3 totally doable ways to help you bend and flex with your life

, , ,

How many goals did you set this year to improve your resilience?

*Crickets.*

Not at the top of your list?

Admittedly, resilience gets crowded out by the more action-y stuff we focus on as the new year starts.

  • We set goals to lose weight (again).
  • We make plans to improve our professional skills, or find that dream job.
  • You Type A folks may even be launching a life plan this year to go after like, you know, everything, in your whole entire life. (That sounds easy enough.)

We almost never consider our own resilience, much less how to practice and use it when we need it.

What is resilience, anyway?

We tend to think of resilience as the ability to bounce back from a challenge, and that’s partly true.

  • When life knocks you down, resilience gives you the wherewithal to get back up.
  • When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade (if you have enough lemons thrown at you to make a decent amount of lemonade, you might be having a rough go at it, just sayin’…).

But resilience also is being mentally and emotionally prepared to identify the resources available to you when things get challenging.

If you’re stressed, tired, and full of negative thoughts, it’s hard to care about finding creative ways to get past a difficult situation.

Resilience then, can be more of a mindset that allows you to see the path forward and empowers you to actually walk down that path.

And, as with many things in life, it’s better for you if you build that mindset ahead of time. #sorrythatsjusthowitis

So, how do you build resilience?

The best part is that many of the things we already know about a healthy lifestyle are the very things that build resilience. It’s like life skills double-dipping.

Here are three really good ones you can practice every day:

1. Exercise

Exercise is a most outstanding way to build resilience because it generates blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobe, right behind your forehead. The frontal lobe handles things like planning, logic and organization. These come in handy when you need to make a healthy decision.

Exercise also relieves the negative emotions related to stress. After a long workday, just a 10-minute walk with your dog can boost your mood for several hours (and probably your dog’s mood, too).

I’ll bet you make better decisions about your life when you can stay clear-headed, relaxed and in a positive mood.

And the best part is, you don’t need special skills. You just have to move.

Can you move? Carry on…

2. Be quiet

Quiet time lets us focus on our thoughts and try to figure stuff out.

Thanks to our devices and a limitless supply of entertainment in almost all areas of our lives, we no longer have to suffer the plight of being bored or reflective.

Our brains and souls are drinking daily from a firehose of data with little time to figure out if any of it even makes sense (spoiler alert: most of it doesn’t).

And studies are bearing out that our marvelous brains are starting to notice. Our daily experience now includes:

  • reduced memory and attention spans,
  • constant dopamine rushes from social media interactions, and
  • reduced productivity from multi-tasking.

Finding some time to step away, in some way, for a few minutes each day allows mental space for creativity and problem solving.

You can call it mindfulness or a spiritual practice.

Just carve out 15 quiet minutes for yourself to:

  • Pray,
  • Let your mind wander,
  • Breathe deeply,
  • Ask yourself questions about what you’re feeling,
  • Journal,
  • Draw, or
  • Let the sacred words of wiser ones than you pour into your soul.

Having said that, resilience does require some boundaries on all that thinking.

3. What are you thinking?

While we can’t help the thoughts that pop in to our minds, we do have complete control over what we allow to roil and take root.

Allowing unchallenged thoughts to linger can quickly become rumination, obsessing over the same negative thoughts until you make yourself feel really bad.

Like a cow chewing its cud.

Rumination is one of the hardest thinking habits to change.

  • It’s never forward-focused.
  • It always dwells on past wrongs or failures.
  • It’s a natural predator of resilience.

Resilience, however, requires you to

  • Find your strengths,
  • Look for possibilities, and
  • Focus on what you can bring to the situation.

So in order to bolster your resilience, you’re going to have to do a whole lot better than rumination.

Start being the gatekeeper for your marvelous brain.

How much news do you consume?

What’s more backwards-focused than the news? Its very nature is things that have happened in the past.

The news is now particularly negative and vicious, and it feeds many of our anxieties about what’s not working in our lives.

Take a week off from it and see if it doesn’t change how you think.

What positive, forward-focused things are you reading or listening to?

Focus on material that will build your skills, build your faith, or help you build a resilient attitude about life.

Self-help is a multi-billion dollar industry. There’s something out there for what you need.

I like listening to motivational speaker Les Brown because he reminds me that I am responsible for my own change, which is a little scary, but that I can totally do it. Yes!

Who do you pay attention to?

You’ve heard it before. You are the sum total of the five people you associate with.

