What is resilience and why is it important?
In this blog I will go into these two questions and build a picture of how much of life becomes a serious challenge without some kind of an understanding of resilience and how it translates into self-belief and self-confidence.
When challenge presents itself in our lives much of how we respond to it follows an unconscious process. We may frame the challenge by seeing ourselves as not able to face it, from a skill level, from a character level, from a comprehension level etc. Any number of these kinds of unconscious responces will pop into the mind as we relate ourselves to the situation or issue at hand.
These thoughts and ideas are an expression of the experiences in our lives and what we have made of them.
If we have been consistently held back from facing challenge and working our way through it by parents, education or lifestyle we will have an extremely limited pool of resources to draw from. In the military there is a saying “we will not rise to the challenge; we will fall back to our nearest level of training”. What this is saying is that we can only face a given situation if we have been prepared for it by going through similar trials.
If our parents hovered over us as children and swept any potential risks away we will associate risk with other people taking care of them for us and most challenges will overwhelm us very quickly. If we identify with this behaviour long term and allow it to condense into part of our personality we will find our experience of life extremely frustrating and our options very limited.
This is an artificial reality of self-imposed limitation based on one simple and reversible problem, lack of training.
We humans are programed at a genetic level to conserve energy. This plays out in the body’s overriding concern, to maintain homeostasis. To maintain equilibrium and harmony between all the body’s systems and to use the least amount of energy to do so.
That is why discomfort is such a problem for so many. There is so much conflict and difficulty with improving ourselves because improvement introduces change into homeostasis. We love to stay the same, it’s comfortable, and it’s easy.
When adversity visits an un-trained individual they will feel personally threatened by adversity at a survival level. What’s happening here is the person’s homeostasis that expresses itself as a comfort zone is being challenged.
If you’ve ever heard yourself say, “that’s too hard, I don’t have the time, I’m not ready, that’s dumb, I could never be that kind of person”, pay attention. This kind of noise is the protective ego doing it’s very best to keep us locked down and staying the same; it is not your actual reality. The ego is the voice of homeostasis.
If the ability to adapt is not trained then the response will be overwhelm, un-necessary pain, wasted time, blame of external factors/people and a new layer in the current inefficient coping strategy.
This in essence is resilience: it is the ability to adapt. To read the terrain of the challenge and navigate skilfully through, knowing and trusting ourselves enough to “find the way”.
Human beings as a species are defined by their peerless powers of adaptation. Even a very brief glance at any aspect of human history what will stand out is the sheer variety and diversity. This is only possible because of our phenomenal ability to look at situations, see possible and more effective strategies, and then implement them. All of human history is summed up in that word; adaptation.
Adversity and challenge are absolutely guaranteed in this life. To be surprised when they strike is to miss-understand our place on this earth. Many attempt to create a life without suffering, this is simply not possible. No one is immune, we all face our tests, how we rise back up can often become the best parts of who we are .
Conversely it is very heartening to understand that the fundamentals of resilience are all-ready on-board, hard wired into us at a neurological level, they may be just currently off line. Resilience training brings all these deeper aspects of us to the surface. To encounter these powers is incredibly inspiring and we realise our limitations were no more than layers of thought, nothing more.
Resilience training is a set of master keys that access our will, our perseverance, our intelligence, our spirit and ultimately bring forth our love of life. Living wholeheartedly, having understood and faced our fears and as a result deepened the connection we have to ourselves is to be truly alive.
Nothing is beyond your reach.
What’s your story, what is it you’re telling yourself, what are the dominant thoughts?
Where do you default to when not focusing on a task. What is the central theme of your thinking, struggle, ease, lack, abundance, failure, success, joy. Whatever it is will become your experience.
Describe the most enjoyable and adventurous story to yourself and that will be the experience. Set goals that bring those ideas out into the world. Open the mind, read and explore widely, entertain big ideas. Enjoy all the same sorts of successes and failures but this time they are all contributing to something outstanding. One single decision can ripple out into a completely new life, it could happen today!
“The key to warriorship is not being afraid of who you are”. Chogyam Trungpa. Richard Strozzi-Heckler adds “When we are no longer afraid of who we are, we act from integrity and authenticity “. Two extremely interesting guys converging on the same issue.
This is absolutely huge with a lot of people I work with, and myself as well.
There are many, many layers of conditioning that tell us to stay hidden, to not rock the boat, to maintain the status quo, to not speak up, to put others first, to not value ourselves or our message. Since childhood we’ve made literally hundreds and hundreds of silent agreements over the years that lock us into silence. It’s this that we go up against when we endeavor to step up and activate big plans.
There’s no one holding a gun to our heads saying “stay small, shut your mouth, do what you’re told”, it’s pure conditioning. Remember, what we think we are and what we tell ourselves we are is vastly different to what we actually are. Awareness is always the first step, we are not limited, we have silently agreed at sometime that we are, we are not small, we have silently agreed to be small. It all comes down to our individual conditioning. Become aware of it and understand it’s not who we are it’s who we’ve been trained to be, and being kids when this stuff goes in, we silently agree. Much of the path is de-conditioning or unlearning this learned helplessness, we are so much more than our pasts, the best is yet to come.
Motivation, inspiration, intention, all fantastic energy sources to achieve goals and outcomes. They do however wax and wane, just like any other energy our motivation is in a state of movement , it can be compared to the waves on the surface of the sea. There’s absolutely no need to feel down when motivation seems to weaken, what we need to develop is access to deeper levels, we need to go beneath the fluctuating waves at the surface. Sitting down with pen and paper and going into what we’re actually here for, attaching ourselves to some mission that is greater than just us is hugely fortifying.
Finding meaningful work is highly protective against things like depression. Aligning ourselves with a purpose is powerful and gives an almost endless supply of motivation. There are some amazing people doing similar things out there, we align with them, we boost our inspiration by connecting with them. Look for the deeper currents today, relax into them, they move slower, give a longer lasting energy, make us feel strong and capable, give the ability to see further, to do more. Being on the surface is taxing and rough, down deeper we have more control, we go at our own pace, we have time to enjoy the day, its quieter.
Negative emotions like anger, fear, blame, anxiety, guilt, depression, regret, stress and shame shut down the brain regions that handle rational thinking. Decision making, memory, creative thinking, problem solving, positive perception, they all go offline while we’re in negative states. In fact blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex, the thinking brain, is reduced by up to 80%, we get primal and reactionary. Because the body reflects the mind neurotransmitters will create a feedback loop that only reinforces the mental state. We will go from thinking about guilt etc to experiencing it as a physical reality, we can dig very deep holes here if we don’t understand this mechanism that lies outside of our usual learning and education. Personality’s and behaviors can actually form around this undirected thinking, medication can follow.
How to get out these negative feedback loop? Simple, state change.
We can interrupt a feedback loop we don’t like at any time by placing our minds on what we do want. Consciously chosen, outcome driven statements that we repeat to ourselves combined with deep belly breathing and visualising what we want will break the chain. It’s the same, where as before we went along with our thinking unconsciously and got ourselves into all sorts sticky situations we now, as mature adults, CHOOSE where we want our thoughts to take us. Thoughts become things, what we focus on we strengthen. No one is ordering us roll for hours or days in negative states, we choose to. We can reduce their effects to feedback, information, data, that’s telling us something is off, and we can adjust as, when and how we need to in the flow of the moment.
The choice is ours, the power is ours and the ability is already hardwired, it’s just awakening to what’s already going on unconsciously and making it a conscious process. This is called liberation in some circles, no more enslavement to the mind.