“Resilience,” she said.
Or lack of. That is the word that came to her mind when I described my latest bout of overwhelming anxiety, my sadness at the passing of time, and the impact of my emotional and indecisive swirl on the people I love. My life is so good right now and yet my mind succumbed to negativity. Why can’t I sustain happiness? I am plugging away at my writing. I am plugging away at teaching my yoga. I am plugging away at nurturing new projects at work. I am plugging away at my tennis serve and my downward dog. I am plugging away at living my life with more meaning, compassion, and happiness. Ho hum, plugging away. Boring.
You see – My ego thinks that I am beautiful, smart, perfect, special. I should be doing something GREAT by now. What pressure! Clearly, I am a fraud and a failure. What beauty I have has banged into middle age. (Who is that woman with the wrinkly neck in the mirror?) I am smart, whatever that means. (I have a good education and I take tests well.) But being smart is no guarantee of success and there are many people who are smarter than me. I have never been perfect and I am tired of trying. And, I am no more special and no less special than you. Wow, what a relief. I don’t have to hide my self any more. (If only I believed this at my core.)
Resilience is not discipline. I am disciplined. I am not resilient. Yet.
Discipline is getting up every day and plugging away at making progress. It is crucial to achievement. It can be somewhat routine and automatic. David Brooks succinctly summarized recent research stating that it takes 10,000 hours of disciplined practice to become great at an activity.
Resilience is more about flexibility and attitude. It is defined as the ability to bounce back from defeat. Resilient people see failure as productive feedback, not a setback. Resilient people are optimists. Not me. I respond to setbacks through the lens of PTSD. I see failure as trauma, severe and tragic. I want to quit, not fight. I feel scolded, shamed, embarrassed. I want to hide. I am angry at not being appreciated, but I don’t know how to deal with my anger. As I toil away, alone, perfecting a project, someone who is less perfect but more out there with her self and her productivity leapfrogs ahead of me. Hmm. Maybe it is time to learn, change, and move forward.
Resilience is mindful. It is pausing with self-reflection and making a conscious decision about how to move forward. Yes, it means plugging away, but not in an automatic way. And it’s definitely not boring. It means changing course if necessary. Keep getting up and getting out there with eye contact and a smile and genuine connection. Other people don’t know what you are going through. They are more concerned with what they are going through. Forget about waiting for perfection and just put something out there. It’s better than you think.