All of us know that life is not without it’s difficulties. The good news is we always have a choice about how we respond to difficulty. There are four ways human beings respond to hardship only one of them shows true resilience.
1. Quit, give up, or drop out
Winners quit and quitters never win.
When some people encounter an obstacle, challenge, or problem they throw up their hands and give up. Giving up can be done in several ways but regardless of how it is done, it is still quitting. Sometimes the response is to become so depressed, hopeless, or unhealthy that they simply refuse to participate in life. Other times it may be to develop severe addictions that make them unable to function. A smaller percentage of quitters literally give up and commit suicide. No matter how these individuals choose to quit, give up, or drop out they have a detrimental affect on the people who love them. Even the most energetic and optimistic person in the world would have a hard time helping someone who has given up.
2. Lose ground
When looking from the outside some folks appear to just “go with the flow.” These are the people that react to adversity by pretending nothing has happened when, in reality they are overflowing with despair on the inside. They hold what’s really troubling them in and walk around like ticking time bombs. Their energy goes into reliving what happened to them and assigning blame. Of course that leaves them with very little energy to do anything to improve their situation, which takes them backwards instead of forward. Misery eats them from the inside out making them also quite likely to drop out of life.
3. Maintain “status quo”
Unfortunately some individuals manage to remain exactly the way they were before adversity struck. They were clearly affected by whatever happened, they just don’t know it. These clueless characters learn nothing from life’s difficulties and are destined to continue to make the same mistakes and take the same blows over and over again.
4. Gain wisdom and strength
Without imperfections, there would be no mistakes, without mistakes, there would be no way to learn and grow. Without learning and growing, life would have no purpose.
My father had a very simple but wise and supportive response every time I called him freaking out about some terrible choice or mistake I had made. He’d say, “Well I guess you won’t do that again.” When dad made that statement instead of berating me, yelling, or getting really angry I was always relieved. Then when I was calm, I could look at the situation see what I did wrong and prepare not to make that mistake I’m sure that by now you have guessed number 4 is the only truly resilient response. The rest can lead to a great deal of wasted time, energy and opportunity. Don’t be discouraged if you recognized yourself in numbers 1-3. Everyone has had at least 1 of those responses to something in their lifetime. Just know this; the most important word in this article is choice; you have one. No matter what the circumstances you can always use adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.
9/11 will always be memorable to me for two reasons. First, of course, is the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. However, 9/11/2014 is equally unforgettable for me. That was the day I fell and broke my right (dominant) arm.
On the morning of my accident, I had acted on my commitment to step things up a notch in my business and spent hours setting various projects in motion. Then I went out that evening and broke my arm. It was devastating. Those projects were the foundation for the success I planned to attain in 2015 and they had to happen soon. But I was in a sling strapped to my body, unable to move my right arm and unable to do very much with my left. There was a bruise from the crook of my arm to my armpit the color of ink.
The “woe is me” syndrome kicked in big time. I could not believe God had allowed this to happen to me. He and I were of one accord about His plans for my life; there was no way a broken arm could be a part of the plan.
Dressing by myself for the first time took 20 minutes just to get into my underwear. The experience made me sincerely want to go back to bed but I was going to a meeting I could not miss. Through tears of pain, frustration and discouragement I cried out “Lord you’ve given me so much to do. Why must I do it with a broken arm?” His reply was “You’re the resilience expert, go be resilient.”
He was right. Resilience has been a relevant subject to me for most of my life.
The topic peaked my interest when working with middle school students who lived in dysfunctional but non-abusive households. They were negatively affected by the family issues but not enough to be removed from the home. Resilience was the attribute that would allow them to survive and thrive in those types of environments. I also did my doctoral research on resilience and when you spend years studying reading, researching, and writing on a certain topic you are considered an expert.
I realized that God had just given me another opportunity to practice what I preach.
It was time to severely limit my use of the words “I can’t.” I began having the following dialogue with myself several times a day. “I can’t do it.” “Yes you can, think about it.”
I got determined and creative. I slept on the other side of the bed, re-thought my hairstyle, how I cooked, drove, and used my cell phone and computer. I went back to Pilates, Zumba and Bollywood dance classes modifying all the way; but I was there. My classmates helped me get in and out of my shoes and change from my “driving sling” (which allowed a little movement) to my “dancing sling” (which kept the arm from moving).
Ever the diehard diva, creativity was crucial when it came to dressing stylishly. It was fall and I needed a coat that could accommodate the sling so I searched online and found a stunning poncho. When I couldn’t face putting the injured arm in a fitted sleeve or pulling anything over my head the search was on for sleeveless blouses that fastened in front. There were two beautiful blouses that buttoned up the back. The tags were removed so they could be worn backwards.
