Every moment gives you the chance to bounce back with resilience … better than before.
Life can sometimes seem like a school of hard knocks. And the more you want out of life — in short, the more you are willing to risk — the more of these knocks you may encounter.
But not everyone who gets knocked down stays down.
Some people seem to be especially resilient — they are particularly good at bouncing back. Some even seem to come through challenging times better than before.
What is the key to resilience?
My perspective on this is different from what you might read elsewhere, so pay close attention.
Conventional thinking about resilience implies that people who are “on top of their game” have an ability to bounce back immediately from a setback, as if it hardly even happened.
This immediate reactivity is certainly essential for fast-paced, short-term changes, as you would experience in ball games, battlefields, and trading floors. Think of a basketball player, reacting instantly to the constant ups and downs and twists and turns of the game. It is certainly an important aspect of being in the moment.
But it may not be appropriate for bigger, momentous challenges; these demand a more considered response. It may not be appropriate for one of those truly life-changing events: an illness, a divorce, an industry disruption, a terrorist attack, a market crash. In these situations, though we might want to bounce back quickly, it just may not be possible. And it may not be desirable.
Bigger, more profound challenges such as these, in my opinion, demand more nuanced kinds of resilience — they demand the ability to respond in a more considered way.
Let’s look at these two kinds of bouncing back in the case of a battle. In battle, a soldier certainly needs to react quickly to the fast-paced, life-threatening events happening all around him. But when that soldier returns home, having been at war, he needs a completely different process in order to recover from having been at war.
In my experience, this kind of deeper resilience, or recovery, requires three steps:
First, when you experience a big setback, it is vital to acknowledge that it happened. Don’t ignore it. Don’t try to be “bigger” than it. Don’t pretend it didn’t hurt. If it really was a major setback, give yourself time to lick your wounds or even grieve. In other words, take a moment to experience the moment, unpleasant though it might be.
This step is one that some leadership coaches, so concerned with “being positive” or getting you up again quickly, might overlook. But I believe that pausing to experience what happened is critical to your developing authentic leadership. After all, you want to be a resilient leader, not a robotic one. And if you don’t take time to experience that moment, you may not really be fully open to this one.
Second, always keep in mind that any setback, no matter how upsetting, offers you an opportunity to learn something. Indeed, in my experience, the most successful entrepreneurs are those who use every setback as a chance to refine their strategy. And the most inspiring leaders are those who use every setback as a chance to expand their vision.
Third, and most important, don’t let the past become a dark shadow on your present. Realize that each moment — no matter what happened before — offers you a fresh start. So, while the past should inform your choices, try not to let it constrain your options. This is the key to the kind of resilience that makes you, if not eternally young, then at least quite a bit more youthful.
As a leader, you will really benefit from having both skill sets: the ability to react quickly (to “think on your feet”) and the ability to give a big events a considered response. Interestingly, meditation can help you with both.
When you need to recover quickly from a difficult meeting, conversation, or any bump in the road, a brief, powerful meditation gives you a way to reboot your mind so you’re ready for the next moment. This is an area in which training in One-Moment Meditation has proven especially effective, even in high-pressure corporate environments.
But meditation can also give you greater resilience over the long term, as it helps you build a mindset that is less fixed, more self-aware, more reflective, and more stable.
Indeed, meditation might just be the ultimate recovery tool. It gives you the ability to bounce back quickly, but if you experience a big knock, and need to take a step back, it helps you take your time, lick your wounds, and find a genuinely new way forward.
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