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From the Heart: Bouncing Back From Adversity ... Together

How do you define resilience? How resilient are you — really? When you think of resiliency, what person immediately comes to mind?

I recently participated in a presentation on resiliency led by Gabriele Ganswindt of Shared Learning International. I had the opportunity to consider these questions — questions each one of us needs to ask ourselves during these unprecedented times.

As we face COVID, racial unrest, a politically divided country, natural disasters, and more, our ability to be resilient is inextricably linked to our physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. Ganswindt, an executive coach and trainer, defines resiliency as “the ability to survive and thriveamidst change, disruption and adversity without exhibiting dysfunctional behaviors.”

She identifies five key areas, or domains, of resiliency and believes that the better we are at straddling each of them during adversity the more resilient we are. The five domains are: Outlook, Rebound-ability, Energetic Focus, Nurturance, and Relational Intelligence.

Think about a challenge you are currently facing — and ask yourself the following:

How clearly am I able to see both the reality and unvarnished truth of an upsetting situation, and the potential to create a positive future? (Outlook)

How effectively do I balance clear purpose and flexible tactics when faced with conflict, or adversity? (Rebound-ability)

Am I able to meet challenges head-on with energy, passion and commitment, while also looking non-judgmentally at my own actions and underlying beliefs? (Energetic Focus)

During a crisis, do I nourish physical, emotional and mental energy by caring for myself as well as others? (Nurturance)

When facing disruption or disaster, how well do I judge when to act as a member of the team and when to act independently? (Relational Intelligence)

American spiritual teacher, mystic and pacifist Peace Pilgrim says, “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” I would venture to say the same could be said about resiliency.

Our country has rebounded from so much pain and adversity over the centuries — from world wars, to economic collapse, the tragic events of 9/11, and more. Something, though, feels different about this particular time in our history. Somehow we don’t seem to be as resilient.

Sure the stock market may rebound due to manipulation and the extreme wealth of a few who keep the game going. However, we have fared far worse at being resilient in terms of our physical and mental health, and our social and spiritual wellbeing.

Anyone who thinks we are "great" right now may be more in a state of denial than resiliency. Conspiracy theories; attacks on each other and our institutions; and using scripture to defend immoral and unethical behavior, does not make us resilient. It weakens us to the point of snapping.

Perhaps if we all asked ourselves the questions above — if we truly found resiliency in ourselves — we would be able to live in resiliency with each other as a nation.

When Gabriele asked us to think of a person who models resiliency for us, I wished I could have immediately gone to Donald Trump — our country needs a resilient leader at a time like this. Unfortunately, he falls short and is way out of balance in each of the five domains listed above.

He is incapable of seeing reality, and uses lies to paint a bleak future. He is one of the least flexible leaders we’ve ever had. He has energy but is incapable of looking non-judgmentally at his own actions and underlying beliefs. He takes care of himself but fails miserably at writing a check for someone else, or lending a shoulder or sympathetic ear. He ran his last campaign on the belief that “I alone can fix it,” clearly revealing he does not act as part of a team.

We are only as great as the leaders we elect. In many ways Donald Trump just mirrors our own shortcomings as a resilient people at this time in history.

Our country has never been perfect — but we have always rallied together and supported each other when the chips were down. If we are to bounce back from the anger, fear and chaos crippling the backbone of this country, we cannot expect Donald Trump or even his supporters to do it for us. The rest of us need to show them what true resiliency is. We need to show them together. We need to look at our own models of resiliency for inspiration.

For me that person is my father. We weren’t particularly close for much of my life — but we are now. We've learned to meet each other in the middle of the five domains.

My father is 87 years old. He fought in the Korean War. He started his own businesses. He still works two part-time jobs — one that requires him being on a ladder at times. He golfs, travels the world, and just adopted two kittens with his life partner.

To look at him you would never know the adversity he has faced: a massive heart attack at 50, bankruptcy, divorces, a leaky aneurism that had him in a coma for days when he was 80, and an obstruction that required a large portion of his intestines to be removed after that.

Yet he keeps on ticking. He has made mistakes. But he has overcome them and learned to admit when he may have been wrong. Like many of us, he has a tendency toward stubbornness — but he is also capable of shifting his thinking when it really matters. He wears a mask. He never ends a call without saying, “I love you.”

When everyone had him good as dead, he said, “Not me. Not now. I still have too much living to do.” He has an amazing attitude. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to tell him last night how much he means to me. I wish that Donald Trump could be half the man my father is.

Resiliency is about much more than physical stamina and being a “strong man.” It also requires love and compassion; it requires us caring about each other enough to meet in the middle.

My blessing this week is for all of us to find the resiliency to bounce back individually and collectively. There has perhaps never been a time we’ve needed it more.



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