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. It’s 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 and how you behave. And through deeper appreciation of this, we become less burdened by anxious thinking about the past or future and instead we find ourselves more available to this present moment, where clarity and perspective finds us.
The questions we should really 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 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. For example, do you bury your head in the sand? Do you step up and ask the hard question? Do you get defensive and blame others? Can you take responsibility for your own behaviour? Can you show compassion and love even when you don’t agree with or like how someone has behaved? Are you able to see the bigger picture?
Every day we see the truth of the inside-out principle through the variety of different responses we can have to the exact same situation. Or by the fact that we get down or derailed by something trivial one day, and then feel cool, calm and collected when something really challenging happens another day. That’s because it’s never the situation that is directly creating our feelings and perceptions. It’s the power of thought in each moment in the form of our attitude, beliefs, outlook, justifications, biases or prejudice.
But isn’t life better without major upsets and difficulty?
Of course life can be better or easier when we don’t have to deal with difficult or traumatic situations (like bereavement or climate change), 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 – which is really a way of saying that difficult or traumatic events don’t have to be the cause of great long term suffering but can be an experience of 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 ‘don’t worry it might never happen’ you can remember that even if it does, you can handle whatever the future holds, because if and when some difficult future moment arrives, you will still be experiencing those moments via the mind in the form of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Which means you will always be empowered by thought too. And 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
To read about mindset in leadership, check this post