Last month, our country mourned the passing of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel. Wiesel is best known for his book Night, a narrative based on his experience of living as a child in a Nazi concentration camp. It is a painful story, full of physical and psychological suffering with a dark ending. However, in real life, after surviving unspeakable trauma, Wiesel became an internationally renowned activist, working to fight violence, repression, and racism. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his life is the underlying his turnaround demonstrated. resilience
"What makes some people able to bounce back more quickly than others? How do people get back up when they've been knocked down? And what can we do to be more resilient in our daily lives?" These are the questions Anne Grady, author of "52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work" asks and answers in her book. Grady is a corporate leadership consultant and an expert in personal and organizational communication. "As someone who has been knocked down more than a few times myself, I have come to appreciate the concept of resilience - the ability to recover from, or adjust to, misfortune or change."
At a recent talk she gave, Grady recounted some of her personal traumas. "In the last two years, my husband had a motorcycle accident, and I had a tumor the size of an avocado removed from my face that led to facial paralysis. I also had eye surgery, radiation, and a broken foot! All of these problems and challenges occurred while we were busy raising two kids, one of whom is severely mentally ill," she explained. After her presentation, a few people came up to her to ask how she kept getting back up after getting knocked down so many times. "The truth," she told them, "is that I take it one day at a time, just like everybody else."
"Everyone who has ever found the strength to overcome obstacles is by definition resilient," Grady notes. "But what most people don't know is that there are things we can do to cultivate resilience. Considering that we all deal with setbacks and hard knocks at one time or another, resilience should be viewed as an essential survival skill. Studies have found that resilient people tend to be more productive, are less likely to have high healthcare costs, and are absent from work less often."
As part of the research for her next book, Grady has been studying what it takes to cultivate resilience. Here are the 3 most important lessons she has uncovered so far:
1. Choose Your Expectations Wisely.
"Ray Wylie Hubbard, a great Texas singer and songwriter, sums it up in one of his lyrics: 'And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations. Well, I have really good days.'" Grady quotes. "When we feel unhappy, frustrated, or sad, it's usually because our expectations and reality are out of alignment. We can't control what's happening much of the time, but we can certainly change our expectations."
2. Take Care of Yourself By Making Healthy Choices
"When we've been knocked down, it's easy to dive into comfort food, curl up in bed and moan," says Grady. We've all "been there and done that." But, she warns, this behavior pattern can have the opposite effect of the desired outcome. "As someone who has battled depression much of my life, I know that changing my lifestyle helped me change my mood and my ability to bounce back. I swim regularly, I get lots of sleep, and I stay active. I haven't had an episode in three years (knock wood), but guess what I started doing three years ago? Making better choices, swimming, going to bed earlier, and staying active."
3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort
"When life feels comfortable, we run the risk of becoming complacent -- and that's a recipe for disaster," Grady warns. "If you haven't stretched out of your comfort zone in a while, now might be a good time to give it a try. Often, our comfortable habits aren't really doing a whole lot for us. If you feel like you're in a rut, challenge yourself to try something new. After all, I like to say: a rut is just a grave with no ends."
While Weisel and Grady's traumas may seem far more severe than your own, the truth is that innovation requires experimentation -- and the risk of failure -- which by definition means you must expect setbacks. "The next time you get knocked down, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. How can it make you stronger? How can this setback prepare you for future struggles and eventual victories? Practice thinking about ways that you can use the adverse conditions and events in your life to become stronger, wiser, kinder, more resourceful, and more resilient. That's the place where you'll find that you really grow."