Let me be completely candid with you. I did NOT simply vanquish every obstacle and get everything right. There were lots of times I spent crying and there were several days in bed with the covers over my head. I’m not superwoman. However, between my bouts of self-pity, God blessed me with the strength to get up and keep moving forward, even when I didn’t know exactly where I was going or how I would get there.
I shared this to let you know that you have all the resilience, creativity, strength, power and whatever else you need right now. God is just waiting for you to trust Him enough to use it. Consider this: instead of saying “I can’t do this” try saying, “I can’t do it this way.“ Then get still long enough to allow God to show you alternatives.
Last week, I spent two days in Denver Colorado with Dick Bruso, one of the top branding specialists for professional speakers in this country. It was the most life changing experience I have had since deciding to leave a work environment that had become toxic a few years ago. I went to Colorado expecting to make changes in my brand, focus, target market, and business strategy. Dick’s expertise, skill, and passion for his work enabled me to change all of those things, the effects of which will create exponential growth in my opportunities to speak and in my life coaching case load. That is fantastic and it is exactly why I flew all the way to Colorado feeling completely open and educable, allowing myself to be led and molded by the expert. I learned so much. Although I am still a speaker, life coach, and author my business has changed immensely. I am bursting to share the details with the world but I can’t until I have all of my “ducks in a row.” Stay tuned. You will hear all about it very soon. What has come as a complete surprise to me is the way my life has changed. I experienced a total paradigm shift. I accepted Dick ’s heartfelt endorsement. He said “Dr. Lori you have paid your dues and you’ve got the goods. You don’t have to back door your way into anything.” Dick’s statement revealed an interesting paradox for me. I realized I already knew that what he told me was true; what I did not quite understand was that the people around me who mattered knew it too. My thought in response to this revelation was “now I understand.”I want to share with you another piece of advice from my friend, brother, and mentor Dick Bruso. “Get rid of the naysayers and surround yourself with cheerleaders.” In other words spend your time with people who build you up instead of people who tear you down. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I did not also share a Dr. Lori quote with you. “Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to introduce you to yourself.” If you’d like to read the story that inspired that quote, you can find it in my book Momma Sayings and Life Reflections. To purchase this book, you may go to: https://www.createspace.com/3821059
In my lifetime, I can list many great achievements. If you want to know what they are, you can read my resume and my bio or talk to friends and family. But I will tell anyone who will listen that the absolute greatest thing I have ever accomplished was to quit smoking cigarettes. That’s right, I was a one pack a day smoker, a habit that caused me pain, shame, and fear. Even when I worked as a drug treatment counselor I was in the clutches of the most addictive drug there is, nicotine. At first, when I worked with adults, it was not too much of a problem for me. Most of my clients smoked. When I got a job working in a middle school with adolescents it became a big problem for me. I did not want to be an excuse for any of my clients to smoke. The bottom line was I was a role model for those kids. I wanted to quit but didn’t really think that I could so I did the next best thing. I would not smoke while I was working. So for 8 hours a day I did not have a cigarette. After a while I did not even crave cigarettes during that 8 hours. I continued this habit when I started working in a university setting, much for the same reason. Eventually, I was able to make the commitment to do whatever was necessary to become a nonsmoker. I will never forget that day. I decided to go for a long walk and have a talk with God. On that walk I proclaimed that I would do whatever he led me to do and begged him to help me give up this terrible and dangerous addiction. On July 22, 2002 I experienced my first day as a nonsmoker. I have not had a cigarette since that day. It was a process that took a while and it was very tough but I did it. If you are interested in the details, email or message me, I would be happy to share. I image that some of you are thinking, “Dr. Lori, sure it is great to quit smoking but out of every thing you have done why would you consider it your GREATEST accomplishment?” It is (and probably always will be) the utmost triumph to me because it had such a positive domino effect in my life. When I quit smoking I realized that I could do anything and that paved the way for every victory I have enjoyed since then.
When I saw the poem below featured in Dr. Natalie Francisco’s book I’m Just Saying. I knew I had to use it. The poem’s author, Edger A. Guest used the word he in the original version. I could not resist changing it to she. This poem reminds me so much of my own experiences that I need to share it with others who may be having the same experience.
Somebody Said It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edger A. Guest
Somebody said it couldn’t be done,
But she with a chuckle replied
That maybe it couldn’t but she would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till she tried.
She waded right in with a trace of a grin
On her face, if she worried, she did it.
She started to sing as she tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done—and she did it.
Somebody said, “Oh, you’ll never do that,
At least no one ever has done it.”
