Category Archives: Articles

Is Stress Your Venom or Your Spiderman?

Ack!  Stress!
“Stress!  Baby you got it! Oh yeah!”  (I’m sure there’s some popular tune we could sing that to.)
We all have stress.  Every day.  And you probably don’t want it.
We’re’ constantly being told that stress should be reduced, eliminated or managed.  “Stress kills.”  “Stress is harmful.” Blah, blah, blah.  We are put under so much pressure to reduce stress that we stress about stress.  (Ironic, really.)
You Can Be Liberated
I’m going to tell you something that can liberate you from the stress of stress…
Stress is good.
It can make your life better.
You don’t believe me.  I don’t blame you – we’ve all been brainwashed.
I won’t go into the details of how early stress researchers got it horribly wrong.  Suffice it to say that modern research has established, rather convincingly, that we are actually built for stress, and that when used properly, stress is a benefit.  Consider this:
“A stress response that supported only two survival strategies — throw a punch or run like hell — would truly be a mismatch for modern life.  But the full picture of the human stress response turns out to be much more complex.  Fleeing and fighting are not the only strategies your body supports…It can activate multiple biological systems, each supporting a different coping strategy.  Your stress response won’t just help you get out of a burning buildng; it will also help you engage with challenges, connect with social support, and learn from experience.”  ~ Kelly McGonigal, Phd, The Upside of Stress.
You see, your brain is programmed with multiple responses to stress, each response designed to deal with a different type of situation.  The brain releases hormones and sends signals to the body to turn off or activate systems that we will need to address the presenting challenge.
How we think about stress determines whether it will be helpful or harmful.
When we see stress as bad we fight against the body’s natural response that is trying to help us.  We resist the body’s response rather than address the cause of the response.  We act in ways that are counterproductive to solving the challenge or problem.  This usually doesn’t turn out so well.
When we see stress as helpful, we allow the body to do what it was designed to do, and take actions that will benefit us.   We allow the body to provide us with clarity, focus, energy, confidence, empathy, connection, and more.
Here’s an example.  Most of us have heard of a “flow” state, often referred to as being “in the zone.”  It happens with elite athletes, performers and other highly trained individuals (it can actually happen with just about anyone, but that’s a topic for another time).  Contrary to what many think, these individuals are not in a state of calm.  They are in the midst of a stress response that allows them to perform at high levels.  They don’t fight the body’s response, because they don’t see it as bad.  They embrace it, and they benefit accordingly.
We don’t have to be “in the zone” to benefit from a stress response.  We just have to look at stress as something that can help us.
Here’s How to Get Started
Here are 3 simple steps to help you start transforming your mindset about stress (or for you Marvel superhero fans, transform stress from Venom into Spiderman):
  1. Recognize and acknowledge stress when you feel it. “Yep, there’s my body acting stressed.”
  2. Welcome the stress response and recognize it for what it is. “Hello stress! Okay, my body is gearing up to help me tackle this challenge.”
  3. Make use of the energy that stress gives you, instead of wasting that energy trying to manage your stress. Direct it towards taking action, reaching out for connection, and creating some benefit. “Woohoo! Here we go!”
A Final Thought
Yes, there are negative situations that give rise to stress.  Yes there are experiences in life that just plain suck.  We need to see both the negative and the positive – then choose to focus on the positive.
You can transform stress from Kryptonite into the power to fly (yes, I know I just switched to a D.C. Comics analogy)…if you choose to.
So, give it a shot.  Make stress one of your superpowers!

When Life Hands You Lemons… (True Happiness)

So, sometimes life takes you sideways.

Ever have those moments in life when something unexpected shakes up all your plans and derails you from where you were going for a while?  At first all you can do is look at it and say, “Well dang!”  Most people do.  I happen to be experiencing one of those moments myself.

It is easy to think that if we were just doing things “right” we wouldn’t have these problems.  It is easy to let these times harm our long-term happiness.  Who can be happy while saying, “Well that sucks.”  Right?

Well, not so fast.

It turns out that true, sustained happiness doesn’t come from always having rainbows and butterflies. We need storms and mosquitoes too.

