Businessman building a graph or ladder of success on old rustic wooden table.

Building Blocks For Resilience

Building Blocks

It’s Monday at 9:05 am and your first prospect of the week cancels at the last minute, you open your email and that new client you were so excited about on Friday had a change of heart over the weekend and cancelled their order, frustrated and disappointed you decide to check how many people have signed up for the launch of your newest offering and see the numbers are far below what you expected. Welcome to the life of an entrepreneur! There are breakthroughs, successes, and joys, and there can also be times where things don’t go the way expect them to, which can lead to frustration, overwhelm, and even cause some to walk away from their dreams.

Expectations form brain patterns that are like anchors in our brains allowing up to accomplish things while using as little energy as possible. When life happens, and you can bet it will, you experience gaps between your expectations and reality, which can cause upset. Dealing with disruptive circumstances requires you to use more energy, the bigger the disruption, the more energy required. We all have finite energy available to us, you could experience burnout, when the level of disruption exceeds your available energy resources.

In her book Prosilience, Linda Hoopes defines resilience as the ability to deal with high levels of disruptive change, while maintaining high levels of effectiveness and well-being. By becoming more resilient you adapt quickly and effectively, thrive in adversity, bounce back, use challenges to grow stronger, and have an increased tolerance for change. Being resilient means, it will take less time to disrupt you, you will spend less energy, recovery quicker, and have more productive behaviour. At this point you might be asking yourself, how do I become more resilient?  Hoopes outlines four building blocks develop our resilience, and deal more effectively with disruptive challenges in life.

Building Block One: Calming

Start to recognize the physical, mental and behavioral signs of disruption. Some common signs of disruption are accelerated heart-beat, tense shoulders or neck muscles, negative thoughts, anxiety, sleep problems, overeating, irritability, lack of focus and motivation, and headaches. Without going into all the brain science related to the sympathetic/parasympathetic cycles of the brain, you and I both know, we don’t make great choices when we are disrupted. So before you do anything else, stop the action, unless you’re driving, and sit up straight, and take 3 – 6 deep breathes, inhaling, holding, and exhaling for at least four seconds each.

Building Block Two: Resolving Disruption: Three Strategies

  1. Reframe the Challenge by redefining the situation in a way that reduce or resolves the challenge, remember there are always more than one way to view your circumstances, if your initial view of a situation, is causing you upset, look to see if there is another way to view the circumstance.
  2. Change the Situation, make sure your fixing the real problem, select the right tools to solve your problem, and if you don’t know what those are ask others for guidance or you can use your influence, expertise, or authority, where appropriate, to effect the outcome of an undesirable circumstance.
  3. Accept what is, sometimes things are beyond our direct or indirect control, and we can always choose our attitude towards them. What we resist has a habit of persisting in our lives, by accepting what is, we stop wasting our energy on things we can’t actually change.

Building Block Three: Solving Problems Using the Seven Resilience Muscles

Once you have calmed yourselves and decided on the best course of action, we can start taking action to solve the problem. Resilient people have developed seven habits that help them solve problems more effectively, while wasting less energy. 

Positivity: they find hope and possibility in the midst of difficult situations

Confidence: they recognize and use their skills and abilities

Priorities: they identify and pay attention to the most important things

Creativity: they generate a range of possibilities and options

Connection: they reach out to others for help and support

Structure: they create and apply disciplined approaches

Experimenting: they try new and different strategies

Delving into these resilience muscles will be the inquiry for another blog, and for now it’s enough to note that we all have these muscles, they work as a system, the more developed the muscle the less energy it takes to use, and they can be developed over time.

