to yourself when you are collapsing? Kindness to yourself takes strength. We find it easier to be kind to others than to ourselves. Think of your self-talk and how you feel about yourself when you fail, would you say those same things to others? Most probably not.
We are our harshest critic and quite often the reason we stay ‘collapsed’ for so long.
With Ownership, the focus is on how much of a victim you play. Do you look at a situation rationally and accept it for what it is or do you look for blame and see yourself as the victim? Or do you spend each waking moment wracked with guilt over what has happened (or not happened) and continually blame yourself for all the bad in the world? Taking control, owning your own sh*t and dealing with it, takes strength. It takes courage to admit you screwed up and strength to set it right, move forward and gain control again.
Something’s happened and you need to move forward, you need to find a solution and quite often you need to be creative. How well do you explore the options? How creatively can you think under pressure? Moreover, the trick is actually not to be reactive the whole time but to look ahead, to ‘look round corners’ and see what’s coming, try to pre-empt it or at least prepare for it.
Now, you can’t predict everything that could happen but you can control how you respond. Reflect on how you have responded to previous struggles or emergencies – are you some one people would want in their corner or are you too busy emotionally reacting to be any help? Do you see the difficulties or the opportunities in a situation, can you cope with ambiguity and the unknown?
Most of us in our lives have faced something that forces us to be resourceful and I find it helpful to analyse what I did in that situation, what I would do again and what I would do differently.
If you have never been in that situation then lucky you but you can still prepare: imagine the worst thing happening and ask yourself what emotions it would stir in you, do you have answers to the obvious questions that would arise, do you have a variety of options or just one?
The situation in which my Mum died was extremely traumatic. I was in shock for a long time and became silent for close to 24 hours. I remember my Dad and brother asking me questions but I couldn’t respond with more than one word. It’s like my brain shut down to allow this huge ‘thing’ to be processed. Once I ’emerged’, the first thing I needed to do was connect with people again. It had only been a matter of hours but it felt like time had stood still. I needed to talk to my husband, friends, family. I didn’t need a crowd but I needed ‘my people’ around me.
Having strong relationships in times of crisis is essential. Having your network to fall back on, people who can catch you and will do what they can to support you, there’s nothing more important. In fact, you can forget all the other 4, just remember this one!
Ask yourself, how strong are your connections? How much can you rely on ‘your people’ when you need them? Have you been there for them when they have faced crisis or struggle? Do you know what your friends and family are coping with, right now?
We can often get lazy or flippant with our closest and most important relationships. I have fallen into that trap, living overseas, I know at times I don’t put enough effort into all my relationships with people at home: I don’t call enough, I forget birthdays, I tune out of their lives because we don’t see each other from one month to the next. If you think you have been lazy or flippant then do something that shows your empathy, that strengthens the commitment and dedication to that person or group before you really need them.
Sometimes you don’t need a trigger event to feel like you’re collapsing and not able to get up. It could just be that through lack of goals and future focus, you are stuck, you’ve slumped and have no idea how to get out of it.
Being able to shape the future, adapt to the present and forge the plan all sounds great but a lot to achieve if you are feeling ‘stuck’.
Start by asking yourself what you expect from the future, do you have dreams you wish to fulfill or long term goals in mind? Can you recognise what is really important and then maintain that focus and energy so that everything you do is directed toward the right things?
If you can plan some of the future then adapting to the present and accepting it for what it is, is easier. Today is not perfect for me, I am not living exactly as I would like but I have a plan to get there and I am OK to accept (the very few) downsides right now.
I have been told on occasion by well-meaning people that “you shouldn’t wait to be happy” (but I am!), that we only live once (not according to the Buddhists) and “who knows what might happen tomorrow” (the sun will rise, there will be death and there will be taxes?).
Honestly, I get the sentiment and I subscribed to it for a time but I believe it’s more practical to develop adaptability to “now” because that is the only thing we can control. What has helped me be more adaptive, is planning the future, believing I can influence what happens and that it will not be more negative than the present. So, if you don’t know where you will be in 5 years, start thinking and it might give you the momentum to move forward.
Two things you need to bounce back or re-form: Optimism and Acceptance. Looking through the world with rose-tinted glasses is not the answer but having a positive world view and self image is. Optimism relates back to strength, being self-compassionate, respecting and appreciating yourself and things around you.
Glass half full or glass half empty?
Strength is NOT playing the victim and Optimism is NOT focusing on your inexperience or belittling yourself and abilities with self-talk. Be realistically optimistic, have a rational view of the environment and people around you so you can manage your own expectations. By maintaining reality when people or events disappoint you, you don’t have as far to fall or adjustments to make to re-form and recover.
Acceptance is also similar, do you have the patience and the ability to accept things for what they are? Even if they’re not perfect? This is in contrast to some thoughts where we mustn’t settle for less, we shouldn’t accept mediocre and we must strive for greatness. I’m exhausted just typing that!
If that’s the rhetoric people are following then no wonder stress levels are increased and health issues are on the rise.
Accepting mediocrity is not a bad thing, accepting our weaknesses and stretch points is not a bad thing so why do we always strive for more?
And this isn’t contradictory to shaping the future and having a goal. I am not suggesting those goals need to be grandiose and more of everything, it’s just to have a focus.
Questions I ask myself and others I work with are: How do you react when things don’t go how you imagined? What does waiting mean to you? What are you willing to wait for? How do you react to undesired results that you have no control over?
When you ease the pressure, there’s less distance to fall. When you only push the button a little on the push puppet it doesn’t need to make so many adjustments to re-form and that’s the essence of resiliency – don’t be so far removed from reality that when it does smack you in the face, it means a total collapse.
If you would like Sarah and the New Voice team help you explore your own personal resiliency and that of your team, contact us for details of the in-house Resiliency & Leadership workshop.