Not just ‘another public holiday’, December 16th is in fact the Day of Reconciliation. Reconciliation, ‘the restoration of friendly relations’ very often won’t be possible without forgiveness. We have found, whilst teaching the skills of Authentic Resilience to thousands of people, that that many people battle with forgiveness.

It has been shown that resilience has a strong relationship to forgiveness and studies have found that resilient people have more characteristics of forgiveness. Research shows that forgiving also has emotional, physical, psychological, relational and spiritual benefits. So, if we know it’s good for us, and we know we should forgive, then why is it so hard?

There are many reasons – we feel justified in holding on, we regard forgiveness as a weakness, we want to punish the person who has wronged us. Our reasons will be personal to each of us. But what we do know is that when we fail to forgive, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. It has been said, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

In South Africa, we are fortunate to have some extraordinary role models of forgiveness. Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years was a shining example for us all of how to forgive and move forward. When he was asked by former President Bill Clinton how he was able to forgive his jailers, Madiba responded, ‘When I walked out of the gate I knew that if I continued to hate these people, I was still in prison’.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said, “Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and be free from the past”. ‘The Arch’ -as he is popularly known, wrote ‘The Book of Forgiving’ with his daughter Mpho. This is a book that we thoroughly recommend for anyone who is struggling with forgiveness in their lives.

The first step to forgiving is recognising and acknowledging that you need to forgive – and to be forgiven. This Day of Reconciliation, let forgiveness be on your radar, and between now and the end of the year think about what conversations you need to have. This will allow you to go into 2021 free of the shackles that have bound you to a person or relationship that you would like to let go of.

As the Tutu’s write in The Book of Forgiving, “Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped.

“Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberator.”

Emotional Intelligence

I recently had the privilege of experiencing a course first hand with the guru of Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman himself. Yes, there really are some great benefits to Zoom! Emotional Intelligence, or EQ as it is commonly known, is has been needed in LARGE dollops as a global community during the course of 2020. It was fascinating to learn, first-hand from the guru, the tools of how to improve and deepen our capacity for EQ … and they are really quite simple. Let me share some with you … 

As you know from The Authentic Resilience Course, there is a significant and influential difference between reacting and responding. Learning to curb our impulses and develop our Emotional Intelligence is vital. Simply put, EQ is about how we manage ourselves and our relationships. Emotional Intelligence is the lubricant that drives all others aspects of our lives … if you want high-performance leaders, employees, children or relationships, be sure to prioritise EQ. 

Daniel Goleman, is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently, as well as being a science journalist and author. He wrote about the brain and behavioural sciences for The New York Times for many years before writing his best-seller “Emotional Intelligence” in 1995. Since then he has gone on to write many other books on EQ. He is the godfather of EQ if you like.. and he makes it very clear that the main ingredient of EQ is self-awareness.  We need to monitor ourselves all of the time to build our sense of self-awareness and agency so that we have the ability to respond rather than react… without it we are on autopilot. 

The bottom line? If you want to develop your EQ then meditate regularly, ground yourself regularly, take stock of your feelings and behaviour throughout the day and literally use every natural opportunity to practise self-awareness. Our habits of mind greatly influence our wellbeing, so to have agency and influence we must know ourselves better and activate the inner observer. 

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman discusses the 5 Domains of EQ as follows: 

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognise and understand your own emotions and be aware of the effect of your actions, moods, and emotions on other people. To become more self-aware, you must monitor your own emotions, recognise different emotional reactions, and correctly identifying each particular emotion. If you are self-aware you will understand the direct relationship between what you feel and how you behave.
  2. Self-regulation: In addition; emotional intelligence requires you to be able to regulate and manage your emotions. Not hiding or supressing emotions, rather sitting with them, investigating them and waiting for the optimal moment and environment in which to express them. Self-regulation is all about expressing your emotions appropriately.
  3. Self-motivation: Intrinsic self-motivation plays a key role in emotional intelligence. People who are emotionally intelligent are motivated by a passion to fulfil their own inner needs and goals. They seek internal rewards and pursue experiences of self-actualisation and self-growth. 
  4. Social skills: Being able to interact well with others is vital. True emotional understanding involves understanding your own emotions and those of others and then putting this information to work in your daily interactions and communications being able to build relationships and connections of trust and develop a strong rapport with leaders and co-workers. Important social skills include active listening, good verbal communication skills and non-verbal communication skills and leadership skills. 
  5. Empathy: or the ability to understand how others are feeling, is critical to emotional intelligence. But it involves more than just being able to recognize the emotional states of others. It also involves your responses. Being an observer of your head, heart, gut and your environment. Empathetic people listen and feel, but without judging your intentions. Empathetic people have the restraint needed to listen actively. 

