Over the last few years I’ve begun a practice of setting intentions for each year in the form of a “theme”–one or two words or phrases that I want to keep in the front of my mind as I go through the year. A couple of years ago the keywords were lighter and more musical. Last year they were voice and follow-through. For 2o15 my words are habits and profitability. I’ve found that these themes are powerful for me in choosing where to focus my attention.
So I thought I’d issue a brief invitation for you to consider including resilience in your own theme for 2015. Why? Because I believe that resilience is one of the most important things you can focus on in this ever-turbulent world. I’ve recently been working on a new book that talks about how you can build your capacity to deal with adversity. Here are a few of the things that have emerged as particularly meaningful for me in digging into this topic:
1) The importance of intentionally building physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. No matter how skillful we are at using the resilience characteristics to deal with the challenges we are facing, we are limited in your ability to respond by the amount of energy we have available.
2) The critical role our brains play in translating our perceptions of the world. We now know that the parts of the brain that move us into fight-or-flight mode are triggered much more quickly than the parts that think logically and analytically. Until we are able to send signals that tell what I call the “lizard brain” that it’s OK to calm down, we are in a zone of emotion and reaction. We can learn to intentionally send those “calm-down” signals by things like breathing deeply (full breath in, slow exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6; repeat).
3) The ability to strengthen our “change muscles” through practice. It turns out that how we respond to small challenges is a significant predictor of how we respond to larger ones. We also know that we can rewire our brains through practice. This means that we can use smaller challenges as opportunities to practice our responses to disruption, so we have stronger muscles to draw on when the larger challenges arise.
All of this suggests that intentional focus on resilience can be tremendously helpful in preparing ourselves for turbulent times. And as I get older, I realize that the frequency with which we encounter physical challenges, emotional losses, and other forms of adversity tends to increase as we age. I encourage you to set a specific intention to develop some aspect of your resilience–one of the sources of energy, the ability to calm yourself down quickly, or one of the seven resilience characteristics, and to define a regular practice for doing so. I’d love to hear from you about what you selected and how you are approaching it.
Even if you don’t do this, please be aware that any intentions you do set for the new year can be helped along by applying the seven characteristics of resilience:
- Recognizing the importance of opportunity and hope as motivators for growth (Positive: The World)
- Believing in your own capability for development and success (Positive: Yourself)
- Setting clear, specific intentions for what you hope to achieve (Focused)
- Identifying creative approaches to whatever you have chosen to do (Flexible: Thoughts)
- Reaching out to others for practical and emotional support (Flexible: Social)
- Developing effective plans and approaches to move you forward (Organized)
- Trying experiments that move you out of your comfort zone and provide opportunities for learning (Proactive)
May your new year be full of joy, abundance, and resilience.