But she took off her coat and she took off her hat:
And the first thing we know she’d begun it.
With a lift of the chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quit it,
She started to sing as she tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done—and she did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure.
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a lift of the chin,
Take off your coat and do it.
Starting to sing as you tackle the thing
That cannot be done—and you’ll do it.
The tagline of Nova Southeastern University’s Fischler School of Education is “Cause An Effect.” I love the graphic. It is a drop of water entering a still pond and the ripples appear to go on indefinitely. Words cannot describe my pride in being an alumna of the doctoral program in organizational leadership. I will never forget the first time the words cause an effect became real for me; the first time I genuinely felt the ripple. It was at graduation and a list of the countries represented in the graduating class was being read. When I looked around in that huge auditorium at the hundreds of people receiving masters and doctoral degrees, the picture of the drop in the still pond came to my mind. When I remembered that graphic, I had two thoughts. The first was “I am here among this amazing and exclusive group of scholars and educators who will touch millions of lives.” The second was “all of those small-minded, envious people I have encountered who tried to place obstacles in my path were not able to stop me. It was an experience that was so emotionally empowering that I had goose pimples. I will never forget it. While I was in school I just moved from one thing to the next, not thinking too far ahead but now I was finished. I had already started causing my effect, two months prior to graduation I had begun teaching in South University, Virginia Beach’s Masters level clinical mental health counseling program. I had trained graduate interns for years, now I was taking my knowledge, wisdom and experience into the classroom. This was my passion and my legacy. When I look into the faces of my amazing graduate students, I realize that I am touching their lives, the lives of their families, as well as the lives of their clients and their families. Can you see the ripple? Each of us has the power to cause an effect. It is up to you to decide if the ripple you create is positive and productive or negative and destructive. I have chosen to create a positive ripple in every life I encounter. What is your choice?
I am a firm believer in taking care of your inner child. It may be my background as a mental health clinician. Making sure the child in you feels loved and safe is something I stress to both my clients and the graduate-level counseling students I teach. The child that we once were is still with all of us, and, yes that means YOU! If you don’t think you have an inner child you are seriously out of touch and you really need to read this post. Your inner child is the person you were from birth through adolescence. She/he is part of the reason you still love, video games, Disneyworld, action figures, stuffed animals or milky ways (even if you don’t eat them). She/he may also be the part of you that carries old hurts and fears; those experiences that still affect you as an adult. Getting over childhood ordeals does not involve getting rid of the child within you. It involves reassuring that child that you (the adult) will love and protect him/her no matter what happened before. That little one in you should not be hidden and denied. In fact, every so often she or he should be indulged. It could be something as small as having some cotton candy or as big as going to Disneyworld for a week without kids. One of the ways I indulge my little one is to fly my kite. I’m a city girl. I grew up in Brooklyn NY where many of the trees grew out of concrete. Flying a kite was kind of difficult with the streetlights, street signs, cars buildings, people etc. As a result I had never flown a kite and, until a few years ago, was something I had always wanted to do. About four years ago I walked into a store that specialized in kites, told the owner I had never flown a kite so I needed an easy one and that I loved butterflies. After choosing one of the 4 available butterflies and a brief lesson I was off. It was exhilarating and calming at the same time. Getting the kite up was a rush and focusing on it in the air was relaxing. The little girl in me had a ball! Now every spring no matter how busy I am, my little one and I go to the beach and take our butterfly for a flight. By the way the photograph in this post is my kite.
What do you want? The answer to that question can make a huge difference in your life. We all know that’s true when it comes to setting goals, making plans and overcoming obstacles. We don’t always use the concept when it comes to our relationships. What if you were to ask yourself that question until you get a clear, reasonable answer? Consider this scenario:
- My husband never pays attention to me.
- What do you want?
- I want him to pay attention to me
- What do you want?
- I want him to listen when I talk
Anyone who has ever traveled understands the value of packing lightly. I learned early that whatever I pack I must carry at some point. Dr. Tim Elmore, author of Habitudes: Images that form leadership habits & attitudes, refers to four images we have of ourselves. Dr. Elmore considers three of those images excess baggage. The four images are:
- The image others have of us
- The image we project to others
- The image we have of ourselves
- The true image of us; who we really are.
Cyril T. Jermin, who happens to be brilliant and also happens to be my cousin (I’ll admit that I could be a tad bit biased) once posted a series of comments on insecure leaders that I found extremely insightful. When I read them I recognized every insecure leader I have ever worked with. If you recognize any of these traits in leaders you work with, this knowledge can help you to know where they are coming from and deal with them a little more effectively. If you are a leader and recognize some of these traits in yourself, you know where to begin your personal development.
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