You have heard of your Intelligent Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and maybe even Cultural Intelligence (CQ), but what about your Resilient Intelligence (RQ)? What makes a person resilient? How does someone move through difficult circumstances and grow rather than shrink? Resilience is an essential component in the workforce and is a contributing factor to personal success. Did you know that resilience is learnable and achievable? What are key factors that will help you grow resilience?
When I was asked to lead this session for UNMC and UNO’s GRIT series I immediately asked myself, “Do I have resilience? And when I realized that I do, I asked myself, Where and how did I develop resilience?” I have chosen four moments. I could choose others, but these four proved to be profound moments where I had to choose to move through or bounce back when I did not think I had the capacity to do so. On September 11, 1998, our home flooded in Tropical Storm Francis in Houston, Texas. Greg, Mikayla (our two-year-old) and six-month-pregnant-me along with two dogs had to escape through rapid moving flood waters. We left the cat. It was rescued in speed boat. Along with several other thousand people that day, we lost it all and had to begin the process of rebuilding. It took six months so our new born baby was technically born homeless. In October 2001, ENRON, the Fortune 500 company my husband worked for collapsed and we lost everything financially. We ended up being relocated to Omaha and had to rebuild a whole new community and financial base. On August 3, 2016 while on a leadership retreat with our Resident Assistant Team, I hit a tree while ziplining because my brakes didn’t work. I seriously injured all of the tendons and ligaments in my feet and ankles while crushing my heal pads of my feet. For the first time in my life, I felt what I thought was level 10 pain. I live with chronic pain from that injury even today. And on October 3, 2017, Grace University announced that it was closing. As the Dean of Women, I had to walk through eight months of grief helping the students and staff let go of our 75-year beloved institution. Each of these stories carry intense moments of deep learning and hard choices to push through when I thought I did not have the mental, emotional, social, or physical capacity to do so. But I learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was and that yes, I can move through to a better tomorrow and a better normal. Why? Because I am resilient!
So, what is resilience? Resilience can be defined as the bounce back factor in the face of difficult circumstances without engaging in dysfunctional behavior. Resilience is the ability to move through it and become better because of it. The crazy and amazing thing about resilience is that it is learnable, teachable, and possible for all people. And that with each step we take toward moving forward we strengthen our resilience! In many ways, resilience is caught more than taught in the hard moments of life. It is caught when we get up and take the next step.
So, I find myself asking, What did I learn about resilience in these four moments? Honestly, I could never have walked the journey without my community of faith, family, friends, and yes, coworkers and students. As hard as it was to do, I learned to ask for help. After the shock wore off when I hit the tree, I had no choice. I could not stand on my own two feet by myself. I found that my students would carry me when I could not stand, literally! As I experienced their kindness in carrying me, I learned more about how to serve others in those moments than any other in my life. I can give stories from each of these moments where someone carried me. Through these moments of seeking help, I experienced in more profound way the power of love, sacrifice, and service. And that God truly is our help in our time of need and that with God all things are possible. Often His answers come through the hands and feet of those around us! Asking for help is not only a gift to ourselves, but it is to the other person because it allows them to walk in the blessing of serving you.
Another characteristic of resilience that I encountered was the power of being present in the moment even when it meant conflict, suffering and/or pain. I discovered that if I took the time to assess the situation and acknowledge what I was feeling and going through that I was better able to handle the moment. Acknowledging something makes it less scary. At times, I would just verbalize aloud what I was feeling. So, if I didn’t like me in the moment, I would just say it. This somehow helped me to pull it together. It helped me to center myself and be mindful of what I was going through. I had to learn to give myself grace and others as well. If I focused on what I could do in that moment and just take the next step, I would feel like I accomplished something. It gave me a sense of completion and accomplishment which made me feel like I was in control in what was perceived an uncontrollable situation.
I realize that this is not everyone’s story, but for me, I found that if I faithed it, I could make it! I found strength in God and the people of God. This means that even though I could not see what would be, if I stepped out in faith trusting that movement, healing, provision, and whatever I might need would happen that I became stronger. I started saying, “I am faithing forward!” I found ways to feed my soul with spiritual truths that encouraged my heart and mind. I found ways to share with others about my journey. This kept me from living in mental isolation. Which really helped me process and release a lot of stuff. I tried hard to think about how my husband might be feeling and how I could be his encouragement or how my students and colleagues were feeling so that I could serve them with better understanding. On the night that we flooded and lost it all, we were sleeping on a day bed in my parent’s guest room with our two dogs on the floor, the cat on the edge of the bed, our two-year-old wedged between us and I whispered to my husband, Greg, “Babe, we have all we need right here. I am content and we are going to be okay.” I meant it and it was true. Despite losing it all, we can now say that we are better having gone through it than if we had not.
I could tell you about all the things that God taught me to release like pride, vanity, greed, materialism, and identity in things, positions, power, or influence. But that is another lesson. However, with resilience building I discovered that there were things that I needed to hold onto and things that I needed release. My self-talk was critical. I could beat myself up, tear down others, or remind myself of truths that brough positive outcomes. Two truths that I found myself embracing as I moved through these circumstances were “we will make it through” and that “I am stronger than I think.” I realized that normal is whatever I make it to be. If I take the time to set a rhythm into the routine, then I create a new normal. I am the one that determines what normal is for me, my family, and my work. This was huge! It made chaos comfortable and confusion settled. Why? Because I determined in my heart what the norm was and did not allow the circumstances to tell me otherwise.
How are you being challenged right now to be resilient? What aspect of resilience have you already developed? Where might you need to grow or take the next step? Go ahead and faith forward and create your new normal by choosing to be in community, ask for help, focus on the moment, do what you can do, and live out good self-talk as you move forward! Shalom Y’all! 😉