Today I presented an opening Keynote for a resilience workshop put on by Dr. Michael Ungar, who’s an international resilience researcher from Eastern Canada.
Dr. Ungar know’s his stuff about resilience, so for further study, check out his site and his many books on the topic.
As for me, I just know what I know from living an uncommon life and observing others who have both lacked resilience or had it in abundance.
Here’s what I shared with the group of educators, counsellors, principals and community health professionals…
1. Choose Empowerment over Self-Pity
I told the story of reading an interview of Tim Ferriss when he was asked what he looked for in startup founders when he’s deciding to invest. I read the article about a year ago and it had a profound impact on my outlook of my past. He said he looks for founders who have failed over and over again, and kept pushing, kept trying, kept pursuing their goals. I immediately thought of my hockey ‘career’ and re-framed my perspective towards it. Previously I thought my lack of a US scholarship meant I had wasted a lot of time and energy in my teens and I had a whole story of self-pity around it.
After hearing Tim’s approach to investing, I saw the connection from my frequent failures in hockey to my mental health recovery. On average in hockey, you lose 40%-60% of the games. Who gets blamed when you lose? The goalie – that was me. And who gets the attention when you win? The star goal scorer of course. It’s just the way it is.
All of the frustrations, the struggles, the disappointments, the failures added up to a lot of inner strength to handle it all, I just wasn’t seeing it that way until I read Tim’s interview.
Swap out ‘hockey goalie’ for ‘poverty’, ‘abuse’, ‘being bullied’, ‘failing at school, girls, boys, life’ over and over again and you’ve got the ingredients for super human inner strength.
I shifted my perspective from ‘shit, I wasted years pursuing a hokey dream that led to nothing’ to ‘man, without my hockey days, I might not have gotten through my mental health struggles’.
I went from a ‘poor me’, ‘feel sorry for me’, ‘self-pity lame party’ mode to self-empowerment, no regrets and into a mode of appreciation for the lessons learned and strength gained.
Maybe you need to do the same? Think about it for a minute. Are you caught up in self-pity with something in your past?
No? All good, not relevant to everyone. Check out the next idea below 🙂
Yes? All good too, but I encourage you to really think about how you might shift that perspective to an empowering one.
One that recognizes the struggle, the pain, the un-fairness, the shit you’ve been through.
But one that also recognizes the strength it built within you. The wisdom you gained about life, people and yourself. The potential you have because of that experience.
Focus on the empowering perspective long enough and you can find a meaning for the struggle, and apply it towards your path of building a great life.
2. Customize Advice for What Works for YOU
I hate, and I try not to make blanket statements like:
“You NEED to start trail running if you ever want to get fit!!!!!!! It’s the only thing that’ll get you there!!!”
“Vegan/Paleo/enter latest diet fad of your choice – is THE BEST AND ONLY DIET TO lose weight/live long/etc. etc..”
“If you ever want to recover from mental illness, YOU NEED to get doin some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)!!!!! Seriously, it’s the ONLY thing that’ll make you better!!! Seriously guys!! Try it and PROVE ME WRONG!!!!!”
‘Get in the PRESENT MOMENT’ [ahem.. everyone on the promoting yoga, meditation, mindfulness as the end all and be all of wellness]. There’s nothing wrong with this advice, accept when the present moment sucks. Then what??
Then we have to customize the approach to the individual we are or the individual we’re supporting.
Maybe a combination of Vegan/Paleo works for me, but you swear by and get great results from the Mediterranean Diet. Who am I to judge you for that?
Maybe getting in the present moment works for you, but if my present moment sucks, that’s the last thing I want to focus on.
Too often we hear advice or share advice as universally applicable, when in fact almost no advice is. Keep that in mind the next time you hear me spewing on about the greatness of smoothies 😉
3. Fight Isolation Like a Disease
In my speech I opened this section with, “Isolation Kills”
I believe that.
I’ve seen it happen.
In every case of suicide I can think of, isolation played a role.
Isolation sucks, it’s a horrible feeling and it’s horrible for our mental health.
If you feel isolated, I encourage you to reach out to someone, anyone, any group you feel comfortable reaching out to.
You’ll be amazed how many supportive, inclusive, welcoming groups there are in our communities.
If you’re someone who works to support youth, I encourage you to co-create supportive and safe networks for youth to access.
Plenty exist already.
Too many are irreverent (often created solely by adults for youth) or inaccessible.
I’ve been building these small platforms for a few years now, and I’m proud of the connections and friendships made.
More are needed and the focus needs to be on co-creatign them with youth and making them accessible to the most amount of people possible.
One way we’re doing that with our CHOPPOR adventure program (launching Spring, 2015) is by having a core cohort of local recruits that we’ll work with in person for a full year, but also offering online components of the program accessible to anyone, anywhere.
This hybrid model will allow us to really develop the core group and follow their progress while still reaching and hopefully inspiring many more youth through online training and storytelling.
These are just 3 ideas to build resilience. I don’t claim to be an expert – for that, see Dr. Ungar – I just observe and live and share the lessons learned along the way.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on these ideas. Leave a comment below sharing what resilience means to you and how you’ve seen it in action. I’ll make sure to read each one.
And if you found this post valuable, give it a Like or Share so people in your network can find it too!! Thanks for the love!!
All the Best!!