Resilience: The Art Of Rising From A Fall
Resilience: The Art Of Rising From A Fall
October 14, 2013
Winston Wayne Wilson
One of the first things that life gives us after we take our first breath is a fresh pair of red leather boxing gloves. Why? Because, life is a colossal boxing ring that constantly tests our mettle from birth until our ultimate demise. The formidable competition is endless because we must fight for everything that we want in life – love, lasting friendships, self-actualization, success, peace of mind and so on. We must also fight against random obstacles that life throws in the boxing ring, like illness, fear, failure, and disappointment. Sometimes we must fight strangers while other times we must fight friends, families and even ourselves – unfortunately, we can be our own worst enemies in the boxing ring. Irrespective of who or what we are fighting, the adversary’s goal is to break our spirits so that we give up the fight and forfeit the glorious prize.
Given all of this constant fighting and effort to knock us out cold, there is one very important attribute that we need to survive and be a victor in life’s giant boxing ring. That attribute is resilience. The essence of resilience is embodied in the Japanese proverb that says: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” In other words, we must always do a one up on a nasty fall in life’s boxing ring. Hence, no matter how many times we fall, the number of times we rise must always be one more than the number of times we fall. This formula is the key to remaining a formidable competitor in the boxing ring and to ultimately winning.
One of the first critical skills that babies must master is resilience. Without resilience babies would never learn how to walk. If babies could not get past the pain of falling and the frailty of their undeveloped limbs, they would sit, cry and be immobilized indefinitely. Thankfully, healthy babies pass the resilience test with flying colors. Not only that, this mastery of resilience tends to be a salient characteristic of youth in general as evidenced by the fact that kids tend to bounce from one challenge to the next like indestructible rubber. Adults, as it turns out, are the ones who oftentimes forget the invincibility of their youth and lose their ability to resiliently rise when they fall. Consequently, beyond the fearlessness of youth sometimes lies adulthood that is beset with hesitation and trepidation that collectively stymie our ability to rise up when we fall. Fortunately, with some effort, we can reconnect with the unbridled resilience of our inner youth. Here are some tips to increase our resilience as well as our ability to be aggressive and victorious fighters in life’s boxing ring:
- Choose our battles wisely. All battles are not created equally. Some battles can really wipe us out for good if we are not prepared for them. When that occurs, it is far more difficult to get back on our feet. Hence, being strategic about which battles we fight is a very important part of resilience. Being strategic requires us to stay focused on the big fights and to keep our eyes on the main prize. When we master the art of picking our battles wisely we will be able to conserve our energy so that we can win the big fights. When we exert too much effort to fight the wrong battles we will be distracted by spectators on the sidelines or by competitors who are merely trying to psych us out so that we lose focus and get knocked out for good. When we are distracted we become angry over petty things, beat our heads against brick walls and punch concrete tables. In the end, we become bruised and bloodied before the main event and have to quit prematurely and exit the ring, which is exactly what our competitors and anti-fans want. The key is to remember that resilience is more of a mind game than a contact sport that requires brute force and ultra-physical strength. As such, we must avoid getting stuck in our heads as a result of fruitlessly trying to figure out why we are being attacked. Rather, we must simply filter out the distractions so that we can conserve our energy. We must also remember that bad things can happen to good people in life’s boxing ring. In fact, the most daunting impediments in life are the big battles that we must conserve our energies to resiliently fight and win. Hence, when illness, failure, and disappointment start taking a swipe at us, we should not waste time asking, “Why me?”. Instead, we must fight back as best as we can and, when we get knocked down, we must get back up and continue defending ourselves.
