True Resilience

Last week was full of Plan B's. 

A client was in town for a VIP weekend. We had this incredible scenic hike planned - Buttermilk Falls in northern New Jersey. It's gorgeous and challenging.

Life had other ideas, though. My client was still feeling out of sorts from being ill the week before. I was coming off what seemed like an endless bout of food poisoning and was feeling weak.

That was all okay - we switched things up and went for a hike on flatter terrain in a state park near home base, just in case either of us ended up feeling extra crappy and needed to exercise some extra self-care.

That's where things went a little....awry.

We were about a mile into the hike when we encountered some very muddy trail. I didn't take into account the possibility that the trail might be muddy, so I wore regular sneakers. And I thought to myself, "Oh, whatever. Mud washes off."

Next thing I knew, I was knee-deep in a mini-sinkhole. My leg was stuck in there pretty good - I couldn't get out alone.

My client helped me hike myself up and pull my mud-caked leg from the hole. My leg was intact; my pride, not so much.

That moment when....

The day before, we'd talked about resilience.

My client's reference for resilience was that when things went terribly wrong, she would not be resilient enough to recover. We created a nice little breakthrough for her in that conversation.

And here I was, struggling in the moment with my own resilience.

Most of the time, resilience is not about coming back from the event itself. Mud washes off. Broken bones heal. Failures happen, then they wash into the past.

What we mean when we talk about resilience is our comeback from the story we create about what happened and what it means about us.

My client took the lead, map in hand, aiming to find one of the washrooms in the park. As I followed, bruised ego in tow, all those stories surfaced:

"You're lazy and unprepared. You took this hike for granted. How is it that anyone lets you coach them?"

"If you were in better shape, this never would have happened." (No comment on the logic for this one.)

"What kind of idiot wears regular sneakers for a hike like this?"

The mud was unkind. My thoughts were vicious.

In that moment, I had a choice.

Let's pause for a moment here.

Before we continue with my story, let's get into yours. 

Think of a time when you found yourself in a situation like this. 

  • What were the thoughts coming up in your mind?
  • How did you respond to them?
  • How'd that work out for you?

Back to the story.

In that moment, I had a choice.

I could go along with the story. Succumb to it, let it hijack the day and the weekend like D.B. Cooper.

OR...

I could not give a crap what I think and just keep going. Remember that just because I think it, I don't have to believe it or own it or internalize it. My mind comes up with all kinds of stories all the time - were THESE the ones I was going to hang my hat on for the day?

In that moment, I chose to be the coach who just kept going. The mud washed off. The shoes dried (with a little help from a hand dryer in a nearby washroom). We hiked.

Most importantly, I stopped engaging with those thoughts. I didn't try to replace them with positive thoughts - see, when that happens, then negative thoughts and stories become a thing that I have to do something about. Instead, the response is more like, "M-hm. Ok. I'm going to just keep doing what I was going to do in the first place." And those thoughts miraculously run out of steam when I stop giving them the fuel of believing them or trying to stop them or overwrite them.

I could have become The Coach Who Crumbled.

Instead, I became The Coach Who Modeled Resilience.

The Aftermath

You might be saying right now, "So what? You got some mud on your leg, you were embarrassed, and you didn't completely lose it. Congratulations!"

Here was the real effect:

We had a great coaching session on the trail, coming from an even greater sense of trust than existed before.

The next day, my client lost her phone in a tragic leaving-it-on-top-of-the-car accident. She took care of it and went ahead with the rest of our scheduled day exactly as we'd intended, hardly missing a beat.

Resilience, in practice, becomes pervasive, a way of life.

Who will YOU become in your practice of resilience?

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