After a great coaching session with my own Coach, I took some time to reflect on my learning. Let me share:
I’m reminded about the fact that I’m able to stand tall and keep going because I’ve developed the ability to cope with falling, again and again. Not only that; I’ve learnt to pick myself up after each fall and run even faster, jump even higher. In essence, I’m practicing resilience. Intentional resilience. This means I don’t just deal with my circumstances; I create new ones that work for me.
But where does resilience come from?
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth
I’m a few weeks back in Germany and looking back at the last two years of my life, I have learnt that being intentional does not mean that I will never have one of those days where I feel knocked down. In fact, living an intentional life ironically brings me even more breakdowns than if I had chosen to sit comfortably on my couch day after day, playing Angry Birds, Candy Crush or spending endless hours on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
But every breakdown is the dawn of a breakthrough.
Whenever I feel discouraged, left out or even forgotten, I know today that I am never alone. Many people have experienced those same emotions and thoughts; you are probably one of them. Which means you can empathise with me. Thank you for that.
The truth is, the more I make intentionality my way of being, the more I encounter failure and disappointment. In the past, I realized that my relationship with the word “failure” wasn’t helpful in getting me back up on my feet, for several reasons. Somehow, my definition of failure had evolved from the healthy “objective feedback on my actions” to the depressing “something that determines my value”. In my head, every failure or setback became a sign of my inadequacy or worthlessness. That caused a huge problem and a downward spiral for me, because calling something a failure did not help me in changing the circumstances, but instead emphasized my belief that things will never change. I was trapped in a vicious cycle.
This evidently wouldn’t work in the long term.
So one day, while I was wallowing in my pit of despair, my coach asked me a simple question: “Given that you can’t change the event, what is a different assessment you could make about the same event?” It took a while to process that question, but eventually I chose to come up with a new assessment, a different phrase to characterize such circumstances instead. And the phrase I chose was:
“Great, this is a character-building moment.”
That was a defining moment for me. By consciously changing the words I used, I created a different scenario for myself and my circumstances, and that led to a change in emotions and gradually a change in my attitude. It is still the same situation, but I’ve learnt to look at it from a different viewpoint – I became a different observer. Today, I don’t see failures; I see learning opportunities. In that way, I’m able to honestly and objectively look at the real feedback in front of me and start consciously navigating situations to create a different and new result. Just like how I learnt to walk as a child, progressing from crawling when I was a baby, to taking little steps and falling a lot, till I was walking, running and jumping as a boy (and adult!).
That’s the theory, at least.
To be honest, even after knowing all that today and growing back into my “child’s way of looking at falling down”, there are moments when I still cry like a baby because sometimes all the theory disappears in the face of a heart-breaking moment. But maybe crying like a baby is also part of having that attitude of intentionality.
And that is where relationships come into play.
None of us can accomplish a worthwhile goal all by ourselves. All of us need help sometimes. None of us learnt how to walk without the support of our parents, who cheered for us every step of the way. At least, I didn’t.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Sometimes I need someone to help me to get my focus back. A shoulder to cry on. A friend to rely on. Or, my fiance telling me that I’m still a man, even while I’m crying like a baby.
If you know what I’m talking about and you are in a situation like that right now, you know that friends and loved ones can be our biggest cheerleaders and motivating force.
“If you are feeling low or trampled, unappreciated or forgotten and you are reading this, realize it is an illusion. The hope is real, you are valued, and what lies ahead is brilliance.” – Tom Althouse
One phrase I often hear is: “We are coaching from our wounds.” And I think what it means is: The breakdowns we endure and the hardships we experience can be the source of wisdom and encouragement for other people, and can even create a safe space for them to navigate through their own “great character building moments”.
Now let me ask you the same question my coach once asked me: “Given that you can’t change the event, what is a different assessment you could make about the same event?”
While exploring your learning opportunities and dealing with whatever issues you may be facing right now, never forget to take care of yourself emotionally and cry some healthy tears once in a while.
Have fun and enjoy your learning.