How To Prepare For The Unexpected: Before It Happens

By October 31, 2017Resilience

There are times when life seems easy and everything is working out just as desired. During these times, stress-ridden thoughts such as “how will I get through this?” or “what happens when….?” rarely enter our awareness and front-of-mind thinking. Proper and effective planning, however, mandates taking into consideration the “what if’s” that happen when you’re not expecting them. I am referring to potentially life-altering experiences that you rarely contemplate when everything is working just fine.

Preparing for the unexpected

Preparing for the unexpected

Consider for a moment how your life would change if the one of the following occurred:

  1. Loss of a job due to a major shift in technology or the economy
  2. Death of a spouse or partner
  3. Disability due to accident or sickness
  4. Divorce

How would your ability to achieve your goals be impacted? These are just a few examples of major disruptions or life-altering circumstances that could derail your journey in a significant way.

In these difficult times, you need to find an internal reserve of energy and hope to help you make your way through. In other words, you need to tap into your resilience.

With that in mind, I asked Marjie Terry, a career and business coach, her take on the following questions about resilience.

What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to regain or maintain a positive outlook and persevere in the face of challenge and adversity.

Where does resilience come from?
Like so many other human traits, resilience can be woven into the fabric of one’s being (nature) and/or it can be learned (nurture). One’s natural disposition may lead them to always look on the bright side or to look for the silver lining. For others, with an accumulation of life experience, they develop a resilience perspective and realize that, as the old saying goes, what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. They develop an ability to recognize that it’s important to keep going even when life hands you challenge after challenge—they develop perspective. More on that later.

Why is resilience important?
Resilience is characterized by positivity and productivity. A resilient person will maintain a positive outlook on life and continue to believe that. Even when life has hands you lemons, there is lemonade to be made. They will continue to present to the world with a positive attitude. You are much more likely to be accepted and welcomed by every community with which you interact when you present in this way. When people view you favorably, they are more likely to like you and present you with opportunities. Opportunity leads to more positive experiences, which further reinforces one’s belief in resilience and their commitment to it.

How do we build resilience?
For those who are not naturally resilient, there are three tactics you can try to build this trait:

A Leap of Faith
The first is by taking a leap of faith or faking it till you make it.  Studies have shown that smiling can make you happier. Being happier will help you feel more positively about your life. This increased positivity is the beginning of resilience.

A Different Perspective
The second tactic you can apply is to approach a trying situation from a different perspective. As is the practice in Co-Active Coaching, if you try to view a difficult experience from a different perspective (e.g. spend a few minutes deeply visualizing your favorite childhood experience and then approach your current crisis with the energy and creativity that characterized you in that earlier time in life), you will approach your current predicament with an altered, stronger sense of hope and energy.

Using Your Own Power
Last but not least, try approaching a challenging situation as if you are the only person in the world who can make it better. Ask yourself: if anything is possible right now (divine intervention and magic aside), what three things can I do to improve my circumstances? You may not be able to take every step at this very moment, but you can start to create a plan that you can execute over time until you have started to create positive change in your life circumstances.

How can we increase our awareness and ability?
Feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion can act as lightbulbs. If, in the midst of difficulty and hardship, you can recognize these feelings and turn them into reminders to:
a) Smile;
b) Engage in an exercise to see the current situation from a different vantage point; and
c) Ask yourself what three things you can do to improve your circumstances and then start to do them

you will begin to strengthen your resilience muscle.

The time to plan is not after a major shift, but before the shift. Understanding and deepening your connection to resilience provides tools that are invaluable when the need arises. Thank you Marjie Terry for your words of wisdom.