If you aren’t someone who loves mediation and journaling them simply make the five breaths grounding practice a part of your daily routine as many times a day as you can; prioritise the pause before responding and become your own witness and observer … you will already be on the road to improving your EQ which will in turn give you a great sense of agency and confidence.

-Written by Gabi Lowe

Failure Helps Build Resilience

We are imperfect beings which means that we are going to fail in our lives again and again. How we learn to deal with failure is what matters most … 

Failure is life’s greatest teacher, and he truth is that most successful people have failed numerous times … we just don’t see their failures, only their successes. 

In many ways “failure” is a self-inflicted limitation because in reality “failure” only becomes a failure when we lose the determination, strength and will to keep trying. 

As the famous basket-ball player Michael Jordan says:   “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Proof that in many ways then, failure is only failure when you give up trying again. If you ever learnt to ride a bicycle or drive a car, you’ll know what I mean … you only failed if you gave up trying and learning.  It’s useful therefore to see failure as a steppingstone toward experience, knowledge and a deeper understanding of yourself. As an invaluable experience.

AND … the good news is that failing really helps to build resilience. The more we fail, the more resilient we become and the more we grow and mature and reach a deeper understanding about our lives and why we’re doing the things that we’re doing. Recovering from failure is where our focus should be: 

  • The first step is in recovery is understanding that failure is unavoidable and in fact advisable. 
  • The second is to acknowledge the importance of it and shut out or down the criticism from others. 
  • The third is to allow yourself to feel bad for a bit – don’t avoid the pain – and lean into it so that you can shape a better version of yourself.
  • Now, use those learnings as leverage to try again. But before you do, revisit your goals and your plan… maybe is there a SMARTER way? What else do you need? Spend time analysing how and why you failed and then create an action plan for the way forward and CHOOSE how you are going to respond. 

If the “failure” is a big and emotionally painful (maybe even feels embarrassing or shameful) – one that really challenges your self-esteem – then find the help you need. Finding the right therapist or coach for you could lead to many major breakthroughs. Or carefully select someone you respect, admire and trust as a sounding board. But remember that in the end, it’s YOU who will start the process of coming to terms with and internalising the learnings from your failures. You will need to own it and own up to it in order to move on. And remember, that a failure is actually only a failure when you give up trying. 

-Written by Gabi Lowe

Things to do RIGHT NOW if you are feeling overwhelmed

Uncertainty can be overwhelming, and in moments of acute anxiety wise adages, such as “The only thing we know for certain is that everything will change” don’t offer immediate help. Here are a few useful tips to help you overcome overwhelm.  Panic and anxiety are the thieves of choice and creative problem solving, and  it’s important we learn how to deal with them.

  • First stop your mind from ruminating on potentially catastrophic outcomes in the future by staying in the present moment.

The best way to do this is to anchor yourself in your breath and in your body. Stand up, plant your feet wide and firmly on the ground, soften and drop your shoulders, close your eyes and take five deep, slow, considered breaths in and out.

  • Lean in and unpack carefully and consciously what it is that is making you the most fearful.

The best way to do this is to journal (either writing, or if you don’t enjoy writing then record notes into an electronic device) about how you are feeling, what you fear most and why. Saying your greatest fears out loud doesn’t make them come true, in fact acknowledging them robs them of their power.

  • Watch your use of language.

Language is powerful, remain matter-of-fact when describing the challenges either to yourself or anyone else. There is no room for drama here – the way you talk about and frame things can influence the outcome. Be very disciplined with yourself about the words you choose – don’t feed the drama.

  • Develop a plan of action.

Draw up a routine for the week that includes self-care (breathwork, journaling, meditation, exercise, nutrition, sleep and connection time with loved ones) as well work time divided into one or two hour chunks (dependent on your ability to focus) for planning and research, task lists and allocation with time lines, your current and most pressing mission statement,  mind maps etc.

  • Draw up a list of people who could assist.

Reaching out is hard, but essential. Make a list of who and what you may need in terms of mentorship, guidance, coaching, therapy or any other kind of assistance (professional or otherwise) that you may need. We all need a network – plan yours.

  • First things first.

Evaluate what the most important things are to do first and set the rest aside for now. As my mother used to say to me “When faced with eating an elephant, the only way to do it is one mouthful at a time.”

Written by Gabi Lowe

Myth No 9: We only need resilience during times of trauma.

