am constantly amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit. Resilience
seems to cross socioeconomic lines, educational background and spiritual
perspectives. Some people who seem to have many advantages in life are
consumed by their setbacks. Others, who have one obstacle after another,
preserver and become stronger from their experiences.
what is it that helps some people cope more effectively with difficulty
than others? I call it the Bounce Back Factor. It is the invisible,
but very real heroic reserve that some people innately know how to
tap into and others can learn how to access.
heroic reserve resides at a deeper level than can be reached cognitively
or emotionally, although the mind and emotions play a key role in helping
us get there. To reach it, like spelunkers, we have to drop into the
"meaning making," purpose driven cavern of our being that
lies at the very core of who we are. This is the part of us that is
intuitively connected to the web of life and, therefore, knows our relationship
to the greater whole. It is the aspect of ourselves that is naturally
optimistic and hopeful because it is aware that our life has value and
there is a reason for being or we wouldn't be alive.
into this level of being can give us the resilience needed to weather
our heroic challenges. It allows us to become adept alchemists, who
are able to convert the situations we encounter (no matter how tragic,
scary, or stress provoking) into meaningful, purpose filled experiences
that contribute to our heroic character. Some of the key components
that can help you trust this core part of yourself and strengthen
your "bounce-back quotient" are:
- Focused attention on the reality of the situation.
To change your perspective you must first become aware of the dynamics
at play in your life drama. What fear, anger, or sadness is being
evoked within you by what is happening? What does this situation
remind you of from your past? Is this current incident part of a
larger pattern that you are repeatedly playing out? Answering these
questions can help you see yourself and others in a more realistic
light without the emotional baggage clouding your perception.
Detached Participation - Simultaneously observing your
unfolding story, while fully immersing yourself in the moment-to-moment
This may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible. Developing your
observer skills can help you see the situation from multiple vantage
points. It can lessen self-judgment and attachment to a particular
perspective or outcome. Immersing yourself in the action gives you
an experiential connection to the here and now. When observation
is paired with immersion in the ongoing action, you become an active
participant who can make more conscious choices about how you want
Problem-Solving - Being able to think imaginatively about
possibilities and dare to take risks to get out of present situation.
Sometimes in the thick of a challenge, you may feel trapped like
a rat in a maze with no way out. From a heroic perspective, however,
you are never trapped. When you step back, breathe and take time
to think creatively, you can almost always find a solution that
loosens the Gordian knot in your mind. One of the great gifts
of a challenging situation can come when you look at it as an
opportunity to exercise your creativity.
- The action of taking the first step.
Sometimes in the midst of a challenge you may feel so overwhelmed
that you don't see a positive outcome. You may feel like a victim
of circumstance and ask, "Why me?" When you tap into your heroic
reserve, you don't waste time acting like a victim. You ask instead,
"What is the first step I need to take?" As Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. so wisely said, "Take the first step in faith. You don't
have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." Each
step you take, allows you to see the next step, which takes you
closer to your goal and fulfillment of your dreams.
- Being adaptable to your environment.
As much as you might like it, you rarely have total control of a
situation. What you do have is control over is your perception about
the situation. When you've rehearsed in your mind how you would
like something to turn out and it doesn't happen that way, you have
a choice. You choose whether you are upset by it or experience it
as an unexpected, but interesting opportunity for something different
to occur. When you release rigidity and are willing to adjust to
change, you feel more relaxed and trusting that whatever occurs
will be just fine.
Sense of Self - Your choices and actions are guided from
within. The old adage, "To thine own self be true" is only possible
to follow when you have a clear sense of who you are and the values
you hold dear. Being your own best friend is not selfish, but a
prerequisite to living an authentic life. When your internal values
match your external behavior, you radiate self confidence and you
are better able to balance the needs of yourself with the wellbeing
Relationships - Genuine, heart-felt human connection with
While it is important to have a clear sense of self, it is equally
important to have healthy relationships with other human beings.
This isn't about the quantity of people in our lives, but the quality
of those connections. It is through relationships that we share
the love that bubbles up from inside us and are able to grow and
mature as human beings. As we relate to others, it is also important
to make sure that we are not overly dependent on them for our identity
or making them overly dependent on us. We need to appreciate the
differences between people and value the richness and diversity
that those differences brings to life.
the comical in the macabre. Sometimes in the midst of great
drama or tragedy it is difficult to see anything as humorous. But,
when you lighten up, it can help you see the ludicrous or absurd
in a situation. Humor can break the dynamic tension that keeps you
fixed on your sad story. It can help you laugh at yourself and be
more playful about what is happening. It also allows you to use
serendipity, which helps you convert your sense of misfortune into
an opportunity that benefits your character development.
into your heroic reserve gives you the ability to not only bounce
back from adversity, but also strengthen your character and consciousness
muscles. While you will probably never wish for difficulties to occur,
when they come you will be ready. You will be better equipped to face
the future and make the most out of whatever comes your direction.
more resources on resiliency for adults