Building Block Four: Building Power Four Kinds of Energy

Hoopes reminds us that no matter how strong our resilience muscles are, we will stop being effective, if we run out of energy. We draw on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy to deal with challenges, and they too are a connected system. Brain fog, and being “hangry” are real! To build power you can do the following:

  1. Reduce any unhealthy practices to make sure you are not wasting energy unnecessarily
  2. Engage in regular healthy habits that support and recharge your normal energy levels such as having a regular sleep schedule, eating well, and making sure you’re well hydrated. You could also take on gratitude, meditation, or journaling practices.
  3. Increase your energy capacity by stretching yourself safely over time.

Image of dissatisfied woman 20s lying in bed on pillow and turning off ringing alarm clock on nightstand

Grateful And Dissatisfied

For much of my life I was totally ungrateful for my success. No matter how much more I earned, or the improvements I made in the quality of my life, it was never enough. My experience of lack wasn’t limited to my professional life, it showed up everywhere, in my personal relationships, with my family, and mostly with myself. I spent much of my life trying to be positive, feeling like there was something wrong with me, constantly trying to prove and validate myself to make up for my crappy self-image.  Most people would never have known that I walked around literally hating myself, because I faked it until I made it. People don’t like losers, right, and I had no interest in anyone knowing how I really felt about myself. Being vulnerable and authentic about my self-loathing would have only served to prove me right about all the nasty things I said about myself in my own mind.

In the fall of 2016, I started a personal development journey that transformed my entire life. In the past I would be have been embarrassed to share any of this publicly, and now I know that we do the best we can with what we know, when we know better, we do better. I also know that I am not alone. Most of us have thoughts and feelings that we keep hidden from view. There are areas of our lives that aren’t exactly where we want them to be, we lack confidence or experience fear or anxiety. I have also learned that by sharing my experiences vulnerably I give others permission to do the same. When I show up and allow myself to be seen wholly, others experience the freedom to do the same.

Developing a daily practice of gratitude was instrumental in shifting my mindset from one of scarcity and lack, to one in which I see the abundance around me. Discovering that I am enough, perfect where I am right now, meant I stopped trying to fix and change myself, and those around me. Now I know that I can be profoundly grateful for my life today, while still being dissatisfied, because there is so much more I want to accomplish, more of an impact I want to have for others, and for myself. Grounding myself in gratitude, while desiring more, allows me to take actions not from there being anything wrong with my life today, but from my commitment to expand the impact I have on the world around me. My experience is that God, the Universe, Life whatever you personally believe, will not give you more, if you aren’t first grateful for all that you already have.

Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, and believe me I know, sometimes the circumstances are far from ideal, there is always something to be grateful for, a lesson to be learned, an opportunity to be discovered, if we are willing to focus our minds on what we have versus what we don’t. I choose to believe that life is always unfolding for us, not against us. Often this is easier to see in the rearview mirror of our lives, when we look back, we can see that the job we didn’t get, the relationship that didn’t go the way we wanted, or some other circumstances that we didn’t want at the time, was actually opening the door for something beyond our imagination. 

Frustrated laptop computer user, top view mock up copy space. Hands spread in disbelief and frustration.

Imposter Syndrome

Many years ago, Nelson Mandela was speaking to a hostile crowd. He spoke for hours, without notes, or cue cards and by the end of the discussion, Mandela had turned the room, and they were supportive of his movement to end Apartheid. Following the speech, Desmond Tutu, a dear friend of Mandela’s was interviewed by the press. Tutu was questioned on how Mandela could speak for so long without notes or a written speech. Desmond Tutu’s response was profound. He said that Nelson Mandela was completely congruent in what he said, thought and did. Mandela didn’t need notes to remember what to say, he was his message in every way possible. Nelson Mandela knew at the level of his DNA, how he was called to serve, who he was serving and why it mattered. Are you that congruent? Are you clear about who you are, what you have to offer and to whom you serve in your business?

Many Entrepreneurs deal with Imposter Syndrome which is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.  (Wikipedia) This syndrome can not only rob you of a lot of joy in your business, it can significantly impact your results. Perhaps you undercharge for your goods or services, or don’t ask for the sale, maybe you don’t market or promote your offerings for fear of being found out.