What do your five talk about? Do their comments and conversations build people up, or tear down?

Do they always focus on what’s gone wrong? And who’s gone wrong?

This will have an effect on your thinking, I promise.

You may need to upgrade your five.

Resilience is a marathon.

Keep in mind that building resilience is a lifelong endeavor.

You will never do the end zone dance of resilience, and there’s no Golden Globe for the Most Resilient Performance in a Life Drama (or Comedy).

So, go ahead, put resilience on your list of goals to crush in the new year, but you won’t be able to really check it off.

I know, that’s annoying.

What you can check off, though, is the fact that you are helping yourself a little bit each day to build the courage to face your challenges and take action.

That’s golden.

Spend this year improving your ability to bend and flex with your life.

#alwaysbeflexin

#alwaysbelearnin

Sources:

2018 – Best Year Ever

, ,

As 2017 dawned I was caught in a place between excitement for another new year (my sunny disposition can’t resist that each year) and massive frustration at feeling I was living my life way beneath my potential.

I almost never feel settled in, but I was discontent in a whole new way. I wondered if I was just being irresponsible, lazy and disobedient to a God that has given me more than I could ever ask or think.

And I was turning into a major buzzkill at work and at home.

But on January 8, 2017, Christ Fellowship Senior Pastor Todd Mullins shared from Isaiah 54:2 as part of a series called “Wide Open.”

In this verse, God is calling the nation of Israel to prepare for an influx of more people and to move beyond existing borders. In order to do that, they would have to prepare themselves for this increase.

The tent was a well-understood symbol of their nomadic life in the wilderness.

Not only would they have to make their tent bigger, but all the supporting mechanisms — the cords and the pegs driven into the ground — would have to be stretched longer and driven deeper.

Pastor Todd challenged us to enlarge our perspective of God and ourselves.

And most importantly, to embrace the stretch.

In order to do what God has called us to do, we have to get bigger and be flexible so we can be in place for God to use us.

In order to get bigger and more flexible, you have to be different and committed. You must act with urgency, and be ready to leave the field you’re familiar with and walk in to your future.

It was time, he said, to walk in boldness and enthusiasm.

For whatever reason, sitting there, I felt a shift inside me.

  • I don’t like to be different. It’s scary and weird.
  • I don’t like to stretch. I like to keep just what I need at arm’s length.
  • I don’t like to be bigger. I like to hide behind and support big people.
  • I’m not bold. I like to play it safe so I can control the outcome.

I realized I was the sole reason for my discontent.

God had given me the raw material 47 years ago. I had chosen not to use it in an intentional way. I had been keeping my cords short and my pegs dangerously shallow.

So I made a simple decision that day to simply dig deep and be bold.

Even if it’s scary or weird. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it puts me out there all by myself. Even (and maybe, especially) if it doesn’t make sense.

I wasn’t fulfilling my call by playing it safe.

Game over, girlfriend.

After the service that morning, we went out to a burlap tent drape that was set up in the hallway, where we could write a promise to ourselves for 2017. This is what I wrote:

 

 

I think I was pretty bold. Let’s review:

  • I left a 20-year career in marketing and communications and began full-time life as a fee-for-service therapist (see also: non-salaried).
  • I stepped up into more visible leadership roles at church to serve an awesome church family.
  • I put my face out there online to share my expertise (it’s terrifying every time).

These may not sound bold to you, but each of these hit on key areas where I felt pretty safe, comfortable and in the shadows.

Move forward and take action

This is the biggest nut to crack in my work with clients.

If things change, it’s not because we talked about it in session.

It’s not because we changed other people (but if you can do that, I totally want in on your mojo).

And it’s certainly not because things “just worked out.”

Real change happens because we simply choose to take bold actions that put us out there, and believe that God will honor that boldness:

  • To set boundaries on those who hurt us repeatedly.
  • To leave situations that are not healthy or promoting growth
  • To take simple actions every day that will help us improve our mood or help us function just a little bit better.
  • To intentionally seek connection with others who will hold us accountable and bolster us through the difficult times (yes, connection is a choice).

An intentional year

So in 2018 I’m building on that boldness by pursuing intention, in all things:

  • In my relationship with God
  • In my relationships with those who matter most to me
  • In my professional competence
  • In my attitude and outlook
  • In using the mashup of skills I’ve been given to make a difference for others

These are all choices, and totally in my court.

I want 2018 to be the best year I’ve ever had.

What bold and intentional moves will you make in 2018?