In the first part of this article, we looked at the 8-fold path to being in a “Whacked-Out” state. Now, it’s time to look at the 8-fold path to an abiding state of resilience that enables you to weather any storm, and pressures and stress in daily life. This is being covered in two parts.
Part 2 includes Self Awareness, Self Talk, Connectedness and Coping. Part 3 deals with Perspective, Social Awareness, Support System, and Habits & Routines.
Your response to any tough situation in life is impacted by your motivations, interests, goals, strengths, capabilities, weaknesses, compulsions, compromises, preferences, obsessions, and behavioral patterns. That’s an awfully long list of factors indeed. Self awareness is about recognizing these, and figuring out how they impact your thoughts, actions and decisions. It really lets you understand and work with yourself in a matter-of-fact manner. There is no benefit in being overly-excited or defensive for that matter, as that can cloud what you make of the situation. It is about you and your truth.
Well, the idea is not to do a post-doctoral research on yourself. Instead, to develop the habit of pausing and observing yourself without rushing to make conclusions. It is also about recognizing facts as they are. Maybe, you feel hurt or furious about something. Effective self-awareness lets you recognize and observe it without feeling sorry for yourself. It is not about denying your emotions or hiding them. The more adept you become as a neutral observer, your ability to gather a wider set of data points and information goes up. You get to form a fuller picture of reality, and understand your evolving relationship with it.
The more you nurture this habit, you also allow time, space and energy for better options, ideas and decisions to emerge. Are you making choices that are only scratching the surface, or simply pushing the problem around? We saw a long list of factors/aspects related to self-awareness in the first paragraph of this section. How are these impacting the choices you’re considering or overlooking? What is likely to make you weak? If there’s a way to channel more of your power and believe in yourself, what would that be? What needs to change? And is there a way to make sustainable progress? What can give you the right energy to stick with the change, during the transition? Even if you must make certain compromises, in what way can you make it a better deal for you? Resilience is a natural corollary to this expanded awareness and understanding.
Self awareness gives you vital inputs that no one else can! You can now pursue genuine resilience, instead of falling into the trap of the false bravado of “I’m doing okay”.
I’d recently written about developing a spirit of inquiry for an expanded awareness and adaptability. Check it out for a structured approach to feeding your mind with questions that help you get a more nuanced understanding. That will help you become more self-aware too!
In Part 1, we had seen how negative self talk can gnaw away at your confidence, self esteem and more. The trouble with negative self talk is that it maybe a lifelong habit for many. Expanded self awareness can help to some extent, as you get into the habit of catching yourself doing this.
Also, it isn't as simple as replacing your negative thinking patterns with positive affirmations, as some people make it seem like. What could work better is to first train your mind to notice positive or not-so-negative areas, aspects of your life. By consciously acknowledging even minor changes for the better, you are slowly shifting your energy. Even during extreme crises, I’d say it’s better to persist with this habit of acknowledging the positives to yourself. Actively look for the silver lining, even if your “logical” brain red-flags it! The alternative is to sink into carping cynicism that could put paid to all your hopes for resilience. And when I say notice the positives, I don't mean ignore the black spots. Accept that reality with clear intentions to change what is possible, but don't ignore the rest totally.
Once this is in place, you can of course write down or repeat positive affirmations, if that’s what you like! Like athletes and artistes, you may even want to visualize positive outcomes, and thereby feed your subconscious mind with vibrant positive images. It’s wonderful if you can do this before going to sleep. Recent research by the scientific community has also backed up practices like maintaining a gratitude journal and recording (on a daily basis) three things that you’re grateful for.
And don't just stop there. Now that you’ve changed your state of mind for the better (even marginally), you can also scrutinize your underlying beliefs and attitudes about this issue and everything around it. What is driving that negative self-talk? Obviously there must be some truth to it. But, sometimes freeing yourself from negative self-talk also requires developing new beliefs and attitudes. I had written about working with beliefs in my recent article.
With increased self-awareness and positive self-talk, you’re slowly getting better at resilience. “Connectedness” sure will give a leg up! It works better in the long term.
How connected and rooted do you feel to a strong sense of purpose? Is there an exciting personal vision that gets you up in the morning, raring to go? What are your big audacious dreams and aspirations that make it all worthwhile? Spend some time to answer these in vivid detail. It’s okay if you feel it’ll take time to get the level of clarity that’ll make your heart leap! The idea is to “know” and let that feeling grow deep inside as you keep coming back to these exciting images. Even when life gives you some hard knocks, it is this power that’ll stand you in good stead. It is like a bamboo tree that spreads its roots far and deep, and also maintains a level of flexibility that helps it weather even the harshest storms!
