On the Edge of Life: This Default Setting Keeps Us From Falling
How the psychology of our resilience changes the way we see the future.
I recently stumbled across an article from a psychology publication that talked about resilience and the pandemic. Believe me, sometimes I get tired of that “P” word just like you, but this article was different. I read it right before I took one of my usual ritual walks on the beach. This led to a bit of an aha moment – as it tends to do – where I found myself asking, “How much of our obsession with the pandemic has more to do with how it will affect us long term rather than what we went through?”
Some of us might still be in that place where we are trying to make sense of the past year but I think there’s a large majority of us who are wondering, “long term what this will cause (or not)?”. And how we will be internally affected is on that list of queries.
The article I read was about how humans, as it turns out, default to resiliency over anything else. I felt like jumping for joy as I read it. I know this. I have known this, which is why I am known as The Resilience Guy. Yet, seeing it in writing, in relation to this collective experience we’ve all been through, really affected me.
We Wanted to Give Up
There was a point in all of the chaos when we probably all wanted to give up, step back, tap out… but we didn’t. How incredible is that? We are inundated with so much negative perspective online, terrible stories on the news, narratives meant to pit us against our neighbors, everywhere we look, but this is the truest point of the entire pandemic: We wanted to give up – but we didn’t – because we are designed to default to resilience.
This pandemic proved to be a pinpoint in time, when we were all standing at the edge deciding, and one by one or however it went, we individually decided to push and fight. On the edge of life, we are often faced with tough, altering and anxiety-ridden decisions. How we behave in these moments is usually determined by our default settings. And, if we are more programmed to default into a state of resiliency instead of letting life pull us along, the way our future unfolds looks much different.
Likewise, if we are able to become more and more Change Proof, which is using the tough moments as an accelerant, the future is less frightening and more full of possibility. In this case, we get to see resilience as more of a reciprocal life process that we utilize when we experience adverse circumstances, instead of a personality trait or characteristic.
Which is to say this: We can all choose this. We are designed to default to resilience. It is up to each one of us to develop and leverage that resilience – to use it to accelerate ourselves forward. It’s a tool in your kit built for making you Change Proof.
A few things really jumped out at me as I read this resilience write-up so I wanted to share my own perspective on some action steps you can take with you.
- Increase your self-care. This article is the result of a self-care timeout I employ daily to pause, reset and reflect. For you, the rituals might be something entirely different and that is just fine, as long as they nurture you in the way that you need. We have to take care of ourselves. There’s just no way around it.
- Increase the space you allow for your emotions. We grow up being told not to cry, not to be mad – not to care essentially (or at least show it). So it’s no surprise that many of us have a default setting that turns our emotions off rather than sitting with them. These emotions don’t go away when we do this. In fact, they come back again and again, until we deal with them. Create space for your emotions, get comfortable sitting with your emotions, and acknowledging how you feel with each one. This is one great way to build resilience and connect with yourself.
- Increase your network and the amount of time you dedicate to quality interactions. The quality of your social support network is linked directly to your resilience and whether or not you default to resilience or shut down. In our darkest, scariest moments, on the edge of life, whether or not we have people to turn to, talk to or connect with determines how well we can use those moments for good. Lean on the people in your life.
In my newest book Change Proof, I talk about how important it is to Pause, Ask and Choose. This Change Proof model reminds us how much power we have when we employ this process and focus on being in the moments, even when we’re on the edge, to use those moments to move ourselves forward.