“If I am what I have
And if I lose what I have
Who then am I?” Eric Fromm
Have you heard the phrase: “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans?” Or “Man plans, God laughs?” I think what this means is, just when we think we have it all figured out – along comes LIFE.
Face it, stuff happens – and the things we experience can either prepare us for the future or they can completely derail us. What makes the difference? Why do some people bounce back from adversity while others fall by the wayside? It’s The Resilience Factor – it’s the power to choose growth or stagnation, hope or despair, spiritual life or death.
What characteristics do people with the Resilience Factor display? I believe there are three significant indicators; let’s look at them a little closer:
- Resilient People Are Goal Setters
Resilient people set goals for their careers, their family, community, and more. You may be one of those golden people who have had nothing but success up to this point, but I would venture that most of us have had some failure along the way. I once heard of a Leaders Round-table where they spent as much time discussing failures as they did success under the premise that “if you have not been tested by fire, you don’t know who you are. And if you don’t know who you are, you are not fit to be a leader.” That kind of transparency is refreshing.
It’s important to set goals so we know where we’re going – and know when we get there. Along the way we learn about our strengths and our weaknesses, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment when we achieve something we set out to do. The goals we set are likely influenced by a number of things: our upbringing, a desire for money or prestige or driven by our value system.
- Resilient People Can Adapt and Flex
Resilient people, yes, have goals – but they also are able to adapt and change! This is foundational to developing the Resilience Factor. As mentioned earlier, things don’t always go according to plan. And when they don’t, is it disaster or opportunity? Good managers draft contingency plans and risk mitigation strategies and that might be a good idea for our lives. But you can’t plan for everything – so having a resilient mindset gives us the power to decide if a situation is going to make us or break us.
The ability to decide comes from having a firm foundation – different for each of us and yet remarkably similar in the resulting impact – it can mean the difference between overcoming and adapting or being forever stuck in the victim cycle. Our foundation defines us – it creates the basis of our lives. This is what keeps the things that happen to us from defining us. The changes we go through, the things others do to us, our life experiences do not have to define us. This is not a power you want to give to anyone else.
Resilient people are able to adapt and be flexible because they know who they are – they have an internal roadmap to follow – and that keeps you in alignment with the things you say matter most. Let me share a beautiful story that illustrates this:
A.J. Muste (1885 – 1967) was one of the leading nonviolent social activists of his time. Later in his life he decided to devote his energies to pacifism; this became his identity and foundation. During the Vietnam War he held a one-man candlelight vigil nightly in front of the White House. A reporter once asked him, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone night after night with a single candle?” Mr. Muste calmly replied, “Oh, I don’t do it to change the country, I do it so the country won’t change me.”
- Resilient people Control Their Surroundings
The things that are truly within our control are often the things that could cause us the most damage and pose the greatest threat to our success. And, surprise, they all involve our words and behavior. Consider three ways:
- The Power of Words: Don Miguel Ruiz said, “The word is a force; it is the power you have to create the events of your life.” We need to be equally careful about the words we use, and the words we allow in; what kinds of conversations we allow ourselves to be drawn into, what we listen to in the media.
- Playing the Victim: Victims are constantly looking outward, more focused on finding excuses and placing blame, than taking responsibility for finding alternatives. A good acronym to remember is WOWSE – With or Without Someone Else. Once you determine you will behave a certain way, or accomplish a certain thing WOWSE, possibility opens up.
- Inside/Outside: Are your words in alignment with your values and are your actions in alignment with both? My dad used to say, “I can’t hear what you’re saying because your actions are talking too loud!” What values and beliefs are we communicating to others?
We control those things we can, and we let go of things we can’t. Overachievers have a hard time letting things go and then not beating themselves up about it but this is a key factor in developing resilience; it’s hard to see possibility when you are so focused on the things you can’t control anyway.
Resilient People Model the Way
When these three characteristics are present and actively engaged, resilient people have successfully altered their perception of change. Rather than having a victim mindset that says “this is happening TO me” their perspective is one of choice: “I’m a participant in this experience. I will not react – I will determine my response.” Resilient people recognize that the power to choose is in their hands and that is a game-changer. Change begins to look a lot more like transformation; from this angle, unexpected opportunities materialize. This point of view is extremely infectious; others are drawn to the possibility.
There is an upside to the downside. There’s no way to learn and grow without going through a few things along the way. Emerging intact on the other side leads to a deeper life experience and lessons learned about ourselves and our perspectives. Those individuals who develop The Resilience Factor will find greater freedom in their day-to-day lives as the decision of who to be and what to stand for has been decided.
Pattie Vargas, Principal and Founder, The Vargas Group, is a frequent conference speaker on the topics of change management, organizational development, personal resilience and issues facing women in the workplace. As a John Maxwell Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker, she provides seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching to move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals. Proprietary Communication 2016