Tim Butler

Counselor, Life Coach & Speaker

Resiliency (Part 1)

From my window of the world in the mental health profession, I get to listen to many folks on a very personal level. This degree of intimacy allows me the opportunity to witness the inner strength that others may simply pass by unaware. I stand continually amazed at the strength and internal fortitude exhibited by folks in downright disparaging situation. John Locke was reported to have said that internal “fortitude is the guard, and support, of the other virtues.”

I am also been privy to the inner struggles of folks who have seemingly no coping strategies for dealing with stressors of any magnitude. What is the difference? What makes one person reach down and drink from that well-spring of inner strength, while another, in a very similar situation, finds the ability to move on analogous to walking knee-deep in Jell-O.

It does seem the difference may be found in the individuals’ cumulative resiliency factors. Resiliency, the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy, is enhanced when there are cumulative protective factors. Good habits.

A healthy level of resiliency is not reserved for the wealthy, or highly intelligent. No, in fact, it becomes effective, just as soon as you do. If you are older than 9, I am sure you have heard the well-worn quote of German philosopher Nietzsche; “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” It would not be worth repeating if it were not so true. The key lies in asking yourself in what areas are you becoming stronger, more resilient? Let me suggest three for now; in the next blog I will add additional ones. A long list of suggestions is worthless if you do not apply what you find relevant to your life. So, consider…

1. Accept what you cannot change.  This expression is often coupled with the prayer to receive from the God the strength to change the things we can. Alcoholic Anonymous has used this well. So many things in life are not able to be altered by us (weather, death, some sicknesses, others changing their mind that negatively affects us, the state of the economy, etc.) We find it hard, at times, to accept the things that are being presented to us. We may not want them; we may feel it is not fair; it may go against our principals; in theory this unwanted “thing” should not work this way; and the list goes on. Whatever the reason, the outcome may still be the same…it is not going away anytime soon. The ability to release my grip and literally, or figuratively, walk away is foundational to strengthening my resiliency factors. A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

2. Set new goals. Once you can see clearly to accepting what you are not able to change, you then need new goals. Not necessarily life changing goals; baby steps are appropriate. If we do not set our minds on a new direction, we will simply be holding our breath, as it were, and waiting for the preferred way to reappear. That is not resiliency. That is stubbornly doing the wrong thing. I love working with stubborn people, once they have decided to use that strength in the right direction. What is the new direction in which you now need to walk? What would be small, attainable goals in that direction?

3. Take the necessary action. We can take a page from the Nike playbook: Just do it. There is so much empowerment in that statement. Good intentions are not sufficient. Food will not make its way into my stomach without the action of eating. Action keeps us from getting hopelessly stuck in the quagmire of life disappointments. Do something different, once you have determined what that one thing would be. Even if it ends up different than you planned, action still takes precedent over lethargy or apathy.