Two Choices Leaders Face
Resilience. Just the word makes you want to sit up a little taller or lift your head a little higher. Resilience is the ability to recover, to spring back, to thrive, and to become strong after, or in spite of, tough times. Resilience is one of the qualities we admire most in other people and expect most in our leaders.
I learned far too young that life isn’t fair. Raised on an isolated farm in Alabama, I was sexually abused by my father from age 12 – 19. I was dressed up, photographed nude, beaten, tied up, raped, emotionally blackmailed, and psychologically abused. I was forced to play the role of a wife and even shared with other men due to my father’s perversions.
Desperate to escape, I left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma.
I have never looked back. When I left, I realized I had a choice. I could choose to be resilient and overcome what happened to me. Or, I could let it drag me down for the rest of my life.
Some people master resiliency at an early age, while others may not find it until old age. Some never find it. Some people learn to be resilient to some circumstances, but not others. As the leader, it’s your job to be resilient. That’s why you were chosen to lead.
Followers look to leaders to be strong, bounce back from adversity, and help them overcome challenges as well. The question isn’t whether we will experience adversity in life, but rather when? You have already overcome some challenges to get to where you are today. That may be the reason you’re reading this book and striving to improve yourself.
In life, there are two choices: move forward or move backward. To remain still is not a choice. You are either choosing to intentionally move forward or automatically moving backward.
Refusing to choose is a choice. We choose to be resilient because to choose otherwise is to choose to move backward. Regardless of what happens, we make a decision to get up, dust ourselves off, and try again.
When you choose to be resilient, you increase your influence with those who are following you. You also may increase your influence and leadership with someone who isn’t (yet) following but iswatchingto see what kind of leader you are based on the choices you make.
I talk to many people who have been through adversity of all kinds. Illness, death of a loved one, abuse, domestic violence, loss of a job, loss of security, loss of faith, and more. I’m no longer surprised by the depth of pain we suffer. What I find impressive is how resilient some of us are.
Rick Warren, author of the very popular book,The Purpose Driven Life,wrote this about resilience, “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” 1
How fast and how quickly we rise to resilience is determined by our Resilience Factor, which is our ability to move beyond surviving to thriving. The higher our Resilience Factor, the greater our ability to overcome whatever happens to us in life.
What I’ve discovered is there is one fundamental difference between the people who are able to overcome adversity of any type and those who are not: Attitude. Yes, life is tough. There is no doubt you either have in the past, currently face, or will at some point experience trials in life. Each trial we face is a mountain when we’re climbing it. Only when we get to the top are we able to see what’s on the other side and the possibilities that lie ahead.
Attitude is the key difference between those who find the strength to keep going and those who decide to turn back. I’ve already mentioned being positive relative to howwe think about a situation. But to truly be resilient, we also must choose whatwe are thinking about.
After I left home at 19, I had to become resilient to thrive and bounce back. I had to learn to change my thoughts. To change my thoughts, I had to change the wayI was thinking and whatI was thinking. In all transparency, it took me many years to truly be able to thrive, and it’s something I still work hard at every day. I couldn’t thrive by dwelling on all the pain from my past. I had to focus my thoughts forward on the future.
Change what you are thinking about. Rather than focus on the problem, seek the solution. Ask yourself three empowering questions: What can I do? How can I do it? Who can help me?
Mary Holloway said, “Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and responsibility to pick yourself up.”
Resilient leaders realize they can’t control everything. But, they also realize they can control some things, and they realize they should only focus on what they can control. You will never be able to fix everything. But, you can change some things. And, you can always change yourself.