4 Keys to Resilience
In early 2013, I heard motivational speaker Les Brown speak. He said, “You have a story to tell and someone needs to hear your story. Only you can help that person.” He was speaking to a room of several hundred people but his words went straight to my heart. I knew I had a story to tell – but I didn’t want to tell it.
I wasn’t sure I could.
Raised on an isolated farm in Alabama, I was sexually abused by my father from age 12 – 19. Forced to play the role of his wife, and even shared with other men at times, I was tied up, photographed nude, raped, and beaten. I was desperate to escape, and even considered ending my own life. I left home at 19 to escape, leaving behind the father who abused me and the mother who blamed me for it. I didn’t have a job, a car, or even a high school diploma. I had a few pillow cases stuffed with clothes, no money, and few options.
Mark Twain said, “The two greatest days in your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why.” On August 14, 2013, I found my “why” and shared my story publicly for the first time. It hasn’t been easy. Speaking and writing about my story meant going back and reliving much of the pain from the past I had tried to forget. It meant bringing back the nightmares that had almost subsided. It meant learning to be vulnerable – something survivors don’t like to do.
In the words of pyschologist Carl Rogers, “That which is most personal is most general.” Meaning, my most personal struggles are the same struggles nearly all of us have at some point in life. So, I share because it is most personal – and therefore most general. It’s personal because it’s mine. And, it’s general because everyone of us can relate to a story of grief, adversity, loss, pain, or hardship. Every one of us has experienced a time of being bruised, battered, or broken. What brings hope is sharing the lessons I learned on the journey of transformation from that 19 year old broken girl to the woman I am today. I share much of my journey in my books, Beyond Bound and Broken and Ria’s Story From Ashes to Beauty and in the spirit of sharing lessons learned, here are my four keys to resilience that you can apply to your own situation, past or present:
R – Respond Proactively: To past or present circumstances
Responding proactively means that you realize you can’t control everything that happens. But, you can always control your response to what happens. I’m training for a marathon and had planned to run 9 miles this morning. When I awoke, it was raining and continued to drizzle rain most of the morning. I can’t control that. But, I can control my response to that. I ran anyway. With soggy shoes, wet clothes, and a smile. External circumstances do not dictate how I feel inside – only I can do that.
I – Identify Accurately: What’s holding you back and what will help you move forward?
When we find ourselves stuck as a result of past or present adversity, it’s unfortunate that our natural “Fight or Flight” response often deters us from using our most valuable resource – our mind. You’ve heard the cliche – “Don’t just stand there – do something!” But, unless you are doing the right “something,” it won’t help and could even leave you worse off than before. Stop, take time to think and reflect, and identify what your next step should be before taking action. On a coaching call this afternoon, a client determined her next action step is to build relationships. “That’s great,” I encouraged her, “But what kind of relationships and with whom?” We all feel the pressure to act. Just make sure your actions are in the right direction.
S – Step Forward Consistently: Take action
Now that you you have identified the right path forward, MOVE! Stop waiting until tomorrow, next week, next year, or until the weather, time, or situation is perfect. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Start. And, you’ll be on your way to great.
E – Experience Abundantly
Life is meant to be lived. Paraphrasing my favorite book, “…that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.“ I see far too many people who are unhappy and yet willing to settle for it because, miserable or not, they are comfortable. They would rather stay miserable in a known situation, environment, job, or relationship than risk trying something new. If you aren’t living an “abundant life,” change something. Because, if you aren’t experiencing abundance, you are merely surviving, not thriving. And, resilience is about thriving.