Sustained happiness comes from both feeling well and functioning well – living a life of meaning and self-realization.  Functioning well means that there must be a degree of trial and challenge.  We need the storms to appreciate the sunshine (and vice versa).  We need challenge and struggle to grow – to have meaning and self-realization.

Dr. Alia Crum, a researcher at Stanford University, has written that we can cultivate longterm happiness if we “make a conscious mindset change that focuses upon experiencing all emotions in the service of valued actions, rather than focusing on increasing positive emotion and reducing negative emotion through the achievement of particular outcomes. ”  In other words, it’s all in the mindset.

If we accept that life has trials, challenges and mosquitos, and that there is benefit in experiencing them. we can be happy in spite of (or maybe even because of) them.  If we allow ourselves to experience negative emotions, and use them to move us forward, the positive emotions become more meaningful.  There is joy in experiencing life in all its ups and downs.

You’ve heard the expression, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  With a sustained happiness mindset you can do so much more.

When life hands you lemons…

  • say thank you
  • experience the sourness
  • let yourself be grumpy for a while
  • juggle them
  • make fruit art
  • turn them into a tasty garnish
  • zest them
  • make a necklace
  • make a battery
  • share them
  • [insert your idea here]

When life goes sideways it’s okay to say, “Well dang!’  Just remember to also say, “Thank you!”

Hate Exercise? You’ve Just Got the Wrong Rhythm.

“I hate it.”

The benefits of exercise are well established.  It affects your physical health, mental functioning, mood, etc., etc.  Most of us know we should be doing it, but many are not.  Why?  We can come up with excuses like, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have anywhere to do it”, “I don’t have the right equipment”, blah, blah.  But most frequently it boils down to something else.  Recently a client summed it up nicely, “I hate formal exercise.”  

Why do so many people hate exercise?  You know I’m going to tell you they have the wrong rhythms, but what are they?  

Here’s why you might hate exercise and what to do about it.  

Mind Rhythms:  You’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Often we start to exercise, or think we should start, because we are moving away from something painful or negative.  Here are some examples.

  • I need to lose weight.
  • My doctor says I should.
  • I have to look good in this dress by the reunion
  • I hate the way I look.
  • I have to get in shape or lose my job.
  • I’m tired of feeling guilty that I’m not doing it.

Our perception determines our experience of reality.  If you go into it with attitudes like these is it any wonder that you hate it and don’t keep it up?  You’re not doing it because you want to, you’re doing it because you think you have to.  Which of the two is the greater motivator?

So then, what if you did it because you were moving towards something positive?  Compare these examples to the previous list.

  • I deserve to feel good.
  • I want to operate at my optimal levels.
  • I love the way I look and feel afterwards.
  • It’s my way of finding peace and focus.
  • I feel like I’m achieving something.
  • I enjoy the activities I’m participating in.

These have a different energy and feel, don’t they?  How you look at exercise makes all the difference in the world.  Simply put, the “why” matters.

Speaking of why, the last example on the positive list brings us to…

Action Rhythms:  You’re doing it in the wrong way.

Chances are, if you don’t like exercise you’re simply not doing something you enjoy doing.  (Duh, right?)  You don’t have to be doing Tabatas, plyo, HIIT, or bodybuilding to get the benefits of exercise.  Just because I like burpees and throwing down with martial arts experts (okay, maybe I’m weird) doesn’t mean you have to.  

It all starts with simply finding an activity that gets your body moving.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Take a walk
  • Put on some music and dance
  • Row on the lake
  • Hop on a horse
  • Throw on some rollerblades and hit a path
  • Hit a ball around the tennis court
  • Play soccer – pick-up game or recreational league
  • Get in a few laps at the pool
  • Try Tai Chi or yoga
  • Play ping pong (okay, table tennis)
  • Climb – in the gym or the great outdoors
  • Spend some time in the garden
  • LARP (if you have to ask what it is maybe you should find out and try it)
  • Go geocaching
  • Go bowling
  • Goof around with the kids
  • Coach a youth sports team
  • Play on the playground (hey, adults like to play too)

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore.  Find something you enjoy and do it.  Make it a part of your daily or weekly rhythm.  Do it not because you have to but because you want to.  Find a positive “why” that works for you and run with it.  (Unintentional pun, but it works.)

