How To Bounce Forward When Life Throws You A Curve
QTHE SCOTTONG POET Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men are often troubled,” in a poem to a mouse whose nest was disturbed by the plow. The implication is that things rarely turn out the way we want them to.
Disturbances fall across the spectrum from “any” to “paralyzed.” From my-coffee-is-too-hot to the death of a loved one; from the game being canceled to a divorce. Some we throw away easily, and others stop us dead in our tracks. Some troubles were predictable and some we never saw coming. But they all make us uncomfortable because something doesn’t go the way we planned. And it seems that no matter what we do, we fail in our inability to control it. The world does not always agree with our wishes. Things don’t always go the way we plan to go without good reason. Events happen for which we have no good explanation.
King Solomon also pondered the same thought in his book Ecclesiastes. He wrote:
I returned and saw under the sun that—The race is not for the swift, Nor the battle for the strong, Nor bread for the wise, Nor riches for men of understanding, Nor mercy for men of knowledge ; But time and opportunity happen to them all.
This is a good description of the world we live in. It doesn’t make much sense. Not very optimistic. It doesn’t always make sense. Sooner or later, luck hits us all. It doesn’t matter who (or what) you are—man or rat—anxiety is a way of life. From the disruption of birth to the disruption of death, life is full of change. In wanting things to happen, we fight these troubles. We get angry, we regret, and we get sad, and we ask, “Why did this happen to me?” We fight against anything that makes us uncomfortable. We want it to end so we can go back to the way we were before.
But we can’t go back. Troubles can change us or they can leave us nowhere to go. If our weight in life is to hang on to what we have, what we are, then one day we will find ourselves running in futility, living a meaningless life.
For some interruptions, it makes sense to say, “Hold it,” and move on. For others, something deeper needs to happen, more akin to healing. But whether the disruption is big or small, there is a quality critical to our success that connects them all. Our ability to deal effectively with any disruption is determined by how resilient we are.
A good definition of resilience is our capacity to maintain our core purpose and integrity in the face of great change in circumstances.
Resilience is our ability to roll with the punches and deal with these troubles in a more positive and creative way. I remember my parents telling me, from an early age, to roll with the punches—don’t let situations get you down. It’s the idea that your circumstances don’t determine your future. Resilience is our ability to move forward no matter what life throws at us. And I say bounce forward because, as we all know, most interruptions leave us with nothing to bounce back from. Who and what we were once changed forever.
Resilience means learning to deal with the uncertainty of life as it is given. We should expect our plans to go wrong and prepare for them, but most of us are not well prepared to deal with real troubles. Putting aside a problem in our life makes us more vulnerable in the next life.
The false impression that life should always be happy does not prepare us for the tragedy and danger of this world. If something goes wrong, we want someone to fix it. We lack strength.
A bubble-wrapped life is a fragile life. The most comfortable life is the most fragile and most likely to collapse under stress. In our comfort, we cannot build the strength we need to face life. Therefore, if someone or something suddenly disturbs our plans, we will be more affected by them because we lack the skills and mindset to deal with them. The Roman statesman Cato thought that almost any kind of comfort is a road to the wilderness—a road that leads us nowhere.
A strong man is not weak. A strong person leans into the problem. As a result, the resilient person actually reduces the time they spend learning and improving. They go through periods of grief more easily.
Resilience is not easy, and it is built over time—toughness upon difficulty—but it requires a change in our thinking. We need to look at adversity differently if we want to build resilience and the capacity to grow from it. The suggestion here is that when you face a problem, something important is going on.
We need to change our thinking about problems and troubles for good reason. It builds endurance and strength. Problems are tests. And like any test, it’s designed to help you see where you stand. The way we think about a problem—our attitude toward a problem—determines how we handle the problem.
Strength is rooted in our belief system. How we come out on the other side is determined by our attitude. For most of us, that’s a big change in our thinking because what we want to do is fight any distraction and any discomfort to get rid of it.
This change requires us to get out of our own heads and look at our lives from a different perspective. This does not mean that we are happy with the problem, but we are happy with the problem.
It means that we own the problem. We meet it head on, and we use it to our advantage. It changes not only our perception of problems but our perception of life. We face adversity and all kinds of challenges. Our future depends on our ability to move forward.
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