My niece was badly burnt in an accident a few weeks ago, which was shocking for all of us and horrific for her. At the age of 24 she is facing living with the consequences of this for both her body and mind. She has been incredible in her response to it all and has dealt with her injuries and us, her family, friends and carers with a strength, stoicism and humour that belies her age and of course she’s had moments of fear, doubt and vulnerability along the way.
It’s got me thinking about Resilience and what it is that keeps us going when faced with adversity and on going challenges. I asked my niece and her reply included: having things to distract her: being around familiar people/places; having professional help. She has felt deeply loved, and has seen a wider family come together to work collaboratively in providing on going support and care, putting aside differences, letting go of things that might have felt important and sacrificing and giving time.
I see this over and over again in and outside my work, how the relationships and support networks we have help us develop our resilience as well as creating resilience in others: the way my mother in law was cared for during her last few weeks, the little things done by the nurses that showed they cared and gave strength to her and us as a family: the conversation between two strong leaders who have committed to develop and deepen their relationships, despite their differences, to enable them and their teams to work better under the barrage of change going on around them; a leader who is learning the value of asking for support from her colleagues as she continues to feel overwhelmed with the demands of her job; the leaders of a large part of an organisation who have begun to “let go” of some of the things they value to enable the wider system around them to thrive in the chaos and complexity of what they have to do.
Robert Waldinger in his December 2015 TED talk spoke about the 75 years of research carried out on how to live happier and healthier lives, which has a direct link to resilience, no real surprises around the results; the quality of our relationships with each other and how we are and stay connected. https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness
So being and staying resilience is absolutely about the support and relationships we have around us and we can see that in our everyday lives. It’s a wisdom that is known and yet I notice that many of us seem to find it hard to spend the time to be active in the development of this.
I also reflect that Resilience is about choices. The choices we make on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis around how we respond to what happens to us and around us. How we manage our emotions, change the talk that goes on in our head and stay attuned to what is important and why we do what we do. All of these can make a difference to how we can experience our lives. Of course it’s not easy and requires practice and discipline.
My niece didn’t have a choice about what life dealt her but she has chosen to respond in a certain way and as a consequence is finding a way through the pain and distress. I remember on the second occasion I visited her in hospital the bandages to her head had been changed and looked different, she greeted me with a smile and said “bonnet or helmet which do you prefer?” For me, in that instance she had defined her way forward and determined both hers and our approach to the challenge ahead.
What do you choose and how do your choices affect your life and the lives of others?