Building Resilience

This week at Tribe, we have been discussing the topic of resilience with our practitioner members. We’re asking the questions: what does it mean to be resilient, and how does being more resilient help you in your personal and business life?

Author and spea
ker Srikumar Rao, creator of the Creativity and Personal Mastery program for developing resilience, proposes: “many who rise so triumphantly never label what they go through as bad and lament over it. They simply take it as a given, as if they were a civil engineer surveying the landscape through which a road is to be built. In this view, a swamp is not a bad thing. It is merely something that has to be addressed in the construction plan.”

After spending six weeks in 40F London weather, being back in Chicago this frigid, snowy week has given me plenty of opportunities to contemplate my resilience. I have shoveled 100 yards of snow three times and complained about the Chicago weather at least ten times.

As someone who lights up from problem-solving, creating, inventing, and connecting in meaningful ways with others, solo repetitive tasks like shoveling are the nemesis of my monkey mind. I spend more time pausing every 2 minutes to survey my surroundings and make a mental calculation of the percentage completed + time remaining to see if there’s any way I can make it go faster than performing the actual task. 

Every winter, I think of this bus shelter poster I spotted years ago and had excitedly thought: ‘Ooh! Is that a funny play about living in Chicago in the winter?!’ I was later disappointed to discover it was an MCA exhibit about how uncovering the truths around ancient artifacts can influence contemporary art. Interesting for sure, but I was really hoping to laugh off my annual January and February misery. After years of self-awareness work, this title is now prompting me to dig into the deeper meanings behind my dislike of, and response to, shoveling.

If my mind is allowed to do its own thing, shoveling snow goes something like this: 

‘OMG, I hate shoveling. How much further have I got to go? Why did I move here again? Ugghh, I just hit a crack. I hate when I hit cracks. Tut, who threw that coffee cup there?!? My nose is running. How did I forget a tissue?! I can’t feel my fingers. My face hurts. Another crack, are you kidding me? Dog poop?! Oh, come on!’

I am well aware (from repeated experience) that resistance creates suffering, and allowing this chatter to go on is only making things worse. Yet that’s pretty much how day 1 went. So on day 2, I decided to engage the problem-solving part of my brain and shift my mental chatter to something more productive and it started to sound more like this:

‘I wonder how other people shovel? Maybe I’m not doing it right (after 20 Chicago winters, I’m only considering this now?). That guy across the street seems to have finished way faster than me. I should post a poll in the Self Care group and see what strategy Tribe members use. What are the strategies? I think ‘the plow’ is my favorite. I wonder how far I can get before I have to throw it? The ‘scoop & throw’ technique is OK too, but then my arm gets tired. My nose is running. Ah-ha, good thing I remembered to put that tissue in my pocket!’

In preparing for my 3rd day of shoveling, with our resilience discussions top of mind, I’m determined to head out with a better attitude and not let this chore get the better of me. Before I start, I implement a tool we created at Tribe to help our practitioners overcome feeling stuck about an aspect of running their business:

Audit, Awareness, Action.

Audit – what exactly is my problem with shoveling? How can I make this experience easier?
On the surface: “it’s boring, my hands get cold, my face hurts, and my nose runs. And I really can’t stand it when the snow sticks to the shovel.” 

Awareness – why are these things bothering me so much? What is the underlying resistance here?
That internal voice: “I don’t have time for this. I have so much other stuff I need to be doing. Why do I have to do it? Couldn’t I hire someone to do it? Ugh, after all this time off, I don’t really have the budget for that. I should be working on my business, not shoveling this stupid stuff. I wouldn’t have to deal with this if I was still in London or lived in California”

Action – what are some things I can do to minimize my resistance?
Plan better:
– put some tissues in my pocket
– wear warmer gloves
– put on some thick face cream
– spray some lubricant on the shovel (a little tip I learned years ago and kept forgetting to implement!)

Use my mind more effectively: 
– make the time to talk to my neighbors and the pups who pass by
– contemplate the biomechanics of shoveling and where I could improve
– be grateful that I am physically able to shovel for hours
– consider how much easier it will be for all who pass by
– shovel with love

Why do I care so much about my attitude towards shoveling? Because how you do anything is how you do everything. In other words, how you handle and manage any situation, challenge, or experience in your life is how you probably handle all of them.

Written by Ellen Letten

Ellen is a holistic health educator and consultant, and co-founder and co-owner of Tribe. She is passionate about guiding others to implement change through small, simple, and manageable steps. 

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