B.U.I.L.D. Better Relationships

In any personal relationship, whether it be a close personal friend, a business contact, or even just someone you encounter on the street, there is a possibility for, shall we say, “differences of opinions.”  When the inevitable interpersonal conflicts come up, how do you handle them?  How do you resolve conflicts and improve relationships?

One simple but extremely powerful technique that I’ve never had fail me or anyone I’ve taught it to is the B.U.I.L.D. Method (originally developed as B.R.I.C.K.S. – I was teaching a group of construction management students).  Years of training and experience in managing conflict, plus a study of human communications and relationships, plus years of (would you believe) martial arts and combatives training, plus an obliging body of scientific research helped bring this method to life.  It is simple, but effective.  Give it a try!

Breathe

Okay, so I once came across an NLP expert who said this wasn’t necessary, and for only $250 he’d tell you why.  Biology would say he’s wrong, but I won’t go into it.

In this step, pay attention to your breathing.  You don’t even have to take time away from the discussion or situation – it can be done on the fly. Are you holding your breath?  Are you breathing too fast?  Slow and control your breathing.

Often all it takes is one slow, deep breath and you can return to a breathing rhythm that helps you be calm and more focused.  Deliberately keep your breathing slow until you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Untether

Let go.  Let go of your position for a moment.  Let go of the need to be right. Let go of the fear of failure. Let go of your ego.  It is really hard to do the next three steps unless you do this one.  Frankly, it is next to impossible to reach a true resolution without it.  If you paid attention to the Breathe step, untethering is much easier.

Invite

Invite the other person to engage in a conversation, and invite them to share their perspective first.  The invitation can be through words and/or body language.

For example, make eye contact (as culturally appropriate) and use an engagement phrase such as one of the following.

  • “Let’s discuss this.  What are your thoughts?”
  • “Tell me more about your [thoughts, feelings, etc.] on the matter.”
  • “I’d really like to know more about…”
  • “Help me understand what you mean by…”

Listen

Really listen to the other person and genuinely seek to understand.  Don’t be thinking about what your next argument or comeback will be, what you’re going to have for dinner, why they chose to wear that color combination, etc. – focus on the other person.  You can strengthen this step by using connected listening techniques. Listen for not only what they say they want, but why.  What are the underlying values, needs, interests and emotions?  What are they really saying?

Discuss

Once you have listened to the other person, then you can share your perspective.  Don’t just attack what the other person has said, but explain how you see things and why.  Then have a dialog (not a debate) about the different options that could resolve the situation.  Ideally, you’ll look for options that will address each person’s needs and concerns.

 

Once you B.U.I.L.D. a positive connection you have the foundation for resolution.  Even if you don’t ultimately agree, if you have put genuine effort into following the steps you can end with a positive note and an improved or strengthened relationship.

Forgiveness is Power: Ten Steps to Being Healthier, Happier and Having Awesome Relationships

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
– Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s face it.  With all the demands and challenges in our lives – making ends meet, maintaining a household, getting kids to a myriad of activities, community obligations, and trying to find a little time for ourselves – we could all use a little more power in our lives.  One of the most untapped sources of personal power is forgiveness.  Huh?  Yes, that’s right, forgiveness.  We’ve been taught that forgiveness is a virtue, but how many of us make it a regular practice in our lives?

Forgiveness is not just a virtue, it is a choice.  Choosing to forgive leads us to better health, increased optimism, and richer relationships.  That isn’t just my opinion; it is backed by a growing body of research.  How cool is that?  Wouldn’t you like to be healthier, happier, and have awesome relationships?  If you answered ‘no’ please go see a professional about that.

I will assume you answered ‘yes.’  Sweet!  Now, even though we may know the importance of forgiveness, we still don’t do it.  We allow pride, fear, resentment, vindictiveness or anger to swallow hope.  Hope is what allows us to move forward in life.  Without hope for a better future, we feel no need to forgive.   Take back hope and use these ten steps to help you harness the power of forgiveness.

