On Becoming Resilient

IMG_6517There’s a famous scene in the movie “Moonstruck,” with Cher and Nicholas Cage where Cage’s character, Ronny, tells Loretta (Cher) that he loves her. She responds with a couple slaps across the face and says, “snap out of it!” Cher won an Oscar for that role and the scene became iconic.

Wouldn’t it be great if, in the midst of struggle, we actually could simply “snap out of it?” But too often, life doesn’t work that way. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and it seems to me that one component of this equation is the degree to which we are resilient. We may want to say we’re resilient but is that what we’re practicing? While I’d like to think that resilience comes naturally, I don’t know that it does for all of us.

Start with the idea that we’re all wired differently. We have our normal way of being, a set point, to start with. If you think about it on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being low and 10 being the Everything is AWESOME song from the Lego movie, each of us has a point which is “normal” for us. I might be a 6, you might be a 9, the guy sitting next to you might be a 3. No right, no wrong, normal for each of us. That point is the way you look at life, your approach. It’s the half full half empty idea.

At some point in our lives, we will face disappointment, or setback, and it’s in those moments that our resilience is tested. In context of our “set point,” we think about how far you’re knocked off course when difficulties in life arise. Do you go from an 8 to a 1 or from an 8 to a 5? Again, no right or wrong, just our natural wiring. The more we’re knocked off course, the greater effort it is to “snap out of it,” and get back to your status quo.

Resilience is something we can build, it’s a skill. It’s the ability to tackle adversity and have the strength to move through problems instead of parking on them. You can change the length of time it takes to rebound after a challenge, return to your set point. But when you’re in the middle of the tornado is not the time to focus on improving your resiliency. The time is when you’re not feeling like Dorothy, lost in Oz.

I consider myself a resilient person. I had challenges as a child and learned to adapt, maybe partially as a survival skill, but adapted nonetheless. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that when I’m under stress in general, I am less resilient. When I’m balancing 5 plates on each arm, back to my days waiting tables, all it takes is a small blip to throw me off course. But that’s not always the case. When life is humming along, challenges slide off like water on a duck.

In order to increase resilience, we need practice, and I’d hazard a guess that life is constantly giving us situations to practice. The time to try on resilience is not in the middle of a tornado, it’s in the everyday situations that come up in life. The small hurdles. Start by overcoming the small things…changed plans…a difficult conversation…a disappointment…before tackling the big stuff. Reframe. If you believe a situation is apocalyptic – you’ll approach it like that and your mental game might start swimming. It’s only a change, just a conversation, it’s not cataclysmic. You can mediate, practice mindfulness, be compassionate with yourself.

When we practice resilience, you won’t necessarily “snap out of it,” but you can minimize the degree to which you’re thrown off course. Increase the speed at which you’re back on track. Swirling in a negative perception of your life doesn’t move you towards the life that’s available for you to live, if you choose it. Honestly, I have to make these choices every day, and it’s not always easy. But worth it. Being brave is always worth it because let our authentic self shine in those moments. Be brave friends, be kind to yourself, and keep going.



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