7 Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Life and Business.

“Resilience is like a muscle. Flex it enough, and it will take less effort to get over emotional punches each time.”

Alecia Moore

Resilience, a buzzword that has become very popular in the past fifteen years. Today, I am going to reveal the 7 secrets to building resilience in your life, relationships, and business. While the term is a very old concept, Dr. Marty Seligman, known as the father of Positive Psychology, has spent his life researching and training others about the importance of developing resilience.

So, what is resilience? I will give you a couple of definitions:

Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.[i]

One of the unique things about the 7 secrets to building resilience is you can develop and enhance it at any stage in life.

Another way of explaining resilience is when you are able to calm a frenzied mind after some type of negative experience. It is that internal drive, an inner force by which we can hold ourselves through all the downsides of life.

Emotional resilience is not about overcoming a particular challenge or winning a battle.  It is the strength to power through the storm and still keeps sailing. For those of you who are familiar with the Bible, the resilience piece combined with faith is a reliable and consistent theme in the Scriptures.

One of the adventures of my life was attending the North Carolina Outward Bound School in 1968, I was 16 at the time. The motto of Outward Bound, which is still very much a part of my being is “To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield.”

The founder of the Outward Bound School put it this way;

“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Founder

We are living in an age of incredible, rapid change. Being alive in the era of a technological revolution means that we are having to adapt to things that have never existed in our lives before. From rigorous, rapid digitalization to the 24/7 news cycle, social media influence, the “Amazonification” of business, and the changes that commercial enterprises, it is only natural to feel emotionally in knots at times.

The word resilienceis an ancient word rooted in the Latin word ‘resilio’ which means ‘to bounce back’ or retaliate.

Emotional resilience is an art of living that is entwined with self-belief, self-compassion, and enhanced cognition. It is the way through which we empower ourselves to perceive adversities as ‘temporary’ and keep moving forward through the pain, suffering, and setbacks of life. As we actively look for ways to use the 7 secrets to build resilience, we will enrich both our lives and the lives of others

On a grand scale, building resilience in the areas emotional, mental, and even spiritual resilience means bouncing back from a stressful encounter and not letting it affect our internal motivation. It is not a “bend but don’t break” trait; instead, resilience is accepting the fact that I am broken and continue to grow with the broken pieces together. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament book of Philippians 4:14 says, I press on to reach the end of the race.

Here are a couple of women who have a very unique look at what it means to be resilient. One is known to nearly everyone and that is Amy Poehler.

Amy Poehler, Comedian

“I see life as like being attacked by a bear. You can run, you can pretend to be dead, or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy.” —The Guardian, July 2015

Another woman that exemplifies a resilient faith is my friend Gayla Unger. We have known Keith and Gayla for a number of years and watched her face some significant challenges with breast cancer. I am blessed to know a woman which such tenacity, grit, faith and optimism. She is a woman who has a stellar, powerful perspective as a person who, in her own words has been chosen, challenged and changed.

Gayla Unger, Senior Leader, Premier Designs Jewelry

“I am a woman of deep faith in God’s perfect plan for my life. Proverbs 16:9 is my life verse. This scripture reminds me that I can make all the plans I want but ultimately the Lord will direct my feet. I knew at that moment, that although I had not “planned to have cancer” that the Lord would direct my feet. I knew within 24 hours that I was chosen and He was not going to allow me to waste it. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go…
Make a list of what you love to do and make sure you spend time doing those things. Be a moment maker every chance you get. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter and cling with all your might to that which does. Create a life you love. I am so grateful I was chosen, challenged, and changed through this diagnosis. I won’t waste it. Be sure to check out her entire post. Link to her website

I hope you are feeling encouraged with these very brief snapshots of resilience. As a matter of fact, I want you to pause for a second and think about others that model resilience.

Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as we have planned. Resilient people refuse to wallow in or dwell on failures, they don’t allow letdowns and setbacks to steal their energy. Instead, they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then choose to move forward.

