Having challenges within our lives is really just part of the human condition. Everyone faces some type of hurdle at some point. It just is the way it is. The crux of the matter is how we choose to proceed with the challenges. Our problems aren’t the problem. Our responses and reactions to the problems are the problem.
I remember being an undergrad in college and listening to a lecture about being born with resiliency. Like if you weren’t born with an innate ability to recover from a set back, then tough luck? This made no sense to me. People are always growing, evolving into better (or sometimes not so much better) versions of themselves, but I don’t believe our mindsets are permanently static. Everyone has the chance to be resilient.
Through my years of working with at risk youth, I’ve discovered that resilience can be taught, learned, and built upon. I would also venture to say that I have probably learned more from the teens and young adults I’ve worked with than they from me. No doubt. Some of the challenges I’ve helped them through – I’m not sure I’d be able to get out of bed and face each day, but here they are at school, at work, or coming into therapy sessions, never missing a beat. How are they doing this?! Some of them have their own internal motivation that is just enough to spark the flame to implement change, but others need some empowerment to find that motivation.
Find them. Then focus on them. What are we good at? Where have we shown resiliency before? Even re-framing some of our more negative characteristics into positive ones can reveal some major strengths. Building on those strengths is also important. Sometimes we know our positive characteristics, or we know that we might have what it takes, but we still can’t see ourselves out of the hole, so to speak. Once we begin recognizing that we do, in fact, have the power to make a change, we also need to remember that we are still people and sometimes people mess up.
We have to allow ourselves to make some. We just have to. If we don’t expect that we are human beings and are going to misstep or have a bad day once in a while, we might find ourselves right back where we started. Let’s face it, no one wants to fail, so the expectations we set for ourselves are often the hardest to meet. If we can start the process for making a change knowing this, perhaps our expectations will match and become much more attainable. When we begin not only recognizing we can but really believing that we can overcome our challenges, the work that needs to go into making the change might not seem so daunting.
Time & Effort
The work. Ugh. This is sometimes THE hardest part of making a change. Everything we do requires some sort of time and effort, right? So, why do we think making a change would be any different? Everyone’s circumstances are different and some changes are definitely easier than others to be made, but we have to remain aware that putting in the time and effort to make any change happen is a certainty. There’s no such thing as a free lunch here and it’s not going to take place over night. We have evolved into needing complete instant gratification. Everything is at our fingertips – knowledge, material items, even people. When we want something, we get it. Right now. This mind set or expectation can be a killer when it comes to making changes. Having a plan and recognizing small gains will keep that motivation going, so we can keep moving forward.
I’m still not sure why – not completely sure anyway, but I used to always get so annoyed when I heard someone say the phrase”baby steps”, and now I find myself saying it at least once a day. Funny how things happen. Taking small steps and recognizing the success of those will without a doubt keep us on track. Some changes take weeks, some take months, and the really big ones can take years. Focusing only on the end result may cause our motivation to wane if the end seems forever and a day away. Make a plan, take it one step at a time, and take notice of your accomplishments within each step. This will keep the fire lit for sure.
Being resilient and overcoming challenges is not something that we have to born with to achieve. We’re overcoming obstacles all the time, every day and may not even realize it. Whether we can do it on our own or need help and guidance from others, the power to change is within us.