- Keep the fire in the belly burning. Fire in the belly represents our hunger to survive and our drive to succeed. Remember that little baby relentlessly trying to walk? That’s fire in the belly. Babies get really upset about sitting in cribs and not being able to navigate the whole house so that they can start breaking or ripping things apart. It is out of that frustration that the fire in the belly of babies emanates and they will stop at nothing to fulfill their curiosities. Surely, a fall or two or three will not stop them. I can imagine in their little minds they are saying, “If I can just learn how to walk I can go outside and play with the dog or climb the stairs or get up on the sofa and watch that box looking thing with pictures of people talking in it.” Because of the fire in the belly of babies, falling is not a deterrent. They have a greater mission: to ruthlessly explore all the stuff that is percolating in their young minds. The things they want to explore and the trouble they want to cause are far more important than falling. Hence, they get up every time they fall so that they can fulfill their missions. As adults, we too must identify our missions as well as the goals that we will stop at nothing to accomplish. Further, we must keep those goals at the forefront of our minds and align our time and effort to ensure that our daily activities help us to attain these goals. When we want to accomplish something really badly that fire in the belly becomes the motivation to push past all the impediments we will undoubtedly encounter in reaching our goals. What is also great about resilience is that it is contagious. Therefore, when our friends and family see us rise up from our severest falls, they will find inspiration to resiliently fight their own blistering fights.
- Learn how to fall without breaking anything. Some falls can be quite traumatic. Therefore, a big part of rising from a fall is to make sure that we adequately cushion ourselves to assuage the impact of the fall and to avoid breaking any bones. If we keep breaking our bones when we fall, it becomes more difficult to get back on our feet so that we can continue the fight. Being healthy enough to fight is an important part of the game. Thus, the less brutal the fall the more we will be able to quickly recover and keep going. In order to accomplish this soft landing we have to, just like professional wrestlers, learn how to fall correctly so that we do not unnecessarily injure ourselves. To avoid injury there are certain elements of our beings that we must protect when we fall. For example, as we are falling, we have to be present-minded enough to activate seat belts, airbags and parachutes to help us preserve our self-esteem, optimism, confidence, winning mindset and our ability to brush off failure so that we can face our next challenge with panache. Seat belts, airbags and parachutes represent all the tools, tips and techniques that can help us to stay in the competitive zone, maintain the right frame of mind to spring back to our feet and continue fighting assertively as if nothing happened.
- Have an emergency plan. Despite our best efforts, sometimes we suffer a nasty fall that is beyond our ability to rise from without any assistance. In these instances, we must have an emergency plan. In other words, there must be people standing by who will jump into the ring when they see that we have been knocked out cold and who will spray cold water on us, slap our faces to make us regain consciousness, patch up our wounds and throw us back into the fight. In many ways, success in the boxing ring is a team effort and so we must surround ourselves with the right people who can coach and support us all the way to victory. We might want to even consider having a tag team going so that when we are weary and tired, we have a backup fighter who can continue to fight on our behalf.
- Be confident in our abilities. Confidence is everything in the ring - think of Muhammad Ali. It is the raging fire that fuels resilience. In fact, if we have no confidence in our ability to win, then there is no reason to get up when we fall. We might as well enjoy the nap on the boxing ring floor if we think that we are going to get up only to be knocked down again. Confidence, however, is not built overnight. Confidence grows over time based on an accumulation of typically smaller victories. Confidence is also very much a matter of accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Thus, one way to grow and maintain our confidence level is to perpetually keep the memory of our victories alive so that we never forget that we are capable of winning. Conversely, we should avoid demoralizing our spirits by wallowing in our failures. Used wisely, failure can be an effective tool to refine our strategy on winning by strengthening the Achilles heels that led to our failure. Ultimately, however, the key is to keep accentuating our positive successes so that we can maintain a high level of confidence.
My challenge for you is to take the resilience test by asking yourself whether you have been doing a good enough job in rising to the occasion in life’s boxing ring more than you have been falling prey to fear, failure and disappointment. Remember resilience is a mind game that requires that you are strategic in picking your fights and falling correctly; that you surround yourself with the right team; and that, worst-case-scenario, you have a backup plan. Good luck with your next fight.