“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
While we can argue whether Thomas Jefferson discovered the electric light bulb or if it was an actually a Canadian who invented it, I choose not to worry about it. Thomas Jefferson did utter these words after he successfully created the electric light bulb. Imagine if Jefferson repeatedly went back to his failures and stayed trapped in those failures. Instead, Jefferson took what he learned and applied it to create an alternative to candles, that would ultimately end up changing the world.
In my talk on “The Resilient Mind,” I discussed possible outcomes to becoming more resilient, focusing less on what you had and more on what you do have. These outcomes are what I like to call “the new normal. I am an amputee – my right leg below the knee is no longer. I could not afford to focus on activities that would not accommodate my prosthesis. This did not mean I had to stop living my life, I just decided that I had to figure out how to live life differently or find new ways of doing the same things I’ve always been able to do.
During my talk, as part of the discussion segment, a participant explained how they viewed past relationships. They told me that they looked at previous relationships, and use these relationship experiences as learning tools for what not to do in the future. This premise has been around for years. Several years ago, Bill Murray starred in the now classic movie “Ground Hog Day.” Murray’s character was forced to relive Ground Hog Day over and over again until he learned a valuable lesson on how to value people. Learning from every previous mistake, every morning he woke up, knowing that he was the one who needed to change, and as a result, he made those changes. In short, he used the past to make the required adjustments that caused him to become a better person and have a more prosperous life.
What we need to understand about the past it is an opportunity to learn and let go. Far too many people are stuck in the past, and it is like quicksand slowly sucking us in until we are covered thoroughly, feeling as if there is no way out. It is burdensome, and the weight of the sand will keep us trapped as it consumes us. It prevents us from finding new relationships, strengthening our existing relationships, achieving better health and perhaps starting and developing a successful business.
Ask yourself this question; “what is possible?” What can I possibly achieve that I haven’t done before? What reality can I create that will provide me with an abundant life? In my talk, I spoke of five practical steps one could do to gain strength and resilience.
Step one, write it down. Buy a blank notebook and write down all the things that you feel are negative. I then challenge you to look at your notes and find at least one thing you could do to change or one thing you could do differently. Write that new, more positive thought down, and explore the opportunities it creates for you.
Step two, try visualization. Visualization gives you the ability to separate yourself from whatever is causing you stress, anxiety or strain. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and picture yourself from a point outside of your body. This simple exercise will perhaps change the perspective of wherever you’re at as you make the first step of looking at yourself differently. This allows habits of self-criticism and doubt to fade away, even for a little while. When you open your eyes, you’ll likely feel refreshed, and ready to continue with your day with a new perspective.
Step three, minimize your negative experiences. If at all possible try and avoid situations that cause you to stress or stain, this includes people who you feel are toxic to you. This does not have to be a permanent situation, you just need some space to gather your thoughts and move forward. During this time of reflection, a good practice is to try to find something positive to focus on, regarding these unpleasant situations and people. This is another technique for reframing your experiences. You’ll notice that this will help empower yourself within them.
Step four, ask for some help. There are times in your life when you should reach out and talk to someone else. Find a friend or a professional. Some organizations offer confidential employee assistance programs as a benefit to staff, knowing that this would be excellent support for their people. However, when it comes to friends, I want to caution you that confiding in someone who is just going to agree is not the person you want. The person you are looking for will not be afraid to tell you what you need to hear.
Step five, increase your positive experiences. Find people that make you feel happy. Do things that create fun in your life. Dance in the kitchen, cook your favourite meal, laugh with children, and so forth. So what is it that will generate more for you or make your life that much better?
These few tips can help you become more resilient. Remember looking back is fine, just don’t look too far back and do n’t let your mind stay there.