Connectedness is also about unabashedly pursuing self interest without guilt! Many people sabotage themselves by being defensive about their ambitions and desires. If you’ve done your homework vis-a-vis connecting to a strong purpose, it’s all the more better. Both self awareness and self talk play a huge role in this transformation. You’ve got to establish a deep relationship with the process and make it an integral part of your life. That’ll mean showing the courage to take small and big steps in a consistent manner to get closer to this identity of you. Doing what feels right without irrational fear gives you tremendous energy when your actions are driven by this level of awareness and self-belief. You’ll be able to take the setbacks in stride, and channel a certain power that feels just awesome!
One word of caution though! Make sure you avoid the trap of obsessive perfectionism and self-righteousness. What is important is to maintain the right momentum with a sense of balance. To be able to draw upon this power in a consistent manner, and not with see-sawing spikes and crashes that leave you unnerved. And don't become a prisoner of this self-image either, where you feel compelled to live up to a certain ideal with positive outcomes on display for the entire world to see and check out! As you develop the deep roots, some results must wait. An obsession for instant glory can divert your focus and waste your energy. The warts and moles are okay, they make you real, and maybe even make you stronger!
More than anything else, mindful connectedness improves your sense of self-efficacy. That’s bound to happen as you strengthen your belief with reference points of forward movement, backed up by effective actions. You’ll also enjoy stretching beyond your supposed limits and pleasantly surprising yourself as you do the same! You’ll radiate a sense of purpose, clarity and positive energy, helping you unleash your strengths.
Once a crisis has occurred, how well can you cope? Your coping skills and strategies must be well thought through to ensure that it doesn't tip you over! A couple of things to keep in mind:
Focus on what you Can Influence: It is natural to feel frustrated when certain things just don’t seem to go right at the time of stress inducing crises and setbacks. All your efforts seem to go nowhere. It’ll be worthwhile to separate out what can be changed or influenced, and then stop fretting about the rest. That’ll help you conserve energy and resources. While doing this, wherever possible challenge the “folk wisdom” about what can be influenced. Sometimes, we play safe by restricting our options so that we can conform to the “accepted wisdom, beliefs, biases and stereotypes” out here! Challenge these assumptions to open up more possibilities. Stop desperately seeking approval from others.
Outcome Orientation: Seek out clarity about options and possibilities to keep moving forward, even as you shift yourself to a more optimistic mood. Define interim milestones with mini and micro wins that help you steadily regain the momentum. While you’re at it, also recognize the blocks & boulders that inhibit free flow. The resistance could be from others, or sometimes even internal. Look at your risk profile and take the necessary support to avoid things careening out of control. Shift the centre of gravity towards an options based paradigm (opportunities & possibilities driven), rather than an enervating one with problems, crises & setbacks. The latter is acknowledged, but not given primacy. You can do this by smartly changing the style of your communication. Powerful questions can be a good way to make this mindset shift happen. What are your emotional goal-posts, at each milestone? Do you want to feel optimistic, positive, courageous, confident, and free? What mini-options will take you there? Learn to associate with these positive states, and dissociate from the failure driven narrative.
Fight/Flight/Freeze? Choose your response strategy: Setbacks may typically leave you feeling flustered. So, it is important that you pick the response options with sufficient thought. At times, it may help to constructively confront others and stand your ground. At other times, lying low maybe better so you’ll live to fight another day. You don't want to tempt trouble and disaster when you’re already running low on stocks! Running away from danger may be the wisest thing on certain occasions. Choose your response keeping in mind the eventual best possible outcomes that you can meaningfully pursue. Don't run out of energy by fighting the wrong battles!
Healthy diet, exercise, mindfulness and deep relaxation practices can help you stay alert and resourceful too.
Challenge yourself to step out of the comfort zone of automatic reflex actions. Especially, pay close attention to how you articulate your positions and opinions. Saying “NO” tactfully and assertively can be a great skill to develop and nurture. You may often discover that this skill is at the heart of your response strategy, and its odds for success.
For more ideas on coping with setbacks and failures, check out my Article on “Reimagining the Rebound”
For the last and concluding part of the article, check out Part 3.