Drop a light bulb on the floor and it shatters. Drop an apple and it bruises. Drop a hard rubber ball and it bounces back—good as new. What about you? Every single one of us experiences a variety of events every day. Some experiences are smooth and pleasant, some merely okay, and others downright tough. While most of us can sail easily through the good times—whether we shatter, bruise or bounce during the tough times are as individual as we are. We all know a few people who are amazing at bounding right back. Others—not so great. The good news is that with the desire, every one of us can improve our bounce-ability quotient.
This last weekend was a great example of how enjoyable experience can quickly turn into a challenge. Thom and I took a short overnight trip into Los Angeles to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Expectations were high because we were going to a special event being held at an exciting location. Nearing our destination in Pasadena, we decided to make a quick stop at Starbucks. Upon entering a crowded and unfamiliar store, Thom made his way to the counter and placed his order. No sooner had we both picked up our coffees and walked outside than Thom reached into his pocket to pull out his Droid X to make a phone call to our hosts. No phone!
Thom was 100% sure that he had his phone inside Starbucks. I used mine to call his number while Thom ran back inside. No answer—the call went directly to voicemail. Thom pushed his way to the front of the counter and asked whether anyone had seen his phone. Nothing. We tried calling the number several more times but got nothing. The phone had simply disappeared.
Now loosing a phone—even a $500 phone is not a life or death matter. But unfortunately, relatively minor events like these happen to all of us on a somewhat regular basis. Actually, the problem isn’t that annoying, distressing or angry-making things happen—the problem is what comes next. Are we tough, resilient and get back up and stay in the game, or do we let the event beat us down and destroy our day/week/life? And perhaps how we deal with the more minor difficulties is an indication of how we will react when something major happens that rocks our entire world.
Just how well a person bounces is a character trait called resilience. We all have it to a certain degree, but there are those who excel at the quality and who actually become better because of it. Interestingly enough, in ground breaking resilience research at University of California, sociologist Emmy Werner, Ph.D. discovered that approximately 2/3rd’s of the children who had been raised with grinding poverty, alcoholism and abuse in their home of origin became troubled teens and turned to petty crime. However, about 1/3 of the children in the exact same situation had no adverse affect—in fact, some of them thrived. And even those 2/3rds who had a tougher time usually managed to pull themselves together by age 30-40 and live happy and productive lives.
How can we get better at addressing adversity? What are some of the steps to developing a good bounce-ability? According to Frederic Flach, MD in his book, “Resilience: How to Bounce Back When the Going Gets Tough” the following are eight qualities we can all develop further:
#1 A sense of hope and trust in the world. Those with high levels of resilience are optimists and believe in the basic goodness of people and that things will turn out all right in the end.
#2 The ability to tolerate pain and painful emotions. Some people appear better than others at experiencing physical, mental and emotional pain—and do not become incapacitated when it happens.
#3. Interpreting experiences in a new light. People who bounce tend to be able to creatively approach, “reframe” and revision any experience in their life in a positive way.
#4 A meaningful system of support. Having others to listen to and validate our feelings is a critical part of bouncing. Resilient people are proficient at making and keeping quality friends.
#5 A sense of mastery and control over one’s destiny. A resilient person is independent, takes personal responsibility and uses self-disipline to accomplish their goals and objectives in life.
#6 A good self-image and self-respect. People with high bounce-ability generally see themselves in a positive light and expect to be treated with respect.
#7 Self-reflection and insight. Resilient people have a high capacity for learning. Instead of becoming broken or bruised, they learn from their mistakes and use them to create a benefit.
#8 A wide range of interests and a sense of humor. Not only can bounce-able people laugh when necessary—they are also open to new experiences and ideas.
Let me tell you, Thom was not happy about having his smartphone snatched out from under his eyes in Starbucks. As he rushed around the store and back to the car, I could see the look of concentration and frustration on his face. But less than ten minutes later he had physically and mentally relaxed. Clearly, the phone was gone and Thom seemed to sense that staying upset would do nothing but cause him pain. He let it go—or you could say he bounced and restored himself to a place where everything would work out fine.
Within an hour, we were surrounded by friends and enjoying an amazing and happy time. The next day, barely 24 hours after the event, Thom had a brand new phone fully restored. Sure, we both learned a bit about smartphone security that we will practice in the future. The good news is that an irritating disruption in our weekend did nothing to destroy the pleasure of everything else that was good in our lives. Everyday stuff happens all the time. Do we break, bruise or bounce? SMART living means with a little practice that we can learn from what happens and return to living a happy and fulfilled life as quickly as possible.
“Things and events have absolutely no meaning whatsoever until we assign one to them. After the assignment, that is when they take on a life of their own.” –Neville B. Morris