There are three components of resilience:

  1. Challenge/Adversity– Resilient individuals see difficulty as a challenge, an opportunity as opposed to a disheartening, petrifying event. As a general rule of thumb, they look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for growth. They refuse to let setbacks become a negative reflection on either their capabilities or their self-worth.
  2. Dedication/Commitment– People who demonstrate resilience are committed to their lives, goals, and vision. They live their lives with intentionality and have a sense of mission which gives them the drive to face another day. This drive is not just about work; they are committed to their relationships, friendships, and faith or spiritual practices.
  3. Internal Focus of Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on events and situations they feel they have control over. Because they apply effort where they believe it will have the most impact, they often feel a sense of empowerment and confidence. People who live with an external focus of control often allow challenge or adversity to control them, as a result, they feel lost, helpless, impotent and powerless to take any meaningful action.

Dr. Marty Seligman frames resilience this way. As he talks about resilience, he frames it in the context of optimism and pessimism. He says our ‘explanatory style’ indicates how we will respond to challenges and adversity.

Pervasiveness– Resilient individuals refuse to let setbacks, challenges, and adversity impact other unrelated areas of their lives. They might say something like, “I am not very good at this” rather than “I’m no good at anything!”

Personalization– People who are resilient don’t blame themselves when negative events happen. Instead, they see other people or circumstances as a possible cause. Once again, in the workplace, they may say, “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish the project successfully, rather than “I screwed up that project because I cannot do my job right.”

They have a positive image of the future. They maintain a positive outlook and envision brighter days ahead.

Here are some other common traits about resilient people:

They have solid goals and a desire to achieve them.

Resilient people tend to be empathetic and compassionate. However, they don’t burn up any calories worrying about what others think of them. As a general rule of thumb, they have healthy relationships but are slow to bow to peer pressure.

Individuals who are resilient never think of themselves as victims-they focus their time and energy on changing things they have control over.

So, what types of challenges, setbacks, or adversity are you facing today? 

You see, how you and I view adversity and stress will dynamically and kinetically impact how we succeed, and this is one reason that developing a resilient mindset is so important.

The truth is that you and I are going to have “face plant” moments and setbacks as we live our lives. The only way to avoid this is to live an isolated, sheltered and meager life, never trying anything new of taking any risks. Who wants to live like that?

Instead, we should have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite the genuine risk that we will fail in some way or another. Being resilient means that when we do fail, which we will, we will bounce back. Being resilient mean that when we fall down, we get back up, we have the strength to learn the lessons that we need to learn, and we can move on to bigger things.

Here are the 7 secrets for building or developing and strengthening your personal resilience:

  1. View every experience as a growth opportunity. This directly relates to maintaining a “Growth Mindset.” Be sure you take a couple of minutes to view this video, it will not disappoint. 
  2. Find meaning and purpose in your work, maybe even seeing it as a vocation. Martin Luther (1483-1546) asserted that the term ‘vocation could be applied not only to those who are ‘called’ into the ministry, priesthood, or holy order. Instead, Luther preached that all Christians have a vocation: wherever God has allowed the opportunity to work or start an enterprise, was one’s vocation. In other words, work is sacred.
  3. Learn to reframe stress and anxiety as helpful feelings and emotions. When we are stressed and feel the tension in our chest, we need to remind ourselves that our body is getting ready for action. These feelings and emotions can be helpful in that they are designed to help us perform better. Recently, my wife and I attended a Jeff Foxworthy show, and in the early part of his show me made the following statement. “You know, I still get a little nervous before every performance, I have learned that as long as I am a little jittery, I will do a great job.
  4. Play and relax more. Research time and time again reveals that people are most creative and solution-oriented when they feel relaxed, curious, and happy.
  5. Recalibrate your thinking to a long view. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Remember our lives have a start date and a end date what will you do with the dash between those two dates?
  6. Remember, resilience is a life skill that is best developed in the context of relationships and social support. These intentional connections are mutually beneficial and life enriching. There is an ancient text that says, “As Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17
  7. Practice Self-Compassion. Self-care explained – Do you remember the safety briefing from your last flight? When the flight attendants get to the part about the unlikely event of sudden cabin depressurization, they explain that the oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling and at that point, they instruct you to put on your mask first, then and only then, help someone else with theirs. Self-care is sort of like this in a way. It is a very intentional, active choice that we do to take care of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It’s putting ourselves first…because we can’t care for or be the best help to help others unless we first take care of ourselves. 

Wow, that was a lot of material!

Let me ask you a personal question. How would you rate your personal resilience? If you are married, how resilient is it? Here is an article I wrote for Christianity Today on Resilience in Marriage. Here is another link about resilient marriages.