  • Optional – Thump yourself in the head.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our wallowing that we just need to give ourselves a little thump on the forehead to snap out of it. If you need it, do it. (Be gentle; don’t thump yourself in the head so hard that you forget why you thumped yourself in the first place.)
  • Know what forgiveness is.  Forgiveness is to pardon an offense, let go of blame for past hurt and move on with life.
  • Know what forgiveness isn’t.   Forgiveness is not condoning wrong or allowing harmful behavior. It is also not forgetting. Author Lewis B. Smedes explained, “Forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
  • Commit to let go of the pain.   Failing to forgive magnifies the pain. Pain, disappointment, and injustice influence every aspect of life. The longer we hold on to it, the deeper it plants itself. Make the decision to let go of the pain.
  • Take ownership of your feelings.  We are responsible for our own reactions to the actions of others. Taking responsibility for our own feelings allows us to take control of our lives. We can’t control what others do or what may happen to us, but we can control how we respond to it.
  • Seek humility.  Humility? Yep. Humility is the opposite of pride. So very often we fail to forgive due to our own foolish pride. Pride places blame and responsibility on others (which undermines the previous step), giving them, not you, control.
  • Cultivate gratitude.  Did you know that the ability to feel and express gratitude has been identified as a powerful factor in individual resilience (the ability to bounce back from stuff)? Focusing on things you are thankful for focuses your attention on positive rather than negative things in your life. This in turn helps you to let go of hurt and move forward in life.
  • Be patient.  Forgiveness can take time. Don’t expect to be able to do it overnight, you may be sorely disappointed. I read once this counsel, “Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it in.” Give yourself some time. As long as you are making the effort it will eventually come.
  • Live today.  You can’t change the past. Dwelling there, particularly on past wrongs, can really suck. It keeps you from living the life you want and deserve now. Focus your energy on what you are doing with your life today.
  • Let go.  Let it out. It may be helpful to write it down, or to talk to someone who can be patient, understanding and supportive. If you need to, seek professional help. Let it out and then let it go. Set it free in the wind, drop kick it over the moon, flush it down the drain, whatever you need to do to symbolically and emotionally let it go.

Three Deadly Assassins of Motivation

They’re out there. They’re waiting for you.  Silently – a drop of poison, a stiletto to the heart – or with dramatic flair – an I.E.D. or rocket launcher – they will try to take you down, determined to kill your desire to succeed. Beware these three deadly assassins.

Avoid the Deadly Three

When you don’t feel motivated to make a change in your life that you really should make, it could be because you are just being lazy.  But, quite often it is because you’ve been nailed by one of the Deadly Three.  The Deadly Three have killed more hopes and dreams than just about anything else on this planet.

You should protect yourself against the Deadly Three at all costs.  Thanks for reading.

Oh, wait, you want to know who the Deadly Three are?  Well, if you’ll watch my back while I tell you, I’ll share this bit of intel.  Oh, and you can’t let them know I’m the one who told you – I’m trying to stay on their good side.

Here we go. (You are still watching over my back aren’t you?)  The Deadly Three are Fear, Doubt, and Contentment.

Fear is the Mind Killer

“Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death.”  This line from Frank Herbert’s Dune sums up quite nicely what happens when you let fear overstep its bounds.  Fear is a defensive response, independent of rational thought, that alerts us to some danger.  Fear, in and of itself, can actually be a good thing, protecting us from harm.  However, if allowed to expand beyond its warning role, fear can cloud judgment and kill initiative.

The most common fears that can  keep you from taking action and stand in the way of your success in life are fear of failure and fear of the unknown.

Fear of failure is incredibly common, so don’t feel bad if you’ve got it.  Most people simply don’t like to fail.  I won’t get into the whole nature versus nurture debate on this one, but it is interesting to note that everything you learned to do as a child came by trying and failing over and over again before you finally succeeded.  The fear of failure came later.  Hmm….

However it came, fear of failure, when overstepping its bounds, can be deadly.  Why?  Because you simply don’t act.  “If I don’t do anything then I can’t fail and I won’t be hurt.”  There’s a logical fallacy there, but how often do we actually make decisions based on logic?  So any attempt to change for the better is killed before it even begins.

Fear of the unknown can be equally as deadly.  Facing the unknown, stepping out into the darkness, requires you to step outside your comfort zone.  There is a reason it is called the “comfort” zone: that’s where you feel safe and secure.  By definition, anything outside your comfort zone is uncomfortable.  As a general matter, human beings don’t like discomfort.

