Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My 10 Keys to Resilience

English: Resilience of nature Despite falling,...
Resilience of nature Despite falling, this tree has retained some attachment to the ground and is still flowering of new, smaller branches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has been observed by some readers that I possess a certain amount of resilience. In fact, I've been asked to share my secrets on resilience, so that others may benefit from what I know- so that they might experience the contentment, in the face of dire circumstances, that I apparently do. I suppose…

My initial reaction is to simply state that I have no responsibility for and no secret knowledge of this apparent resiliency. It's just there. I didn't do anything to acquire it. I've just always had it. It's programmed in my genetic code. I suppose my parents, or more generally my ancestors, gave it to me. End of story.

But perhaps, if I dig deeper, I can do better than that. First, though, some disclaimers:
  • I'm no expert on the subject. I'm just sharing my personal experiences. If they work for you, great. If they don't work for you, move on.
  • I don't have the mindset of a motivational speaker. It's not in my nature to be unconditionally positive and inspiring as a matter of course. This blog is about sharing the reality of my circumstances with my readers, and the truth is that I'm not always resilient. If I accept this assignment I reserve the right to express despair when I feel it, without being deemed hypocritical.
  • I don't believe that any and all situations can be overcome by the power of positive thinking. I'm staying above water now, using some of the techniques I'll describe below, but I don't know if I can keep it up indefinitely no matter the circumstances.
  • I have several advantages that lend themselves to living a contented life despite my challenges. In this post, though, I will avoid presenting reasons for my resilience that others may not be lucky enough to enjoy, such as favorable genetics, the good fortune of having chosen an amazing life partner, or an advantageous financial situation. I'll try to stick to the behaviors that most people could, at least to some extent, try to adopt if they are so inclined.
My 10 Keys to Resilience:

1. Don't ride emotional roller coasters, wringing your hands over situations which, in the end, can be dealt with. Also, don’t predicate your future happiness on favorable outcomes, such as one particular drug treatment or another. Maintain a level disposition.

2. I never become so attached to any of my interests that losing the ability to enjoy a particular activity is heartbreaking, and believe me, I've had some passionate interests that have disappeared. In my healthy past, I would identify myself as a golfer, a snowmobiler, or a professional businessperson, for example. I am no longer any of those people, but in retrospect, I never really was. Those were endeavors that I occupied myself with. They were not ME. By maintaining this perspective, as I continue to lose the ability to enjoy certain pursuits, I don’t feel that I have lost a part of myself.

3. Accept that life does not owe you anything, thereby not feeling cheated when things go poorly. We are fortunate simply to have been born at all. The odds were greatly against it. Every one of our ancestors, for time immemorial, had to live beyond adolescence, and had to successfully reproduce, before being eaten by sabertooth tigers, flattened by asteroids, or burned at the stake for believing in the wrong God. After being born, the rest is gravy.

4. Stay connected with other human beings, either remotely or face-to-face. Becoming lonely and isolated will only accelerate your decline. Nurture your relationships. Don’t crawl into a hole of self-pity and turn away the people that have been close to you. Some folks will deal with your changing situation well, and others won't. Embrace the ones who can adjust to your new reality, and discard the ones who cannot, with no hard feelings. It's their loss, after all.

5. Remain inquisitive. Read, watch movies and quality television (Mad Men yes, the new Charlie's Angels no), and surf the internet. Here are a couple of sites that I visit to keep my mind from turning to mush:

Big Think
Yale open courses

6. Venture forth. Take advantage of mobility aids; don't refuse them out of stubbornness or embarrassment. Publicly embrace your disability; don't be ashamed of it and don't succumb to it prematurely. Get out in the world; don't withdraw from it.

7. I adhere to these concepts...Learn from the past, but don't live in it. Plan for the future, but don't sit around waiting for it to arrive. Enjoy each day as if it could be your last. Embrace each day for the gift that it is. (Forgive me for the barrage of clich├ęs, but they are apt).

8. Have hope, but don't rely upon it. Do everything in your power to improve your situation while simultaneously preparing yourself for the possibility that you may have to endure your misfortune. These may seem like contradictory approaches at first glance, but they are actually complementary. I do it every day.

9. Find the humor in life. Allow yourself – even require yourself – to laugh and smile. The cause-and-effect relationship between happiness and laughter may not be what you think it is. Sometimes, laughter is not only the result of happiness but the source of it. Similarly, moderate your negativism. As with happiness, negativism is not always the result of bad things happening to you. It can also be the root of your unhappiness.

10. Give yourself a break. Don't try to do it all. When you get tired, rest. When you don't feel like going out, stay home. When you need help, ask for it. When you become sad, cry. When you want chocolate, eat it. Take these liberties with humility but without apology.

I hope this helps.

How do you remain resilient?
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Does it help? Damn straight! (Too much exposure to military talk...sorry!) I'll be reading this more than once and checking on the three suggested websites for us. I suspect the "engineer" in you lets you analyze and present thoughts and information well, but I continue to be amazed at your insight for someone who isn't being paid psychiatrist fees. As a matter of fact, THIS is what people want when they consult a counsellor or therapist, not the foolishness that they hear! Thanks for the post......Ginny F.

  2. Great stuff! Thanks for another wonderful post that says exactly what I wish I knew how to say.

    I went to the 3 mind-expanding sites mentioned and would love to hear about any others you or your readers frequent.

    Dark days can hit anyone; decades ago I spent a full year dragging myself from being 90% negative to 80-90% positive. I learned lots of things to do that I still use. How lucky for me that this was well in place before I got MS. I don't know what I did to "deserve" this ability but I do know I really wanted it.

  3. Probably already aware of these sites but wanted to also give a nod to MIT Open Course Ware - http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm and the Khan Academy - http://www.khanacademy.org/ for learning sites.

  4. What an awesome list! Thank you.

  5. Mitch, the concept of resilience is one that really resonates with me. I was doing some study on the topic recently for the young carer's group that I am a part of. It is great to see how you have been able to express the concepts of resilience in your own personal experience. Thanks to you for this post and also for the links you provided. I suspect I will be busy for hours exploring the open Yale course material. :)