We all have to deal with tough times. Sometimes small things build up and nothing goes right and we feel like we could just explode. That’s a “bad hair day”! Then there is real adversity and hardship when bad and sad things happen, which we call “the dark night”. What do you do in times like these?
In previous blogs dealing with the principles of building resilience we have covered the two inner core principles of Connect to your meaning and purpose in life and Use your unique strengths. We then outlined the three principles which deal with the inner world of thoughts, feelings and attitude, which are: Maintain perspective; Generate positive feelings and Be realistically optimistic.
This blog concerns the first of the two final principles which deal with the adversity and the external world. This sixth principle of building resilience is: Persevere by being open minded and flexible
Dealing with adversity inevitably requires some action or some change in difficult circumstances. Thus it is important in building resilience to be persistent, tenacious and not allow you’re self to consider giving up.
Perseverance is however a double-edged sword. On the one hand, too little perseverance means we succumb or become disabled by the adversity. We all have experienced how seductive, easy and even tempting it is during really tough times to surrender to inactivity, stupor and defeat, and simply give up. On the other hand, an excess of perseverance results in a blinkered and bull-headed approach typically with a fixed mindset; not listening; having tunnel vision; and using brute force to drive toward resolution to the adversity. In such cases it is often “action for the sake of action” with little or no time for creative thinking or reflecting. The consequence of both too much and too little perseverance is often poor decisions with their own unintended negative consequences.
Resilience in dealing with adversity requires open-mindedness and a flexible problem solving approach, allowing for listening, consideration of differing views and being open to a change of tactics or even strategy.
This principle of building resilience of persevering by being open minded and flexible is illustrated by the different courses of actions of two pharmacists who owned and managed separate pharmacies approximately three kilometres apart, and who had to cope with the implications of the promulgation of radically changed legislation controlling the exit prices charged on prescription medication. The implication for them of this new legislation was there would be at the very least dramatically reduced profit, and at worst bankruptcy.
The first pharmacist dealt with this adversity by advocating for changes in the legalisation through the local chapter of the pharmaceutical association, and then later at national level, and was instrumental in getting court interdicts to stop and ultimately alter the legislation. While this was going on over many months, he changed his pharmacy’s focus to become more retail orientated to take advantage of the increasing local tourist trade. He now has the highest turnover of sun-screen protection sales in his geographical region, and makes more profit from the retail side of the business than he did from the sales of prescription medication in the past.
The second pharmacist faced the identical adversity but reacted with less open mindedness and flexibility. He tried to boost sales by getting more repeat business from his existing client base by means of mailed flyers; lowering the prices of some of his non-prescription lines; and introducing motor-cycle delivery to customers. However, he felt that these actions were not very creative and would not have the desired effect. Over time he became increasingly despondent as his worst fears were borne out. He stopped introducing new ideas, and eventually sold the business at a low figure to a national retail chain. With great relief he then took early retirement.
The actions these individuals took differed dramatically, even though the adversity they faced was identical and their circumstances were remarkably similar. The first pharmacist persevered over several years with creativity and lateral thinking and was ultimately successful; the second allowed the adversity to overwhelm his thinking and natural optimism, and ultimately almost crushed him.
Meditation and centering can help create inner calm enabling open-mindedness and flexibility. There are many methods to achieve this calm. A simple yet very effective exercise is to close your eyes and become aware of your breathing, and then to concentrate on slowing your breathing. Then as you inhale, to silently say, “let”, and as you exhale, to silently say “go”……. while also relaxing tense body muscles. For many people, this exercise enables the release of emotional stress and physical tension.
What is your most effective way of dealing with “bad hair days”? Will that help you also cope with the “dark night” events which we all face sooner or later?