Build Resilience In Challenging Times

How we cope or endure the dramatic changes in life requires practical approaches. Whether it is the contagion of pandemic and the collective anxiety it has generated or disaster displacement to personal setbacks or sorrows, we need to harness our inner strength to rebound. Considering that toxic emotions keep us away from the right priorities during distress, we need to build resilience.

This ability steers our creativity and clarity of thoughts to make smart, informed choices from mental fatigue, fear, or panic in times of tribulations.

No matter what has happened, the impact can begin all the way physiologically to our minds and become chronic. The term “Allostatic Load” refers to extreme harm to our overall wellbeing. It occurs when demand on our internal resources exceeds our capacity. Hence the fear puts excessive pressure on our capabilities and resources, resulting in poor decision-making and burnout.

So how do we get back stability and build mental resilience? Let’s start with a Buddhist parable of the second arrow.

The Buddha once asked a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?” He then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”

Here are a few suggestions to restore physical and mental strength by building resilience:

  • First, calm your mind – Take notice of your thoughts, especially when they running away towards apocalyptic scenarios. Focus on one positive fact: “it is marvelous that I am safe at my home” versus the bad news. You can also use mindfulness apps such as Headspace or be mindful in support of your initiative to unhook the negative emotion.
  • Connect with your moral compass. Resilient people are guided by compassion, have a solid sense of fairness, and consider right and wrong.
  • Believe in something greater than yourself to give you courage and strength – for instance, “a life purpose or a mission.”
  • Engage in philanthropic activities.
  • Accept that you cannot change what has happened, but you can focus on what you can change.
  • Identify meaningful wisdom in the dire experience
  • Create a social support system with individuals who have a positive outlook in life and a nurturing spirit.

On a final note, a good diet and regular exercise to boost our good health should be part of our daily life.

Feature image by Kierstin Young 

Anger Is Normal, Healthy & Human Emotion!

We all know that anger might not be a kind emotion, but it is part of living. The energy of anger oscillating from composure to blindness has been depicted in the arts, creating a visual experience of intense emotional responses. The following artworks portray passionate anger by different artists, arousing stimulating feelings from contempt to respect that profoundly helps us understand the exaggerated to righteous indignation.

  • Jesus ready to strike with clenched fist merchants, not honoring the place of worship and turning it to a place of profit. Christ’s anger was real, divinely justified, and human.
Giotto di Bondone – Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua. 1304 – 1305
  • Anger can be morally right; the inner flame should not be restricted but should be shared intimately at a spiritual level to a higher self.
Giotto’s ‘Ira’
  • The story of Timoclea of Thebes, whose anger saved her after the captain of the Thracian army, raped her. The story goes that Timoclea tamed her inner rage with composure and calm when her rapist asked for any hidden money. She told him that there was money in her well. When the Thracian captain stooped to look into the well, she pushed him to his grave.
Sirani’s painting

A nude woman comes out of the well, angry, holding a whip in her hand. She represents a symbolic figure of Truth. It appears that she is about to strike when the Truth is not being tolerated; anger becomes her weapon of choice. Depiction of the aphorism of philosopher Democritus: “Of a truth, we know nothing, for truth is in a well.”

Painter Jean-Leon Gerome

The beheading of Holofernes, an Assyrian general by Judith is another example of female rage. The story goes that Holofernes was about to destroy Judith’s home, the city of Behulia. Judith’s anger is a symbol of an underdog being able to overpower a tyrant.

Artemisia Gentileschi

Pipilotti Rist, a Swiss visual artist, produced an original piece “Ever is over all”, in 1997, showcasing women liberation from the norms of “good behavior” imposed by society and her carefree attitude towards authority. She happily smashes the windows of each parked car she passes. A female officer passes by and salutes her vandalism. A piece that demonstrates self-fulfilling anger based on courage.

Pipilotti Rist

Anger is not always a destructive force, at times is the catalyst for change and a signal of resolution.

 

Featured image: Beyonce – Hold up video

Beginner’s Mind – Foundation of Mindfulness # 3

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shunryo Suzuki

Past experiences and preconceived ideas have great value when it comes to making decisions about everyday activities. However, they are tainted to the degree that we cannot absorb the new reality of the present time or the face value of an action, a discussion, or a situation. It is always comfortable to skim through the information to support and validate our previous experience; nevertheless, we tend to lose the possibility of learning a new way of doing things or transforming our ideas for the better by seeing things with fresh eyes.

