The Secrets of Resilience

written by Dr. Michelle Lesperance, a TIN coach

Before COVID, it seemed that only a few people you knew were dealing with a serious illness, a life-altering event, the death of a loved one, or other challenges. Now, as a coach,  it seems like every one of my clients is dealing with something difficult and just when they think everything is calm, BAM, life happens, and they are faced with yet another challenge. 

This year, every one of us will face a difficult situation. Every one of us will have to handle the challenges that life throws at us. What determines how well we are able to handle those situations and adapt to the “new normal”? What determines how we persist when we do not think we can make it another day? 

Resilience.  Resilience is the ability to keep going even when you don’t think you can survive another day. The secrets of resilience enforce the ability to bounce back from adversity, take control, and move forward.  

Sheryl Sandberg and Option B

When the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, lost her husband suddenly on a trip to Mexico, she was only 42 with two children, ages 4 and 7. In an instant, life as she knew it was over. She didn’t know how she could ever survive or how she would ever be able to live again. Despite her belief that she would never be able to move on, she did. Not only did she keep going, but she used her experience to help others who faced adversity. 

In her book “Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resistance and Finding Joy”  she writes of her experience and how people around her helped her to live again.  She named her book “Option B” because she realized that when Option A was no longer available, she was faced with making the absolute best of Option B.   

One of the most important things that I learned and adopted from her book was not to ask people how they are while they are grieving. Instead, Sheryl recommends asking them how they are today, and then, instead of asking the person what you can do to help, just do something, anything, to let them know you care. Through her tragedy, Sheryl and her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, established an organization called Option B. It was created to help people build resilience in the face of adversity.

Lucy Hone: A Resilience Expert

Lucy Hone was a resilience “expert” when her daughter Abbe was tragically killed in a car accident. In an instant, her life was forever changed, and everything she thought she knew about resilience changed. She said she needed to find hope—a journey through all her anguish, pain, and longing. Through her own tragedy, she learned that she could move on, and however difficult it was, she had to move on. Despite dealing with tragedy, she continued her research and learned three secrets of resilient people.  

Lucy stated that: 
1. Resilient people get that life happens and suffering is part of every human existence. If you are alive, you will have to or already have had to deal with some tough times.

2. People with resilience focus on what they can change and accept the things they cannot. Lucy encourages people not to lose what they have for what they have lost. She said that we need to find things to be grateful for and encourage people to focus their attention on the good. She reframed the tragedy of her daughter dying instantly with the thought that she didn’t suffer and discovered that she could grieve but also live at the same time. 

3. Resilient people ask themselves, is the way I am acting helping or harming me? Be kind to yourself. This one action gives you control over the decisions you make.

Tragedy and Surviving

Eleanor Roosevelt was famous for saying “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the things which you think you cannot do.

What I know about tragedy is that we need people. We need people to care and to do something for us, despite the fact that we say we can handle things on our own. We need faith to know that things will get better. Despite the fact that we don’t think we can survive, we need to focus on what we can control instead of what we can’t.   And we need hope, hope is the belief that if we work hard enough together, we can make things better. 

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, wondering if you can make it another day, remember that people are out there that want to help.  Reach out to them, share your story, and know that despite anything else, you can have hope.  

Dr. Seuss said “When something bad happens, you have 3 choices.  You can let it define you, let it destroy you or you can let it strengthen you.” 

These moments present an opportunity, no matter what challenges appear. Focus on what you can do with what you have and where you are, and someday you’ll look back and see that you not only survived but you thrived, that you learned more about life and yourself, and that you used the secrets of resilience. 

It can be very helpful to work with a coach to gain tools and have a practice around being resilient. Coaches can guide you to help you create changes in your life (small or large). We have many talented coaches we can match you with to find the right fit. Let’s have a conversation today!

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