This is altogether not true. In fact, it is often the smaller day-to-day adversities that cause stress to build and that we need ongoing resilience for. Whilst many of us can pinpoint great trauma or adversities we have experienced for which we have needed resilience, for others simply getting through each day requires enormous amounts of Authentic Resilience.

There is no hierarchy of suffering. As Dr Edith Eger, internationally acclaimed psychologist, author of The Choice and Holocaust survivor explains “ If we discount our pain, or punish ourselves for feeling lost or isolated or scared about the challenges in our lives, however insignificant these challenges may seem to someone else, then we’re still choosing to be victims. We’re not seeing our choices. We’re judging ourselves.” No one person’s suffering is any less significant than another’s. In a challenging, constantly changing and most undoubtedly uncertain world we require resilience every day just to face ordinary life.

Myth No 8: Building resilience is a one-off event.

There appears to be a belief that says ‘once resilient, always resilient’. In fact, the opposite is true. Authentic Resilience is something that you have to keep on working on – it is a daily practice. On some days and in certain situations our levels of resilience will feel higher than others. At other times they will be lower – but this doesn’t mean that your resilience has disappeared – it simply means that your circumstances, your health, your self- care practices and many other aspects of your life are asking you to notice what part of yourself or your life needs addressing. If your levels of resilience waiver and you have a patch of time where you feel more vulnerable than others it usually points to a needs within you or in your immediate environment that you are not paying attention to or taking care of.

Myth No. 7: Resilience is simple to acquire and it is built one way.

Authentic Resilience is complex and multi-dimensional and there are many facets to it. The very fact that Authentic Resilience is made up of so many factors and dimensions is what makes resilience elusive and hard to pin down. Authentic Resilience isn’t something that you can learn overnight. Some of the many factors that go into creating a life that is Authentically Resilient include the ability to face our situation with realistic optimism, holding perspective, being able to forge connections with others and having meaning and purpose in your life – and plenty more, all of which are built into our model, The Ten R’s of Authentic Resilience. Some aspects come naturally to us whilst others won’t – but often it is the things we steer away from that require more attention.  Authentic Resilience requires intentional effort in many areas of your life which should reward you with a lifetime of thriving.

Myth No. 6: Resilient people are just born that way – you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Contrary to what many people think, resilience isn’t a superpower that we are born with. It is true that as a species, we are undoubtedly resilient, otherwise we would not have survived, but resilience isn’t a character strength that you either have or don’t have. We are all born with a level of resilience which can become greater. Authentic Resilience is a competency that is learned, acquired, developed and refined through the journey of life – even more so when there is a conscious decision to grow our resiliency.

Whilst some people seem more resilient than others in the face of adversity, the truth is that they haven’t been born with a ‘special something’ that others don’t possess. This is great news – as it means that everyone has the capacity to grow greater levels of Authentic Resilience! Authentically Resilient people have faced challenges in their lives the same as others have, but have grown from their experiences. They’ve figured out what has worked for them – as well as what hasn’t. Resilience isn’t something that is reserved for a few special people – it can be learned, practiced and improved by us all.

Myth No 5: Resilient people can go it alone – they are independent and don’t need others.

As human beings we are wired for connection – we are not intended to go it alone. To try and do the journey of life by yourself – especially during the really hard times – simply means that you are disconnected and that is neither healthy, sustainable or Authentically Resilient. As human beings we are stronger together than alone – interdependence is what we need to survive real tragedy and trauma. It is important to have an understanding that interdependence brings with it exponential strength and resilience.

Note that we are NOT talking about unhealthy co-dependence but rather healthy inter-dependence that requires a balance of self and others, a recognition that all parties are working to be present and meet each other’s needs in appropriate and meaningful ways so that we feel valued, seen and understood. Being mindful of nurturing and cultivating relationships will help you through even the darkest of times.

Myth No 4: “Resilience is just about putting your head down and getting on with it.”

At times this may well be true – there are moments when there is no choice but to keep on keeping on, no matter how you feel – but; to rely on willpower and grit alone for a protracted period of time is not an Authentically Resilient solution.  You will collapse at some stage. Walking through the desert on your knees is not the answer. The most resilient of people are just that because they stop to refresh and restore themselves along the way. They know how to refuel and fill up, they know how to renew and restore even when they don’t feel like it. Authentically Resilient people understand the importance of looking after themselves even when they don’t think they should be a priority . Just keeping on keeping on will work … for a while … but you are human and all humans have physical and emotional needs. The better way, the Authentically Resilient way, is to ensure you are taking care of those needs; especially during times of trauma.