This is the eighth in a series of articles on resilience.
The eighth habit is: Resilient people take ownership.
What this means is that resilient people take total responsibility for what happens to them. Another way of putting this is that resilient people do not become victims or succumb to self-pity.
This does not mean that ownership for what happens means that you are always the cause of what happened. It may be (partly) your fault if you lost your job, or your relationship, or got into debt. But you aren’t the reason for an airplane crash, a terroristic attack, or the cancer that killed your mother. But in either case you can decide how you are going to respond.
Let us also make a distinction between a reaction and a response. A reaction is usually automatic and predictable and woeful. A response is something that is planned, thoughtful and focused. Reactions may take any of the following courses:
- Feeling overwhelmed and powerless
- Thinking: “Why does this have to happen to me?”
- Worrying that you won’t be able to cope
- Blame, guilt and recrimination
- Having a meltdown
Ownership starts with acknowledging the reality of tragedy in life. I referred to this response briefly in my fifth article: Resilient people are hard realists. Life is full of events that we don’t want to happen but wishing life was different simply adds to your suffering and disempowers you. Just as life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans, so adversity is an opportunity for you to demonstrate heroism.
A useful phrase to rehearse whenever you are up against it is ‘OK, I got this’. Ownership is right there in that phrase: you’ve got it – all of what happened to you and the capacity to bear with it and your next response. And those responses will be calm, focused, constructive and designed to make things better in some way. Or, at the very least, to avoid making a bad situation worse than it needs to be.
Another way that ownership is revealed is through your attitude to your mistakes and weaknesses. Resilient people don’t try to gloss over their failures; they own them, for that is the way in which they learn. That is why you will hear resilient people say ‘I screwed up, it won’t happen again, or ‘I didn’t know enough about the subject when I wrote that’, or ‘I will do better next time”. When building resilience the emphasis is always about what you can do to make things better, not in dwelling on events in the past which you can no longer change.
This is the sixth in a series of articles on resilience.
The sixth habit is:
Resilient people practice self-renewal.
By self-renewal I mean that resilient people are never satisfied with the status quo; they are always looking for new horizons. Another way of putting this is that resilient people are continually re-inventing themselves.
Many of you reading this article may recall someone you know who mysteriously gave up their lucrative job in banking, or law, or in industry and went on a trip round the world (or went on a retreat in India, or built a house, or started a charity, or retrained as a teacher, etc.). I can guarantee you that that person is well-equipped to handle life’s disasters. For one thing they have shown already is that they are able to give up their attachments and start over again.
This is a new series on resilience.
I have been fortunate in meeting hundreds of resilient people in my time, some of them very humble people who were not obvious heroes and who yet overcame some terrible personal tragedies.
The nine habits are the stand-out, most commonly recurring traits I have noticed. In my work – whether in coaching or psychotherapy – I am always on the watch for resilience in my clients and will do whatever I can to turn their attention back to their strengths.
By ‘resilience’ I mean the ability to manage adversity. Adverse events can range from parenting out-of-control children to rescuing 70+ wounded soldiers while under intense Japanese sniper fire, as Desmond Doss (pictured) did on Hacksaw Ridge. It can show in the way you handle an argument at the office or in the way you help your friends. Or in your approach to disability, deprivation, abuse, poverty, unemployment, relationship breakdown, illness and death.
Here are the 9 habits:
- Resilient people tell it the way it is
- Resilient people have solid boundaries
- Resilient people exercise mind control
- Resilient people know what to do with their emotions
- Resilient people are hard realists
- Resilient people practice self-renewal
- Resilient people spend time with resilient people
- Resilient people take ownership
- Resilient people are (mostly) spiritual people
This post follows on from my earlier article Why Stress Does Not Exist.
It was Hans Selye who first coined the word ‘Stress’ in relation to non-specific illnesses. Contrary to popular myth, Selye did not say that ‘Stress’ caused illness. What he meant was that if the individual fails to adapt to adverse Life Events then a breakdown in body functions could occur. Examples of ‘bad’ life events include job loss, relationship breakdown, financial disaster, overwork and illness.
After Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened he became the Buddha. Before that time he had been first a great prince and then, after his renunciation, a wandering monk. His aim was to uncover the secret of suffering and find enlightenment. He tried several teachers, starved himself close to death, practised self-torture and meditation, but none of these worked. In despair he decided to sit under a Bo tree, not leaving until he had found either enlightenment or death. Four weeks later it came to him in the night. He ‘saw’ into the ultimate nature of reality: that it was without names, time or permanence. He realised that he was it and it he.
A few weeks after that he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath to five disciples. He told them that he had discovered that everything that arises is subject to cessation, including suffering. The path to enlightenment lay in the Four Noble Truths:
1. Know that there is dukkha
2. Understand the origin of dukkha in attachment
3. Let go of attachment and dukkha
4. Follow the Eight-fold path
I wrote in my last article my that ‘stress’ is a meaningless term.
When we say we are ‘ill with stress’ we mean that we have anxiety, depression, or something like chronic fatigue syndrome, all of which have solutions and on all of which I have written elsewhere.
When we say ‘I am stressed’ what we mean is that we are overwhelmed with life-problems. Which means that we lack resilience.
Resilience is what survivors and other successful people have. You won’t hear resilient people say ‘I am stressed‘. Instead they will say something like: ‘Life’s tough at the moment but I’m dealing with it’. That’s because these people know about the power of words – telling yourself that you are stressed can make you ill, while telling others that you are working on resilience will keep you well.
How do you tell the difference between good therapy and not-so-good therapy?
This article tells you what to look for and may give you some ideas on how to make therapy work for you.