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Art by Magritte – The Human Condition

Everybody knows that some things are simply impossible until somebody who doesn’t know that makes them possible. - Albert Einstein

The real problem starts when you are an expert, one who has more assumptions than questions. Fending off new ways of doing things or not being receptive to new ideas happens to the experienced. An apprehension swishes and contaminates the mind, which in turn will end up either with cherry-picking to justify the established rules and practices or simply dismissal of the new approach.

When we adopt the mind of a beginner, we endeavour to look at things as if for the first time, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future. We open ourselves to what is here now, rather than constructing stories about what we think is here. Much like a scientist who observes without bias, beginner’s mind allows us to collect raw data. This opens us up to new possibilities, rather than being confined by habits and conditioning. — Tracy Ochester.

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Art by Magritte – The treachery of images

A beginner’s mind is keen to meet a new person, have a fresh outlook on familiar people, or learn a new skill. Practicing beginners’ minds (or shoshin in Japanese Zen Buddhism) feeds a growth mindset. An outlook that refuses to have more of the same for the rest of its life knows well that the safety zone is not always the right place to be. It stales the mind and prevents you from growing and reaching your potential. By default, we prefer to stay in our comfort zone, yet adopting a growth mindset requires courage to embrace vulnerability and humility. To acknowledge that there is always a better way of doing things or when it comes to human relations, we give people the benefit of the doubt.

Ways to Cultivate a beginner’s mind

  • Adopt the notion that endless possibilities exist.
  • Switch off the autopilot mode. 
  • Be in the present moment.
  • Listen carefully when a familiar topic comes up; you don’t have to rush to express your opinion or add value; observe and ask questions like you didn’t know about the subject.
  • Explore something to re-experience the feelings; it can be basic as eating your meal or making your bed.
  • Stop labeling and notice that you are on auto judgment – Ask yourself why you consider things as bad, good, right, or wrong? Is it out of habit? Integrate seeing things in your life as they are!
  • Learn a new activity to integrate challenges to your comfort zone
  • Mingle with people who have a different view of life and explore their perspective and lifestyle.
  • Change a routine in your life, your walking route, exercise, or things you eat. 
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation – it weakens the habit of taking things for granted.

 

For more information, read “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Featured Image by aykutaydogdu

Take Free Character Test To Build on Your Strength

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu

The concept of building on your character strengths is compelling as; naturally, it has a practical impact on your thought process, your experiences, and your actions. Mainly, the idea is to stop thinking about what is wrong with you or your problems and all the opposing views of oneself and concentrate on your best qualities.

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Igor Morski artwork

“The aim of Positive Psychology is to catalyze a change in Psychology from a preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building the best qualities in life.”  – Martin Seligman

Exerting mindful energy to change the gloomy, critical lens about yourself and shifting the view towards your positive qualities is a buffer against anxiety, lack of motivation, the need for approval, or perfectionism. What makes us effective is our ability to master our strength, a positive mind stimulus leading to a fulfilling life that contributes to our wellbeing.

What makes us strong are the qualities that show high moral standards; in other words, “virtues.” In Character Strengths and Virtues, Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology and Christopher Peterson, identifies six classes of virtues shared practically in all cultures that made up 24 measurable dimensions of human strengths, based on scientific research and by extensive studies on all major religions and philosophical traditions:

Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, love of learning, perspective

Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity

Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence

Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership

Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self-control

Transcendence: an appreciation of beauty & excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

Developing the core capacities of human beings achieved by the virtues mentioned above helps individuals maintain their wellbeing and live an accomplished life. To apply this concept, the positive psychology researchers have created tools and tests in a practical and rigorous scientific manner to identify the strengths of character measured by their virtues. The aim is to recognize your signature strength and practice it in new ways each day. For example, if your highest strength is creativity, each day you practice different ways to be creative, whether in introducing yourself, blending creativity in your appearance, learning about a creative person, and so forth.

 

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Igor Morski artwork

At the core of every individual lies specific character strengths that once honed solidly boost self-confidence gives a sense of direction and the drive to achieve goals. However, innate talent is not enough to ensure a successful result. The ability to improve and play on your strengths while skillfully discern when, how, and in what context your best qualities can amplify productivity and growth is the key to success.