Doubt Kills the Spirit

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” ~Khalil Gibran

Like fear, doubt is a red flag.  It warns us that something is amiss.  Doubt keeps us from jumping headfirst into every harebrained scheme that comes along. Doubt says, “Take a moment and think before you act.”  However, when doubt starts using words like “can’t”, “should”, “shouldn’t”, or “what if” then you should start to doubt doubt.  It has started to overstep its bounds.

When doubt oversteps its bounds it starts to kill the spirit.  It saps your energy and confidence.  You start to believe that you can’t accomplish your desire.  Maybe you doubt your own ability.  Maybe you doubt the process or tools you have.  Maybe you doubt the other people you need to rely on to make something happen. Regardless of which doubt it is, you don’t think it will work. When you don’t think you can do something you don’t give it your best effort or maybe even any effort at all.

I’ll address how to deal with the Fear and Doubt assassins in another post, but for now I’ll share this quote I like from Dale Carnegie.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Contentment is the Most Deadly of All

Of the three, contentment is actually the most deadly.  Why?  Because it is so innocent, so innocuous, that you don’t even know it is stopping you at all.  Contentment tells us that everything is fine.  Things are going good.  No need to change.  Why would you want to rock the boat?

Now, just like fear and doubt, contentment is not always bad.  It provides comfort, it provides security, and it keeps the “grass is always greener” bug at bay.  However, it can also stifle dreams and innovation.  Without vision, without the dream to create something bigger or better, there would never be new advancements in medicine, art, science, engineering or any other aspect of life.

Okay, now you know.  Are you still watching my back?  Maybe I’ve said too much – they may be closing in as we speak – but at least now you’ll be forewarned.  There is more that you must know.  Not here, not now.  But I’ll be in touch…

What To Do When Your Life Feels Like a Merry-Go-Round

Oh, the Good Ol’ Days

 Do you remember the days when kids were allowed to have fun and playgrounds had merry-go-rounds (at least that’s what we called them)?  I have fond memories of running round and round and round as fast as I could, then jumping on and holding on for dear life as the wind rushed through my hair.  Of course, if I let go the ride was over.  Do you ever feel like that in adult life?  Where the world is spinning round and round and one misstep will send you sliding off into the dirt?

 You Gotta Love Physics

 If you experienced the joys of the merry-go-round as a child, you may have found that the secret to staying on the merry-go-round was to get to the center. Thanks to some cool law of physics, you could sit or stand in the middle and stay safely on the toy, even if you weren’t holding on to anything. It was awesome, right?  Those on the edge, where the centrifugal force was greatest, were the ones who risked falling off.

 You Can Find the Center

 Most people have the experience at some point in their lives of feeling like they are back on the merry-go-round and just trying to hang on.  You may have many things going on at once that push you around for a spin.  Career (push).  Family (push).  Social obligations (push).  Personal goals (push).   Soon you are spinning faster than you would like and trying to hold on.

The good news is that you can find the center and make it much easier to enjoy the ride.  Everyone has their own center.  There are many ways you can get to yours, but I’m going to share just two.

First, Remember to Breathe.  It’s funny how we can take what is normally an automatic bodily function and somehow forget to do it right (or sometimes entirely).  But that is what often happens when we get in stressful situations.  Without getting into scientific details, that is a bad thing.  It impacts our ability to focus and perform mentally, emotionally and physically.   To correct that, try this one simple technique so you can find greater focus and calm.

Breathe in deeply (with the diaphragm – let that belly puff out like a balloon) for a slow count of 7

Hold the breath, experiencing the feeling of fullness, for a count of 2-3

Breathe back out slowly, for a count of 7

Completely empty your lungs and hold that emptiness for a count of 2

Repeat 2-3 times.

How does that feel?

Second, Live by Your Values.  Much tension in life comes when we don’t live according to our core values.  When you do live by your core values it becomes much easier to accept whatever situations or consequences may come.  So, do you know your core values?  Take the time to write them down and honestly examine whether you are living in harmony with them.  Make a list of your ten most important values, then rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 as to how closely you are living them (1 being not so much and 5 being very much in harmony).  Yes, this can be a difficult exercise, but very worth it.  You’ll find that that more you can move those to a 4 or 5 the better able you are do deal with conflict and adversity.  The merry-go-round may spin, but you’ll be safely at the center.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to share.

