What’s your attitude to hardship? Are you a coper? When faced with adversity, how do you react? Can you adapt to changing circumstances and bounce back from failure? Or in other words, are you resilient?
Some of us are more resilient than others – we may have a natural aptitude to overcome obstacles, learn from mistakes and failure, recover from tragedy and move on. For others of us, it’s more difficult. We may be more thin-skinned, or have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by negative events. Fortunately for all of us, resilience isn’t just a personality trait, it’s a skill that can be learned and honed. It’s an emotional muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. And the best way to start building it is with a strategy.
I began to realise this when I was a teenager and life threw me a curve ball that knocked me completely off track. I was a diligent and hard-working A Level student when family adversity struck and all I felt like doing in response was running away and hiding – crumbling under the pressure. What I actually did was make a decision that transformed my life. That decision was to pick myself up, and get myself back on track.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the beginning of me developing a resilience strategy that would prove invaluable throughout my life. Through university, working in corporate law, raising my children and building my business, there have been many times when there have been challenges and setbacks. But the approach I deliberately decided to take back when I was teenager, has served me well all the way. This is my resilience strategy in action – and in this blog, I’d like to show you a step by step plan of how it works.
How to get back on track.
1. The Track
Identify what track you were on before the events that derailed you. What were you doing and what do you need to get back to doing?
2. The Goals
What goals were you following before events or circumstances interrupted you? When you were on track and everything was running smoothly, where were you heading? Where in life was your track leading you?
3. The Trigger
What was the trigger for you falling off track? Identify the event or circumstance that you feel was the turning point. This is to help you stay focused, and avoid the danger of catastrophising – you don’t need to think that your whole life is a failure if you can pinpoint a specific, discrete time or event that has caused negative disruption. (Examples of triggers might be – receiving negative feedback, coping with a new baby, not getting a promotion, getting a challenging promotion, changing roles, illness, dealing with a lack of work/life balance or parental guilt.)
4. The Impact
Acknowledge how you feel; the emotional impact that the trigger has had on you. If it makes you upset, angry, despondent – then give yourself the space and time to recognise those feelings as valid. Have a good rant and cry if necessary!
5. The Impulse
Recognise the impulse – the impulse is your instinctive reaction to being knocked off track. It’s what you feel you immediately WANT to do in the situation. It’s usually emotionally driven and based on fear. eg. the impulse to hide, to play small, to run away, to avoid. This is the part of your brain that is all about safety and retreat. It’s your primitive brain at work.
6. The ‘Why’
Reconnect with your ‘why’, with your inner values – what’s the motivation, what’s the driver behind your goal? For example, if you go to work to pay the mortgage, your ‘why’ is the reason you want to pay the mortgage in the first place – perhaps because it’s important to you to have a house, to have a certain lifestyle, to provide that for your family, or to feel secure. (I talk more about how to identify your ‘why’ in this blog.)
7. The Choice
Make a choice about how to act based on all the above information – where you are trying to get to (back on track, heading towards your goal, so that you can achieve your why). Explore all your options. Reflect on the many choices available. Then make a decision to act based on where you want to go, using your prefrontal cortex – the cognitive brain. Override your fearful primitive brain and make choices based on careful consideration. Here are some examples of choices you might make: to put in the effort, to try something else, to show up, to ask for help, to learn the lesson, to make a change, to believe.
Put all of this together to create the storyline that will put you back on track – your own personal storyline. Then write it, read it, believe it – and – most importantly – live it.
“I was on [The Track] because my aim was to [The Goal], when [The Trigger] happened. It was [The Impact]. I felt [The Impact]. What I wanted to do was [The Impulse], but then I remembered [The Why]. So, instead, I chose to do [The Choice]. As a result of that decision, I was able to get back on [The Track] to achieve my [Goal].”
When all is said and done, falling off track isn’t usually a choice. It’s something that happens, beyond your control. The only choice you do have in that situation, is what you decide to do in response. But, if you think about it, that is the only choice you ever really need. Whatever life may throw at you – whatever challenges you face – it’s your choice to act from within, to take control of your destiny and influence the outcome that matters. Be prepared to have to make that choice repeatedly, because there will always be an obstacle around the corner. That’s life! You don’t have to fear it though, because you now have a strategy for overcoming it.
Tune in to this week’s podcast for more tips and support for getting yourself back on track.