Do you feel pretty good about how you manage the ups and downs of life? If you’d like more information, here are some links that you might find helpful.

Be Blessed!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Swords, Sandboxes, and Precious Memories: Transition Points

(c) 2017 John Thurman        My 2 year old pouncing on Pa.

What was your last transition point? A change at work, in your relationship, your health or you family? Life is filled with various transition points, mile markers, and life stages. Today, I am going to give you some lessons that I am learning in my most recent transition point.

On Christmas Day I surrendered my Walmart, yellow handled foam sword to my daughter’s firstborn son. This spunky four-year-old, his two-year-old brother, and their seven-year-old cousin and I regularly engage in some rough and tumble things like sword fights, pool noodle wars and other forms of tussling.

It is a reasonably predictable pattern whether they are on the phone or at the house, when they say, “Hey Pa, let’s have a sword fight.” We usually do.

My seven-year-old grandson, his father and his uncle, and I (all veterans) began doing this about four or five years ago. As the oldest grandson, he proudly taught the other two how to engage his dad, uncle and his “Pa” in these fun, healthy, life skill building, pugilistic activities.

Their mission is to take on Pa and eventually get him on the ground. Once I am down it is time to pounce on Pa, where we tussle and roll around until they “get me.”

Now I imagine some of you are already getting a little uncomfortable with this practice. Sometimes when people ask me about activities that I do with the grandkids, I tell them we go to the zoo, our Explora museum, the park, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A playrooms, have play times and engage in rough and tumble play, and tussling.

The Importance of Rough and Tumble Play for little Boys

First, the word tussle is a common word I grew up with in Middle Georgia as a child. The word usually refers to pretend to fight, scuffling, rough and tumble play. One dictionary defines tussling as a vigorous struggle which is typically brief and typically occurs to obtain or to achieve something. In my grandson’s terms, the mission is to bring Pa down to pounce on, pile on, and roll around until Pa surrenders.

This type of behavior between fathers, sons and other appropriate male family members has been practiced since pre-recorded history.

Psychology Today had a great article in their June 30, 2015, magazine titles, Do Boys Need Rough and Tumble Play, which was both affirming and informative.

The appeal of rough and tumble play is the physical challenge of testing their strength and the exciting idea of being rugged and unconquerable. After all, how many 48 pound boys can take down a big guy like their 6’2″, 65-year-old granddad.

Among young boys, roughhousing involves pretending to be superheroes or good and bad guys. In our family, it can also mean a beautiful twenty-year-old section of English Ivy can morph into a hairy, bearded green monster which, according to our rules of engagement, may be attacked by the Troop Thurman/Ledford.

Why is this type of rough and tumble play so important for kids and grandkids? Without bothering you with a bunch of data, and there is a lot of it. The research tells us of many benefits of rough and tumble play, which I will go over in a minute. But first, let me ask you a question.

Have you ever played, tag, Red Rover, hide and seek? If you have, then you can relate.

The Benefits of Rough and Tumble Play

Because of this type of play, in particular, promotes healthy development because:

  • Children are willing participants, are usually smiling, and re-engage for more.
  • Children are learning the give and take of appropriate social interaction. Studies show boys who grow up with fathers and other suitable males who engage in rough and tumble play are less likely to be physically or sexually abusive to women as well as others who might be perceived as being weaker or more vulnerable.
  • Another benefit is this type of play teaches little boys restraint and self-control.
  • Children learn to read and understand body language (e.g., when play should come to an end).
  • It also meets many children’s need for safe, nurturing touch.
  • One of the most significant components of the type of play with fathers is how these older men, many times without realizing it, are teaching their boys a vital life lesson. Even though they are bigger and stronger, fathers “hold back” to keep from hurting their weaker opponent, an essential imprint many boys will unfortunately never experience. On a personal note, in over thirty-five years of private practice with about 30% of my time working with adolescence, I do not recall any significant levels of physical violence from clients who had grown up with experiencing rough and tumble play with family members. On the other hand, many of the young men I worked with, who had issues with physical violence either had no rough and tumble play memories, or had fathers who were disengage.
  • Finally, and some of you will surely feel like resisting me on this point, but this type of play allows fathers and other appropriate males to teach their kids some “keep safe” skills. Tools like risk avoidance, removing yourself from perceived danger, identifying “unsafe people” and even using some defensive striking or hitting techniques. I know when our son and our daughter were very young, we had a martial arts instructor teach them several defensive, strikes and moves should a bigger or older person intends to grab or harm them. I remember when Hannah, my baby girl, was about seven our pastor came over to the house for dinner. Now, he was a friend and had been to our home on many occasions. This night, during dinner, he asked her what she had been doing the day. She replied I have been in my self-protection class. At that point, the pastor asked what she was learning. I held my breath because in our home we always encourage honest communication. The pastor continued to engage her and said, “So what did you learn today?” She replied, “If a man or boy who is bigger than you is trying to hurt you or grab you, you are supposed to drive the heel of your foot into their foot and shove your elbow or fist in between their legs as hard as you can, scream, yell and run. Oh, and tell an adult what happened. The pastor smiled politely and told her he was proud she was such a strong young lady, while at the same time giving my wife and I the, “I’m not really surprised look.”

