I am constantly amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit. Resilience seems to cross socioeconomic lines, educational background and spiritual perspectives. Some people who seem to have many advantages in life are consumed by their setbacks. Others, who have one obstacle after another, persevere and become stronger from their experiences.
So what is it that helps some people cope more effectively with difficulty than others? I call it the Bounce Back Factor. It is the invisible, but very real heroic reserve that some people innately know how to tap into and others can learn how to access.
This heroic reserve resides at a deeper level than can be reached cognitively or emotionally, although the mind and emotions play a key role in helping us get there. To reach it, like spelunkers, we have to drop into the “meaning making,” purpose driven cavern of our being that lies at the very core of who we are. This is the part of us that is intuitively connected to the web of life and, therefore, knows our relationship to the greater whole. It is the aspect of ourselves that is naturally optimistic and hopeful because it is aware that our life has value and there is a reason for being or we wouldn’t be alive.
“You may walk through the Valley of Death, but don’t set up camp there.”
Tapping into this level of being can give us the resilience needed to weather our heroic challenges. It allows us to become adept alchemists, who are able to convert the situations we encounter (no matter how tragic, scary, or stress provoking) into meaningful, purpose filled experiences that contribute to our heroic character. Some of the key components that can help you trust this core part of yourself and strengthen your “bounce-back quotient” are:
- Awareness – Focused attention on the reality of the situation.
To change your perspective you must first become aware of the dynamics at play in your life drama. What fear, anger, or sadness is being evoked within you by what is happening? What does this situation remind you of from your past? Is this current incident part of a larger pattern that you are repeatedly playing out? Answering these questions can help you see yourself and others in a more realistic light without the emotional baggage clouding your perception.
- Detached Participation – Simultaneously observing your unfolding story, while fully immersing yourself in the moment-to-moment action.
This may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible. Developing your observer skills can help you see the situation from multiple vantage points. It can lessen self-judgment and attachment to a particular perspective or outcome. Immersing yourself in the action gives you an experiential connection to the here and now. When observation is paired with immersion in the ongoing action, you become an active participant who can make more conscious choices about how you want to respond.
Creative Problem-Solving – Being able to think imaginatively about possibilities and dare to take risks to get out of present situation.
Sometimes in the thick of a challenge, you may feel trapped like a rat in a maze with no way out. From a heroic perspective, however, you are never trapped. When you step back, breathe and take time to think creatively, you can almost always find a solution that loosens the Gordian knot in your mind. One of the great gifts of a challenging situation can come when you look at it as an opportunity to exercise your creativity.
Initiative – The action of taking the first step.
Sometimes in the midst of a challenge you may feel so overwhelmed that you don’t see a positive outcome. You may feel like a victim of circumstance and ask, “Why me?” When you tap into your heroic reserve, you don’t waste time acting like a victim. You ask instead, “What is the first step I need to take?” As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so wisely said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Each step you take, allows you to see the next step, which takes you closer to your goal and fulfillment of your dreams.
- Flexibility – Being adaptable to your environment.
As much as you might like it, you rarely have total control of a situation. What you do have is control over is your perception about the situation. When you’ve rehearsed in your mind how you would like something to turn out and it doesn’t happen that way, you have a choice. You choose whether you are upset by it or experience it as an unexpected, but interesting opportunity for something different to occur. When you release rigidity and are willing to adjust to change, you feel more relaxed and trusting that whatever occurs will be just fine.
- Clear Sense of Self – Your choices and actions are guided from within. The old adage, “To thine own self be true” is only possible to follow when you have a clear sense of who you are and the values you hold dear. Being your own best friend is not selfish, but a prerequisite to living an authentic life. When your internal values match your external behavior, you radiate self confidence and you are better able to balance the needs of yourself with the wellbeing of others.
- Healthy Relationships – Genuine, heart-felt human connection with others.
While it is important to have a clear sense of self, it is equally important to have healthy relationships with other human beings. This isn’t about the quantity of people in our lives, but the quality of those connections. It is through relationships that we share the love that bubbles up from inside us and are able to grow and mature as human beings. As we relate to others, it is also important to make sure that we are not overly dependent on them for our identity or making them overly dependent on us. We need to appreciate the differences between people and value the richness and diversity that those differences brings to life.
- Humor – Seeing the comical in the macabre. Sometimes in the midst of great drama or tragedy it is difficult to see anything as humorous. But, when you lighten up, it can help you see the ludicrous or absurd in a situation. Humor can break the dynamic tension that keeps you fixed on your sad story. It can help you laugh at yourself and be more playful about what is happening. It also allows you to use serendipity, which helps you convert your sense of misfortune into an opportunity that benefits your character development.
Tapping into your heroic reserve gives you the ability to not only bounce back from adversity, but also strengthen your character and consciousness muscles. While you will probably never wish for difficulties to occur, when they come you will be ready. You will be better equipped to face the future and make the most out of whatever comes your direction.
Article by Marion Moss Hubbard