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Building Resilience & Mining Pearls of Wisdom - Reflecting on 2021 BECAUSE it was TOUGH!

It’s so tempting at this time of the year – and after the year we’ve had DTC* - to wish our lives away in the hope that on 1 January 2022 our lives will be different!

Yet on 1 January we’re highly likely to wake up in the same environments, same thinking patterns, same jobs, same habits, same relationships… as we did on 31 December.  Maybe with a hangover thrown in for good measure and a list of resolutions our ‘last-year-self’ thought would be fabulous for our future-self!!??

However, we CAN reframe our 2021 - because the challenges and the adversity that we’ve all experienced this year (DTC or otherwise), are precisely the conditions that enable us to learn, to grow, to build resilience muscles…. 

We grow through what we go through.
*DTC = Due to Covid! @#%!!!

Resilience IS and IS NOT...
Resilience isn’t innate – it’s a skill we learn when we're required to be resourceful, creative and solve problems.
Resilience isn’t mental toughness – it's taking a soft hearted and compassionate view of the world and our experiences in it.
Resilience isn’t avoidance of the rough stuff – it's about being 'in the treacle' and changing our context of stress every time we pull ourselves out.  As I’ve said the rough stuff is what enables us to build more resilience.
Resilience isn't about bouncing back to a great place – it's about finding a better place – not despite adversity, but because of it!  Adversity is literally a requirement of growth and development.
What interests me here, is how much can be gained from reflecting on our year and appreciating the gems that have arisen BECAUSE of the adversity not despite it.

Let me share a story to illustrate this point. 

A Story About Trees & Wind

When we think of trees we often think of strength, height and a remarkable ability to withstand the rough and cutting winds. But what makes trees so strong?

The University of Arizona built a miniature version of Earth (Biosphere 2 project) and in doing so 'accidentally' learned the importance of wind in a plant’s life. Inside Biosphere 2, trees grew faster than they would grow in the wild. But sadly these trees would collapse before maturity.

The scientists found that this was caused by the lack of wind in the biosphere. The presence of wind in real life – or resistance and adversity – make a tree stronger. They’re able to mature and they don’t fall down under their own weight.

This is because when trees grow in the wild:
the 'challenge' of the wind constantly keeps trees moving
this movement causes stress
the stress load means the tree grows ‘stress wood’ which is a different structure
stress wood enables the tree to stand strong in the face of cutting winds and position itself to get best light.  
If there’s no wind, the trees end up being much weaker and aren’t able to survive for long.

So, What's Our Resilience Got To Do With Wind?

Just like trees, if we don’t face any 'wind' - in the form of challenge, adversity, failures, mistakes, conflict – then we literally don’t grow stress-wood, i.e. our resilience muscles.

Mistakes, hard times and challenges help us get stronger, wiser and more resourceful.  Reframing mistakes and hard times as useful learning opportunities (rather than periods of our lives we'd rather wish away with the NY fireworks) means we can have a whole new view of 2021.

Because let’s face it, challenge is precisely what we need to grow the strength and resilience to face reaI adversity, and no one is adverse from adversity, or wind!  

Now from the tree tops to the bottom of the sea bed. 

In the spirit of this story and the season, I’d like to gift this exercise to you – Mining Your Hidden Gems Of 2021.

This is a self reflection with a twist.  It’s about recognising the value of the wins AND the challenges in 2021 before we label the year as another “Annus Horribilis”(as the Queen so eloquently claimed 20 years ago)! 

Before you race ahead into 2022, grab yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea, settle in for 30 minutes and give yourself the gift of your own pearls of wisdom as you reflect on 2021.  The result may surprise you, and at the very least will go to show how your view of the world determines your experience of it. I share my own personal results as an example throughout the exercise.

If you view 2021 as a learning opportunity and a time to build resilience, your experience of 2022 will be altogether different!

So with all my heart I hope this helps you re-label 2021 in a different light, and re-frame your expectations for 2022.  It’s going to be a GREAT year!


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