So why did I give you a mini-course in developmental psychology? Why did I surrender my yellow handled foam sword to my four-year-old grandson?

So why the title of Swords, Sandboxes and Life Transitions?

Because on the 26th of December my daughter, her husband and my two younger grandsons began their journey out of New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, a.k.a. The Land of Entrapment to their new home in the Republic of Texas. While my wife, Angie and I see clearly how the Lord has led them to this decision and transition in their life journey, I would be lying to you if I told you there was not some pain.

Like so many of you with grown children, and many more of you who are similar in age to my adult children these times are not without some challenges.

The Power and Importance of Reflective Memories during Life Transitions

On the morning of December 26th, I grabbed my first cup of caffeine infusion, opened the sunporch door to let “Gizmo” out for his morning business. While standing in the backyard two things caught my eye as I inhaled the delightful aroma of a cup of coffee made with beans from Timor, the first was the green turtle sandbox and the second was a fresh look at my backyard. Then it hit me, ever since our 7 years old moved down from Colorado back to New Mexico, I have watched him, and the younger boys spend hours in the green turtle sandbox. Memories of my little boys playing with toys, trucks, rocks, dirt, and sand. Little voices calling out to Mimi and Pa to come and watch and play with them. Cleaning up wet sandy spots where little hands and little feet had played in sand, dirt, and water and all of the dirt and debris which follows comes when they when they come inside. Seeing the excitement when they found treasure (marbles and colored stones my wife had put in the sandbox). Realizing I will not hear those little voices calling out, “Hey Pa, come see what I made, or can you come help me count my treasure with the frequency the I have become so fondly used to.

At the same time, I looked over our backyard/battlefield where my three grandsons, their dads and moms, my wife and I had fought imaginary bad guys, the Green English Ivy Monster, counted stars and eaten our fair share of smores. I loitered over my cup and had a flash of beautiful memories and realized this chapter was coming to a close. The noise of little boys was about to dramatically become quieter. It was a bittersweet, heart-swelling moment as I soaked the sights, sounds, and smells of those precious memories and moments.

While in this noteworthy moment, I noticed my allergies must have been acting up, you know the itchy watery eyes and sniffles. I guess I was having a small allergic reaction to the awareness of how we were facing this new transition. As the moment came and went I reflected on God’s goodness, mercy, and the blessings of children and grandchildren. I pulled up my cup for another sip and initiated the download for the DUO app which will allow us to get some video FaceTime with our new Texas family. I guess Mimi and I will be working on our Southwest frequent flyer miles to the Austin area.

My oldest grandson will still be here, and he is a red-headed inquisitive high energy boy who is filled with all of the excitement, wonder, and adventure of a seven-year-old. He will continue to come over and bless us with his presence, but being seven, he does not do much in the sandbox. He has graduated to climbing over our side yard concrete block fence and climbing up our apple tree to explore the world and have picnics from his perch on top of our utility shed. For those of you who are Star Wars fans, his father, myself, another male friend took him to his first Star Wars movies. As he told me the other day, “Pa I am not a little boy anymore, I am a big boy, after all, I am seven and can climb trees and do other really cool stuff. So while we will not have the same type of contact with the little boys, we will continue to fully engage with our seven-year-old and his mom and dad. While at the same time exploiting the connecting technology to stay appropriately plugged in with our other family.