Have an awesome day!

 

A Journey of Discovery: The Origins of ThriveBeat

Good projects don’t just appear out of nowhere (life would be way too easy if they did).  While some people may just throw up a website on a whim, this one came after a good deal of thought and groundwork.

Have You Ever Been in a Hole?

At its most basic level, ThriveBeat arose out of a personal journey – a journey to find a way out of a deep, dark hole in my life.  I was at a point where I was unhappy and dreaded each day.  My relationships were suffering, my professional performance was suffering, and I was just surviving day-to-day. I was “successful”, but not fulfilled.

I’ve now stepped into about three such holes in my life, the kind of holes that looking back you could see were roughly the size of the Grand Canyon and you wondered how you never noticed them until you stepped in and found yourself looking up from the bottom.  The previous times I had somehow blundered my way out, largely with the guidance of others.

This time was different.  This time I made a conscious effort to discover how to get out and stay out.

The first lifeline I grabbed hold of was an article I had read several months before.  I couldn’t find the article again, but I remembered one key word: resilience.  Resilience is that human ability to bounce back from life’s challenges and keep going.  I wanted that.  So, being the nerd that I am, I dove into the research on resilience.  What did science say about resilience and how could it help me?

In the process I discovered some amazing things.  As I studied and compiled the research I found that there are six key factors that determine someone’s resilience.  I called them “catalysts” because they are the things that spark life success.

Then I jumped into research on change, happiness, human performance, and other areas, and began to see how they all tied together, and that the same factors influence so many things in our lives.

You Don’t Get Out by Sitting and Waiting.

All this stuff was great and all, but it didn’t mean diddly until I actually started applying it.

The change was dramatic.  I was happy again, and looked at life with new eyes.  I recognized how amazing life is and how I was letting it pass me by.  My daily challenges were the same, but I saw and handled them differently.  My health improved, my relationships improved, my performance improved.  I was more confident and optimistic.

It was WAY cool.

Then an opportunity came for me to make a professional change.  I weighed the stability of my present career against the opportunity to help other people find the same benefits I discovered in my journey.  It was a very difficult decision.

I made the stupid decision.

From a purely financial standpoint, that is.  I went from a steady, predictable income to the possibility of greater income with the risk of making nothing at all.  But I believed in my message.

Then I had another problem.

What exactly was my message and how could I best spread it?

Time to Build a Road.

I was now travelling down a road I had never been on.  In fact, the road hadn’t even been built yet.

I’d been helping people make changes in their lives for many years.  I’d been training professionals for over a decade.  I had the coaching and training skills.  I was good at creating practical frameworks.  I was comfortable standing in front of people and sharing a message.  But how could I “package” what I was trying to teach so that it could touch lives?

It took another (long) journey, this one through marketing courses, entrepreneurial courses, business models, business names, networking, etc. to get to the point where ThriveBeat was born.

Things finally clicked after a conversation with an old friend, branding expert Christopher Staser, and after something (I honestly don’t remember what) made me ponder the difference between life balance and life rhythm.

My message, my mission, is about helping people find and take charge of their life rhythm so they can thrive.  Thrive + Beat = ThriveBeat.

The goal with ThriveBeat is to provide you with tips, tools, resources, stories, experiences and other information to help you thrive – to help you live the kick-butt life you deserve.

I hope you enjoy the site and the resources we will provide, but more importantly I hope they will help you build the life you want and deserve.  IT IS YOUR TIME TO THRIVE.

Failure Rocks if You’re Bouncy

Failure Rocks!

Let me tell you, failure is becoming my friend.  Why?  Because failure is a great teacher.  Here’s a lesson I learned from an event that I thought would be my “big break” in one of my fields of expertise.

The Big Event

A couple of years ago held a seminar.  I was incredibly excited about it because it was going to change lives.  I was going to help transform the way people look at how we respond to violence.  It had a practical and timely focus: less-lethal options for self-defense.  With mass shootings and the gun control debate still on people’s minds, particularly moving into a new school year, I wanted people to know that they had options.   In my conversations with people I’d found that many people didn’t want to own a gun, but still wanted some way to protect themselves.  In my zeal, I was going to fill that need.

