Myth No 2: Resilience is all about being tough and strong.

It is often assumed that resilience is all about being tough, being strong, being assertive and hardy, not taking no for an answer, pushing through regardless of how your feel in a way that is bordering on being forceful or persistent in the extreme … sort of like going into battle with a suit of impenetrable armour to protect you from the world. The truth is that this kind of attitude may appear to serve you for a while BUT Authentic Resilience is in fact borne from deep within – it is a capacity you develop, nurture and build during challenging times deep inside of you. Paradoxically, the most Authentically Resilient people are the ones who have the courage to be vulnerable, to fail and to forgive – all characteristics that can be traditionally thought of as ‘weaknesses’.

When we look to nature we see that the most resilient trees and plants are the ones that are in fact more pliable and flexible and, whilst they don’t look the strongest, they are capable of withstanding severe weather conditions. Think of images you have seen of palm trees being lashed by hurricanes- they are able to bend without breaking. With its pliable trunk and deep root system, palms are able to weather unpredictable storms and severe winds. Yet the same storm might send limbs of a taller and stronger tree – such as the mighty oak- crashing, or even uproot the entire tree causing devastation.

When we resist rigidity (the more defensive position) to embrace flexibility and uncertainty , and allow our hearts to soften to allow our vulnerability, that is when we begin to grow more Authentic Resilience and are able to bear the toughest of life’s circumstances.

Noticing Nature

Gabi and I were talking recently about how we are noticing so much more of nature now that things are quieter. Our senses are quietened which allow us to observe more, and it feels like Mother Nature has had a chance to re-establish her presence whilst we are all taking a break. I have been acutely aware of the changing seasons as last week’s dying days of our Indian summer faded away and autumn fully came to the fore. On my weekly trip to the shops I am so aware of the colour of the leaves and how the trees have started shedding their foliage as they head into winter. Gabi is noticing the huge – and surprisingly noisy – flocks of birds visiting her garden. Further away there are reports of herds of goats and deer moving into town centres, dolphins visiting areas they are seldom seen and a leopard in a wine cellar now that there are fewer cars and people moving around.

We have an unique opportunity to become quieter and pay attention to nature at the moment -and one thing that we can be sure of is that however uncertain things seem to be at, the seasons will continue to change.

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The Capacity for Authentic Resilience

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient”. We are often asked whether resilience is something that people are born with, or whether it something that you can develop – and the answer is both. We are all born with some degree of resilience- the human race would not have survived without it! However some people appear to be born with naturally higher levels of resilience than others. Author W Thomas Boyce, in his book “The Orchid and the Dandelion” refers to “orchid children’ who need delicate handling, and ‘dandelion children’ who are hardier and seem more resilient.

Whatever our inbuilt levels of resilience, the good news is that we ALL have the capacity to cultivate greater levels of resilience. Whilst resilience can be developed and honed by through going through difficult times, learning the tools of Authentic Resilience can also help us ‘resilience proof’ ourselves, preparing the way for when the shocks and stresses of life hit us.

The Relentlessness of Change

One of the BIG concepts we talk about within our resilience work is that of impermanence, which falls within the 6th R – Relentlessness of Change. It is a concept that can take a life time to wrap our heads and hearts around.
Impermanence acknowledges that everything changes, continually, whether we want it to or not. When we cling to what was, we don’t allow for what is and what might be.  The concept of impermanence is about “allowing”, about surrendering our idea of how we think things should be and embracing what is.