How can two people grow up in the same home, and yet end up different?
Janet and Jessica were sisters, just 2 years apart. Jessica was younger, and always looked up to her older sister Janet, because she saw her as so very bright, talented and beautiful.
Sadly, both young ladies were raised in environments which would easily be described as abusive, painful, poverty-stricken. As they grew into adulthood, they each went down diverging paths; the older sister Janet went from one abusive relationship to the next, ending up severely drug addicted, and continues to this day in pain and brokenness. The younger sister Jessica went through her share of struggles and trials, but also found a way to cultivate the skills necessary to maintain a stable job, build a stable family, and add significant value to the world around her.
When she was asked how she created such different outcomes than her older sister, though both raised in the same home, Jessica said this: “I am not what happened to me. I choose what I become.”
I am not what happened to me.
I choose what I become.
Zig Ziglar said that, “You were not born a winner. You were not born a loser. You were born a chooser.” If this is the case, then we need to choose very well. What gives us the power to make choices that stick is resilience.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is the ability to spring back into shape and can be described as elasticity or toughness. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from disruption, stress, change, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the event itself. The truth is that life doesn’t get easier, but we can get stronger and more resilient. So, how can we cultivate resilience? And, what conditions help us build resilience? How can we become unstoppable?
The truth is that resilience is NOT a gene you are born with, or a talent. People are not born with resilience, but they cultivate it over time, like building muscle mass or growing a solid oak tree. From every event and our response to them; from every situation and the decisions we make flowing from them, we either build resilience or we don’t. We either choose to cultivate resilience, or we do not.
When we talk about resilience, we are talking about mental health. Mental health is a cogent issue today.
According to the CMHA, 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime (CMHA, 2016). And according to the Government of Canada, by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness (GOC, 2006).
All of this takes a tremendous toll, not just on individuals and families, but on businesses and the overall economy. Again, according to the Canadian government, in Canada, the total cost of mental health problems and mental illness is $50 billion per year (GOC, 2016).
20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime
So, how can we cultivate resilience? And, what choices help us build resilience? How can we become unstoppable?
I want to share 4 CHOICES that will help anyone cultivate resilience. Resilience is not so much about what happens to us, because we can never control that, but about how we respond. An Indigenous proverb says this: “We can only be what we give ourselves the power to be.” When we respond to adversity and difficulties by making healthy choices, resilience is the outcome… and we gradually become unstoppable!
Choice #1 – SAFETY.
Make the choice to stay safe. According to neuroscientists, 5 times a second your brain is unconsciously scanning the social environment and asking itself: Is it safe here? When your brain feels safe, it can operate at its most sophisticated level. When it does not feel safe, it is flight or fight. It either withdraws or goes to war.
Resilience means operating at our best, and we need to feel safe in order to do so. Make the choice, as much as you can, to stay safe mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Do not willingly put yourself into situations or environments that are toxic or unsafe for you, and as much as depends on you, avoid those situations at all costs – because when you feel safe, you can perform at your best.
Choice #2 – SELF-AWARENESS.
Make the choice to be self-aware. There is not a GPS system in the world that can lead you to your destination without knowing your current location. Building resilience and becoming unstoppable is about knowing where you currently are, without a shred of shame, self-pity, or self-judgment. Stay self-aware:
- Physically – healthy diet, appropriate amount of sleep, and regular exercise goes a long way…
- Mentally – nurturing a positive attitude and a healthy frame of mind, independent of externals…
- Emotionally – Replenishing yourself emotionally. The quickest test: What comes out when you are squeezed?…
- Spiritually – Finding your spirituality and taking time to honor it, i.e. healthy values…
- Professionally – Proactively assessing how you can add to a healthy workplace, using what you can control…
- Relationally – Cultivating relational health, which leads to overall health…
- Financially – Taking time to plan your finances and working to de-stress in this area.
Self-awareness is so important and is nothing to be nervous about. Repeat after me: I am allowed to BOTH be a work in progress AND help others grow at the same time. I refuse to wait until I believe I’m perfect or someone else has deemed me worthy of impacting others. Without apology, I accept a life of massive growth, and constant improvement. The first step in that massive growth is to be self-aware.
Choice #3 – SELF-CARE.
Make the choice to self-care. We need to nourish in order to flourish! Self-care is not vanity, it is sanity. Find the time for self-care. It should be solo, as in something you do with you and for you. It should be specific, as in what nourishes and feeds your specific soul. It should be scheduled, and not just random.
And lastly, self-care should have an element of sacredness to it – because you are worth it! You matter.
Choice #4 – SUPPORT.
Make the choice to find the right support. As amazing as you are, how far can you expect to go without support?
Professor George Vaillant of Harvard University, who conducted the world’s longest running study of mental health, summed up his 4 decades of research into mental health with this: “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people.”
Social support enhances productivity (we get more done), psychological well-being (we feel more complete), and physical health (our body breaks down less).
Be very careful about who you share your dreams and ideas with. If you talk to the wrong people about the right idea, your idea might die before it conceives and gives birth. Jim Rohn: “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.” Connect only with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better.
Don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding to your growth. Your destiny is too important.
These 4 CHOICES will help anyone cultivate resilience. Resilience is not so much about what happens to us, but about how we respond. Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an unbelievable breakthrough. When we respond to adversity and difficulties by making these 4 CHOICES, resilience is the outcome… and we gradually become unstoppable!