Something I often hear people say about worry and anxiety is “It’s ok because most of the stuff I worry about will probably never happen”.
It’s fair to say that most of what we catastrophise about may never happen and some of what we don’t think about will happen. But true resilience isn’t about putting a positive spin on things. It’s not about wishful thinking.
True resilience is knowing that you can handle whatever life throws at you. True resilience is knowing that if something goes wrong or if deeply difficult situations arise, it does not have the power to dictate how you feel or how you behave. Knowing this, we become less burdened by anxious thinking about the past or future and instead we find ourselves living in the present moment, where clarity and perspective finds us.
Perhaps the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other are ‘What if some of that stuff does happen? What if the proverbial s**t does hit the fan? Are we still OK? Are our feelings still coming from thought in this moment rather than the situation itself? Are we still experiencing life from the inside-out? Do we really have the resilience to handle it?’
And thankfully, the answer is always yes because the one thing we can truly rely on is the inside-out principle. Just like gravity is a constant fact in our lives, so is the nature of thought, which is constantly (without exception) creating our moment to moment feelings and perceptions. And it’s these moment to moment feelings and perceptions that shape how we respond and behave in any situation. Do we bury our heads in the sand? Do we step up and ask the hard questions? Do we get defensive and blame others? Can we take responsibility for our own behaviour? Can we show compassion and love even when we don’t agree with how someone has behaved? Are we able to see the bigger picture?
Every day we can find the truth of the inside-out principle through the variety of different responses we have to the exact same situation. I know that I have had days when I feel I can’t cope and then the next day, even though nothing has changed, I feel totally equipped to handle the situation. Or what about those times that we get demoralised or derailed by something we know is really trivial but on another day, we are cool, calm and collected in the face of something really challenging. These differences help us to see that it’s never the situation that is directly causing our feelings and perceptions. It’s the power of thought in each moment, in the form of our attitudes, beliefs, outlook, justifications, biases or prejudice.
But isn’t life better without major upsets and difficulty?
Of course life might seem better or easier when we don’t have to deal with difficult or traumatic situations (like bereavement or the climate crisis), but how we think and feel about those situations and how we respond to them will always be an inside job, determined by how thought and consciousness plays out in each moment. And as we begin to recognise this more deeply within ourselves, it changes how we relate to those people or events in our lives.
Have you heard of post traumatic growth? It’s a way of saying that difficult or traumatic events don’t have to define us or be the cause of long term suffering and instead can be an invitation to deep insight, learning and healing. This is a great example of the inside-out nature of the human experience.
So the next time you hear someone say ‘don’t worry it might never happen‘, remember that even if it does, you can handle whatever the future holds, because if and when a difficult future moment arrives, you will still have resilience on your side because you will still be experiencing those moments via the mind in the form of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Which means you will always have the capacity for fresh insight in each moment, bringing with it new feelings, new possibilities and new realities.
True resilience is knowing that we are never bound by the past or the future. We are always psychologically free and safe – even when we don’t feel like we are.
If you enjoyed this and want to read about mindset in leadership, check this post