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The secret of your inner strength - resilience and future planning

Aktualisiert: 28. Apr. 2023

I'm so excited to write about resilience today because it's a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In my experience, some of the hardest episodes of our lives also bear in themselves the potential of creating the most important changes and transformations. Using Matthew McConaughey’s words, “often what seems like a red light a first, can later turn into a green light”. Whether it does however is a matter of how we interpret these events that may feel terrifying, saddening, or frustrating at first glance. For religious or spiritual people, it may be the trust that what happens, happens for a reason, that can carry them through passages of darkness. For me, it is the fact that hardship tells me something about myself which helps me see it in a positive light. Hardship is your teacher. Resilience is what allows you to learn.

But resilience is a night shadow flower that grows very slowly. Nevertheless, its growth can be accelerated through knowledge. And that’s what we have the blog for - sharing the knowledge that can help you grow resilience and prepare for times of high resistance effectively.

Life has its dark and tough sides. Especially those things that are really worth having don't come for free. And losing the most valuable things in life can be a soul-crushing experience. Life will not always treat you kindly, and resilience determines whether you come out of hardship, stronger, more knowledgeable, and a better person, or not. Resilience is a matter of realism - knowing that bad things will happen - and constructive thinking and feeling - how can I turn that "bad" into a "good"? That doesn't mean that a resilient person doesn't suffer from harm or loss. It means that they can go through that suffering and see something valuable in that experience, something they can learn from, something that makes their life story richer, more varied, and more interesting. Darkness is a place from which you can return. That is the power of resilience.

Over the course of the next weeks, we will talk about different things that can strengthen your resilience. We call them resilience factors. Here’s a list for you:

1. Future Planning & Goal orientation

2. Solution Orientation

3. Taking Responsibility

4. Optimism & Acceptance

5. Leaving the Victim's Role

6. Network Orientation

Each of those things will play a role in your degree of resilience. Depending on your temperament and personality the emphasis may differ. But generally speaking, you can improve your resilience by taking control of these factors. Today we will look at future planning and why it is so crucial for resilience.

What makes us resilient?

You have to understand that the degree of resilience we can achieve is at least in part determined by how much we desire whatever lies at the other end of hardship. If resistance and hardship are necessary steps toward a goal we have, then at least we have a reason to endure them. Without the goal, there would be little stopping us from quitting. But with the goal, there is something that compensates for the hardship. Of course, it isn’t the only thing that makes up resilience, but it plays an important role.

If you have a future planned out for yourself, you give it reality. This is one of the greatest strengths that we humans possess. We can dream and imagine a world that isn’t yet the case. And because we can imagine it, we can let ourselves be guided by that image. But planning is a crucial step in that process since dreams are ephemeral and hard to grasp.

By making a plan we give structure and shape to that dream and we force ourselves to think about how to make it into a reality and think about the necessary steps and resources we need along the way. A plan, in that sense, forces you to take your own imagination about the future more seriously. To treat it as if it was already there - something to work with and invest in.

Making a plan also demands time and cautious thought, which reflects your subconscious that you care about your future and that the future you are imagining is valuable. This is one of the most important things to know about your own subconscious mind: It’s a constant observer that is trying to make sense of what you do, think, and feel. It pays attention and creates a story about who you are. That’s the story of your life.

So if you do something that sends the signals of “this is important to me” then your subconscious will react over time and it will create a story and feelings that underpin that story. And from those feelings will grow motivation and energy, which is what will help you become more resilient in the face of adversity. If you have a plan for your future laid out, then there is something worth fighting for, there is a reason why you would go through the current struggle and not simply give up.

Planning through Story

For different people creating a vision and a plan for their lives may be a slightly different process. Some might find the “vision” part easy because they have a much capacity for imagination, but then they might struggle with making a plan because that’s more concrete and systematic. For others, the opposite may be the case. You know yourself best, so you will know what comes easily to you and what doesn’t. But don’t invest all your energy in one part and disregard the other. A good plan is worth little if the goal or vision that it leads to isn’t what you really want for yourself. Equally, a magnificent vision doesn’t get you anywhere, without a strategy that helps you realize it.

Because people are different it will be helpful to share a number of different approaches. If the question of what to do with your life is your struggle, then maybe you will have to invest some time here, before you can get to work with your plan. A great way of creating both a vision and a sort of plan at the same time is to write out your own future as if you were writing a fictional story. Write the story of your best possible life.

This can be scary because it forces you to acknowledge to yourself what you really want and confront the fact that so far you may have fallen short of even trying. That sort of self-reflection can be hard. But it is crucial for learning about yourself. And knowing yourself is inevitable when it comes to designing your own future. Writing a story makes future planning easier for some because it creates a context in which we can allow ourselves to think and imagine more freely.