As you focus on improving your good character traits, positive emotions will take shape. This optimistic element encourages tenacity and helps to cope with your vulnerabilities and challenges. You can learn more about your character strengths for free on www.viacharacter.org. The VIA Institute on Character is a non-profit organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio, dedicated to bringing the science of character strengths to the world by supporting research, creating and validating character development surveys, and developing practical tools for individuals and practitioners.

“Positive Psychology takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfilment: meaning and purpose (Seligman 2002, p. 61).”

It is worth mentioning that we have a social responsibility for the benefit of society and our individual lives to engage, be useful, and lead a meaningful life. To fulfill this obligation, two of the fundamental elements that reinforce the wellness of our state of mind and enrich our life and life for others are to cultivate our strengths powered by optimism.

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Igor Morski artwork

Courage, The Key To Great Leadership

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

T Roosevelt

Leadership is about creating an inspiring vision, mapping a direction, and joining talents, skills, and concepts to serve and make choices to improve others’ lives while generating value. However, whether innate or learned, powerful leadership traits must be honed with courage. The strength of character to persevere or hold on to an aim, just the same acknowledging flawed course of action or building bridges, demands the necessary moral courage.

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julienpacaudConsideration of the Void

Being fearful under pressure is natural. The notion of failing or being criticized for making a wrong decision is a part of solving the Rubik’s leadership cubes. Uncertainty and fear prevent people from taking actions, even though it will ultimately help them achieve their goals. Courage is needed to exercise all the components of successful leadership. In the wake of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February 2018, the CEO of Delta AirlinesEd Bastian decision to rescind “any group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature”,  which included the National Rifle Association members, was an act of courage even though it resulted in putting an end to $40 million annual jet-fuel tax break.

 

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Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Airlines

In building a leadership brand, you need to master the fundamentals, motivate, engage, and have clear communication just the same as what differentiates you. Regardless of the possible attributes that you have naturally or critical to exhibit, the critical question is whether you have the grit to manifest them in your daily behavior. Translating those crucial qualities to lead is to have the courage to act consciously amid uncertainty. Chief Willoughby, a key character in the “Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri, (played by Woody Harrelson), testifies to the strong power of leadership, emotional intelligence, and the courage to make an impartial and favorable plea. In his letter to his colleague Jason Dixon ( played by Sam Rockwell), he reminds Jason of his capabilities, aspirations and that he has a choice “…But as long as you hold onto so much Hate, then I don’t think you’re ever going to become… What I know you wanna become…A Detective. Cos you know what you need to become a detective? And I know you’re gonna wince when I say this….But what you need to become a detective… is Love. Because thru Love comes Calm, and thru Calm comes Thought. And you need Thought to detect stuff sometimes, Jason. It’s kinda all you need. You don’t even need a gun. And you definitely don’t need Hate.’ Good words to remember: Through love comes calm and through calm, thought”. 

 

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Good leaders exercise good judgment, which deep down requires courage to discern between fair and rewarding propositions or inadequate and biased emotions. Being mindful and learning from past experiences helps place the problems into context and circumvent the instinctual reactions. Seasoned leaders don’t take things personally or don’t allow emotions to get in the way. They set a positive tone with a calm persona in times of adversity.

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brunopontiroli
“Le pli de génie”

Good leaders avoid the blame game. They have the audacity to take a step back, dial down, and get some perspective. They learn about whys and develop the understanding to find clarity. They make smart decisions and reinforce shared accountability. They have the ability to self-reflect and self-criticize.

julienpacaudWalking the Darkness Out, 2018
julienpacaudWalking the Darkness Out, 2018

We all face challenges; there is no one magic formula or course of action, yet regardless of which rule book we follow, “a lion does not trouble himself with the whispers of the sheep.” Facing opposition is not comfortable, the fear of public perception, or dealing with toxic people. Mastering our emotions and behaving positively is hard work, but the good news is that it can be reinforced. You have the option to neutralize the negativity and tolerate the discomfort by strengthening your teamwork and productive mindset. Still, as Shakespeare eloquently wrote in Henry V’s speech: All things are ready if our minds are so. On that note, keep in mind that courage is the lynchpin of effective leadership.

 “Now tell me, what does that mean – to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”  

William Wallace, Braveheart

Featured image from beautifulbizarremagazine  Pugs and Star Wars fans unite! by sujian.artstation.com