A SPECIAL NOTE FOR SINGLE MOMS

I spent a part of my life in professional ministry as a minister to single adults, and I do have some understanding of some of the unique challenges you have with younger boys. I sincerely hope that you have some safe men, either family or trusted friends that can be available to your boys in these early, formative years. If you do not, I would ask you to prayer fully and wisely seek safe guys that can have some availability to you and your sons. I hope that you hear this as encouragement, because I have nothing but the upmost respect for the task you have at hand at raising your kids. May God Bless you.

Action Plan:

Would you agree that life is a cascade of transitions? As a seasoned mental health professional with over 50,000 hours in the therapist chair, I have learned several powerful, yet practical, doable ways to make it through these transitions as a better, stronger person. By signing up for my email list, you will receive regular, life-changing content as well as a free chapter from my latest book. All you need to is hit the subscribe button on the signup form.

Recapture Your Vision through Gratitide

Experience Gratitude

“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…” are words from a hymn I remember from my childhood while attending the First Baptist Church of Fort Valley. It is an old song with modern psychological and spiritual implications.

G.K Chesterton said, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

Gratitude makes your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event. In addition, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.

An exercise called the Gratitude Visit will help you experience relief from depression.

Close your eyes. Imagine the face of someone still alive who did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Got a face?

Your task is to write a letter (handwritten) to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words; be specific about what they did for you and how it affected your life.

Once you have completed the letter, call the person and let them know that you would like to visit them, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting. This type of exercise is more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet with the individual, take your time reading your letter. Notice their reactions as well as yours. If they interrupt you, gently tell them that you want them to listen until you are done. I promise you that you and the recipient will be much happier and less depressed.

Of course, if you cannot hand deliver the note, mail it, but follow up with a call.

Added Monday morning

My pastor, Todd Cook, Senior Pastor of Sagebrush Church in Albuquerque, shared a message Sunday on Psalm 90. One of the quotes I took away was, “If God leads you to it, he will lead you through it. Here is a link to the message, Boom Box if you want to hear it all. It was timely. Warning: this my be a little “out of the box” for you.

You can find this and more tips in my book Get a Grip on Depression.  Obtain a personally autographed copy from me. In Albuquerque, you may pick up a copy at the Sagebrush Church bookstore, or order a copy through Amazon/Kindle.

10 Steps to Surviving a Rough and Tumble World: Part # 1

(c) 2014 John Thurman
By John H. Thurman Jr., M.Div., M.A. Adapted from The Survivor’s Guide, by Ben Sherwood

Ever wondered what you can do to increase your odds of winning the race of life?

Dr. Dennis Charney is the dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The fifty-eight-year old is the king of resilient studies in North America. In his years of research and collaboration, he has developed what he calls the Resiliency Prescription. Here is a brief outline of it, as well as some scriptures that support his points.

1.  Practice optimism – some people are “born optimists,” others are “trained optimists.” You would think this would be a no-brainer for people of faith. Studies show… The key is to stay positive and hopeful while confronting the reality of a given situation.

Try this little test, take a quick look at this domain name:

www.opportunityisnowhere.com  (This is not a real website.)

What did you see? When some people look at this web address, they feel like someone had thrown a wet blanket on them: Opportunity is nowhere. But others see the exact opposite: Opportunity is now here. 

This is not being a “Pollyanna,” but is being in a state of mind—a way of thinking and behaving.

The Scripture refers to faith, which can be interpreted as practiced optimism.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)

2.  Find a resiliency role model – someone who as done it. It can be a biblical character, a historical figure, or someone you look up to.

Once again there are countless illustrations of this principle in the Bible, but the one reference that gives us a short, but focused list is Hebrews 11:3-12:2.

In this portion of Scripture we read of the faith and resiliency of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, and Jesus. These are all exceptional resiliency models, stories of individuals who overcame significant obstacles to glorify God and others.

3.  Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs. The Bible is the ultimate source of truth, and the Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions. It is important to have a solid rock for your belief system.

Joshua 1:7-8 has been a favorite verse of Scripture for millions of Jews and Christians for thousands of years and best summed up the importance of having a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning to the right or left. Then you will be successful in all that you do. Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all that you do.” (NLT)

Faith is the most-important part of this. It means that you are learning to trust that God has a plan for your life and will look after you. You have a growing belief that a power bigger than you will guide you through the storms of life. You are learning to see the Lord as an active participant in your life.

Be looking for Part 2 on Wednesday.