Story has the unique quality of mobilizing imagination and that is what you want for your own life. You want your life to be guided by the imaginings of greatness. Don't be too rational or realistic about it. That's important when you create the plan, not the vision. In other words, don't let your capacity for imagining greatness be constrained by your urge to be realistic. People can make very unrealistic dreams come true if only they have the will to do so. Now, you might not achieve your vision, but having a beautiful dream that you can chase is better than having nothing and wandering aimlessly in the desert. Take a look at actor Greg Bryk and his ted talk about finding and creating identity through story, if you like:

Planning with System

Stories usually work for most people. But for some people, they might work not as well as they do for others. How strongly stories resonate with you depends on how intuitive you are. For people that aren’t very high in intuition, stories can seem too ambiguous, too long-winded, and without clear structure and direction. If you are one of those people, then a systematic approach might be better for you. In that case, something like the Japanese concept of the “Ikigai” might be helpful.

Ikigai is Japanese and roughly translates to "a reason for being" or "a sense of purpose." It's a philosophy that suggests that everyone has a unique purpose in life and that finding and pursuing that purpose is essential to leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

The intersection of these four circles is your ikigai - the sweet spot where your passions, skills, and purpose all come together. It's a place of balance and harmony, where you feel a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in what you do. You can use the following guide when sitting down to find your own ikigai.

1. Start by brainstorming your answers to each of the four circles in the Venn diagram. Write down everything that comes to mind, even if it doesn't seem related to your purpose or passions. This is a brainstorming exercise, so allow yourself to be creative and open-minded.

2. Once you've completed your brainstorming, review your answers and look for any common themes or threads that connect them. Are there any activities or skills that you enjoy that also align with the needs of the world, or that you can be paid for? Are there any areas where your passions and skills intersect?

3. Use your brainstorming and analysis to identify your ikigai - the place where your passions, skills, and purpose all come together. This might be a specific career path, a volunteer opportunity, a creative pursuit, or something else entirely.

4. Once you've identified your ikigai, create a plan for how you can pursue it. This might involve developing new skills or seeking out additional education or training. It might mean networking and connecting with others in your field. It might involve setting specific goals or targets for yourself to help you achieve your purpose.

Remember that finding your life's purpose is a process, and it's okay if it takes time to discover what truly drives and motivates you. Be patient and open-minded, and trust that you will find your way as long as you stay true to your passions, purpose, and values. With all that in hand, you can zero in on your life goal, your vision - that which it is worth living and struggling for.

I hope that you found these tips and strategies helpful in your own quest to become a more resilient person. Remember that resilience is not just a one-time achievement, but a lifelong journey of growth and learning. Embrace the challenges and setbacks that come your way, and use them as opportunities to become stronger, wiser, and more confident in your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.

And if all else fails, remember the immortal words of Winston Churchill: "If you're going through hell, keep going." Because sometimes, the best way to be resilient is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward toward your dreams and goals.

So go out there, face your challenges head-on, and never forget that you have the strength and resilience within you to overcome anything. And if you ever need a little extra support or inspiration, just come back here. There will be tons more stuff to discover. And we'll be here, cheering you on every step of the way!

In the next article, we will take a look at goal orientation and some tools that can help you choose goals effectively and compartmentalize them into smaller objectives.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed and I'll see you in the next one.

For those of you that like to get motivated through stories of other people's extraordinary lives, here are some books on human resilience and endurance under extreme circumstances.

  1. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand tells the true story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash and 47 days adrift in the Pacific during World War II, only to be captured by the Japanese and subjected to brutal treatment in a prisoner-of-war camp.

  2. "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz is a memoir of Rawicz's escape from a Soviet Union gulag in 1941, and his journey on foot across Siberia, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalayas to India.

  3. "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer is a firsthand account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers died, including two of Krakauer's own expedition team.

  4. "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson is a memoir of Simpson and Simon Yates' harrowing experience climbing the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, during which Simpson fell and broke his leg, leaving Yates to make a difficult decision.

  5. "The Revenant" by Michael Punke is a novel inspired by the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper who was mauled by a bear and left for dead, but managed to survive and seek revenge on the men who abandoned him.

  6. "Alive" by Piers Paul Read tells the story of the 1972 Andes plane crash, in which a Uruguayan rugby team and their friends and family were stranded in the mountains and forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.

  7. "Kon-Tiki" by Thor Heyerdahl is a memoir of Heyerdahl's 1947 journey across the Pacific on a raft made of balsa wood, which he undertook to prove his theory that Polynesia was settled by ancient South Americans.

  8. "Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest" by Beck Weathers is a memoir of Weathers' experience on Mount Everest during the 1996 disaster, during which he was left for dead twice before being rescued.

  9. "The Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing tells the story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew's survival in the Antarctic after their ship was trapped in ice, highlighting the importance of teamwork, adaptability, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

  10. "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston is a memoir of Ralston's experience while hiking in Utah, during which he became trapped by a boulder and was forced to amputate his own arm to escape.

And for the more scientifically minded:

  1. "Endure," Alex Hutchinson explores the limits of human endurance and the interplay between mind and body that allows us to push those limits. He discusses the latest scientific research and offers insights into the role of factors like motivation, perception, and training in achieving athletic performance.

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