Valerie Young, PhD, a foremost expert on imposter syndrome, says there are actually five sub-types of impostor syndrome:

  • The Perfectionist: Someone who feels they need to do everything perfectly or else they’ve failed. If they aren’t perfect, they have an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.
  • The Superhero: Someone who feels they’re a fraud, either at work or in a relationship, and so they work extra hard to hide their supposed inadequacy. Often, the overload in work or stress of not measuring up is damaging to their mental health.
  • The Natural Genius: Someone who judges their worth by how easily something comes to them. If they need to work to master a task or to make a friend, they feel ashamed.
  • The Soloist: Someone who feels that they need to do everything themselves. If they need to ask for help, they feel incompetent or weak.
  • The Expert: Someone who judges their worth by how much they know. They constantly feel as if they’re not smart enough, and fear being exposed as unknowledgeable.

The truth of the matter is that regardless of how this plays out in your life, Imposter Syndrome is all in your mind.  Some of the actions you can take to give up feeling like a fraud are; shifting your mindset through repeating positive affirmations, asking for feedback from friends and family, or hiring a coach to hold you accountable to how awesome you are, until you can see it for yourself. Whatever actions you take, know that you have something unique and valuable to offer your clients and customers and you likely started your business out of a desire to be of service and make a difference. Keeping present your commitment to be of service is a great way to continually take actions towards your goals, even if you experience fear and anxiety.

Beautiful African American lady with dark curly hair standing near board and happily discussing new project with her colleagues in office. Young smiling business woman giving presentation to coworkers

Yardsticks: Measures For Success And Happiness

Your alarm goes off it’s 6 am on the morning of your 45th birthday. You sneak downstairs careful to not wake your spouse and children hoping for a few moments of calm before the daily madness ensues. As you stand waiting for your liquid gold to brew you quietly survey your kitchen, home and the life attached to every item. You take stock of the last year, and the 44 before that, every moment that led you to be in this place. As familiar as it all is, you are left with this uncomfortable sense that it doesn’t actually belong to you. How can that be? This home, these relationships, your things represent a lifetime of choices you made… Don’t they?

For many of us we have experienced a moment like this. Perhaps in a different location, at a different age, and the details are largely irrelevant. Whether you have a life you love or one you survive many of us inevitably feel like in some way or another our lives are not a creation of our own design. We walk paths one step after another, taking the actions we think we should take, doing what is expected of us, “choosing” our lives or so we think. Consider for a second that your life is in fact not something you chose at all. What if the life you love, survive, or are indifferent to is in fact based entirely off some external “yardstick” that you have convinced yourself is in fact your own?

Measures, ideals and standards for success and happiness are gifted to us from the time we are born. Each of us is dealt a hand at birth, genetics, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, region, there are a seemingly never-ending set of criteria that determine what’s possible for a human life. That there are external measures of what it means to be happy and successful is irrefutable, all you need to do is take a walk through your local book store and buy one of hundreds of best sellers telling you what you should do, or what you need to have in order to be a happy successful human being.

Some of us take all the “right” steps, acts of obedience in order to connect and belong, others seem to go out of our ways to take the “wrong” steps, acts of rebellion intended to have us feel free. Regardless we are in some way engaging with the standards, measures, and agreements surrounding us. It is an act of courage to step off the beaten path and ask ourselves, what would it look like to create a life I love based on my own measurements for happiness and success? Where would I live? How much money would I earn? What kinds of relationships would I have? Would I marry or not? Have children or not? If I could write my own story, and I believe you can, what would I say? If you were creating your business or career based not on what others said or thought, or what you think you should or shouldn’t do, and based on what you really wanted to create, what would you create differently? You are only ever one decision away from creating a life based on what you really want, and it starts with gaining clarity and having the courage to ask ourselves what do I really want? In the words of Ralph Waldo Emmerson, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is not path and leave a trail.”