I spread the word far and wide.  I told friends and family, invited former students, posted it multiple times on Facebook, wrote an article for a local magazine, did a YouTube video, had a booth at a community event, sent out press releases, and even got a very nice feature on the evening news.

The Huge Turnout

The big day arrived.  I was prepared.  I had worked hard to have materials, useful information, and demonstrations ready for the event.  I arrived early, set up, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Three people showed up.  All of them were my neighbors, and two could only stay for a few minutes.  I could have saved everyone time (and money) by just walking down the street to talk to them.

I was rather bummed.  Arriving home to a supportive and consoling family, I helped put the kids to bed, ate a candy bar, chocolate cake and a bag of microwave popcorn, and stayed up late watching a movie.  Oh the rebellion!

Curse it All

My first inclination was to be depressed, give up, and be cynical about people.  Curse the people in the community for not wanting to change the way I thought they should!  Curse all the people who said they would try to make it but didn’t show up!  Curse my marketing skills (or lack thereof)!  Curse my interest in the topic to begin with!  Curse! Curse! Curse!

That course of action would of course be stupid.  Where would that get me?  Certainly not any closer to where I wanted to be in life.

I couldn’t help thinking about dear friend and colleague of mine.  She escaped an abusive husband then fought him in a huge court battle for child custody (representing herself all the way up to the state supreme court I might add).  She prevailed, but after a tremendous toll on her and the children.  It could have destroyed her, but it didn’t.   When I first met her it was years later.  Meeting her you would have no idea what she had been through unless someone told you. I sure wouldn’t have known.  She is positive, upbeat, successful, and has a heart of gold.  If she could go through the experiences she had and could still keep going with a positive attitude about life, I would be an awful wuss to let a little bump in the road get me down.

Bouncing Back

Resilience is the ability to recovery readily from illness, stress, depression, adversity, or the like.  It is the ability to bounce back from crap.  Events do not define you.  How you respond to them does, so use them to define you as a better you.

Here are five steps to help you bounce back from a negative experience.

  1. Vent.  Here’s the thing, you’re human.  You are going to have negative emotions.  Instead of bottling them up inside they need to be let free.  You can express them in a constructive or destructive manner.  Hint: choose the constructive way.  Find a positive outlet.  Talk to a trusted friend, family member or counselor.  Have a good cry.  Exercise.  Meditate.  Create art or music.  Find an outlet that makes you better, not worse.
  2. Breathe.  Now take a deep breath.  Maybe several of them.  I’ve written about breathing before.  Breathing will help you re-center and focus on moving forward.
  3. Accept that You Can’t Change the Past.  The past is over.  Done.  You can’t change it, so stop dwelling there.  There have been times in my life where beating myself up over the past was my favorite hobby.  Didn’t do me a bit of good.  It won’t do you any good either.  Only when we accept things as they are can we hope to change what they may become. (Yes, I know it is not easy.)
  4. Look for the Positive Lessons.  No matter what has happened to you, you can find a positive lesson.  In my example, I learned what I did and did not want to promote.  I learned that my public library is a very nice place to hold meetings.  I learned it is time to refocus some things in my life.  I re-learned that one event that didn’t go as planned doesn’t define who I am.  I could go on, but I won’t take your time.  My friend could have decided her lesson was that she was garbage and should just wallow in the muck.  She didn’t.  Somehow she used her adversity to make her a better person.  Find power in your adversity.
  5. Reframe the Outcome.  How we see things in life depends much upon the frame we put around it.  Frame things in a positive way and you tend to find more happiness in life.  I recently heard the story of Kara Arnold.  In middle school she endured severe bullying, death threats, and attempted strangulation from classmates.  Rather than spiraling into despair, she chose to use those experiences to make her stronger.  She became Miss Utah, and placed 15th in the Miss America Pageant.  Her platform?  Anti-bullying.  She could have cursed her experiences, let them destroy her.  Instead she draws from them to better herself and the lives of others.  She framed the outcome of those terrible experiences in a positive way.

My less-lethal weapon event was a tremendous failure when it came to the original goal; however, it was a great success when it came to teaching me some life lessons.  I plan to use the experience to make me stronger.  Failure is all in your perspective.  Success is all in how you define it.  The definitions are up to you.

How have you bounced back from “crap”?  How has adversity made you strong? Please share your experiences.