In my office, I have a pile labeled Interesting where I put extracts from magazines, books, and newspapers that I’m not sure what to do with yet. Occasionally, I sort the pile into different files—or the circular file.
I was sorting through this pile the other day, and I found an old, yellowed piece of paper labeled “Expert Tips for Resilience,” which listed ten items. I have no idea how old this list is or where it came from, but I read it over and enjoyed the process. Now I’d like to share these ten tips with you:
- Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake. That one is easy—I’ve been doing it for almost sixty years. My beliefs are based on Jesus’s teachings about agape and the metaphor of the Resurrection. We all have our Good Fridays, and through Jesus’s teachings, we can turn them into Easters.
- Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened. This one is also easy. I usually have a hand in bringing about whatever stresses or traumas I suffer. Sometimes I try to pretend the situation wasn’t my fault, but I learned a long time ago that sometimes just my presence can be the catalyst. Once I accept that premise, I can usually find the meaning in adverse circumstances.
- Try to maintain a positive outlook. I’m fairly good at this because my general approach to life is that the glass is half full. I also have a favorite prayer that I think is positive. I just say, “Whatever!” and go from there.
- Take your cues from someone who is especially resilient. My first boss when I was a new young priest in 1960 was John Morrett, the rector of a large parish. John had a faith that could move mountains and a story that could bring people to tears. During World War II, John was an officer in the US Army. He was captured by the Japanese and forced to participate in the Bataan Death March. He was a POW for most of the war, but when the Allies started winning, the Japanese put John on a ship to Japan. The ship was torpedoed, and John managed to escape into the ocean and drift to shore in the Philippines, where the locals nursed him back to health. John was the only member of his company to survive, and he accredited that to his faith. I want resilience like that!
- Don’t run from things that scare you—face them. Deep down inside, I sometimes want to run, but I have found that running simply prolongs the agony. I have to face reality, which can be painful (see tip number one).
- Reach out for support when things go haywire. Fortunately, I’m married to a wonderful supporter. And when our relationship had problems in the past, we went to therapy. I believe that’s why we’re still so happily married after fifty-seven years.
- Learn new things as often as you can. This isn’t always easy for an eighty-five-year-old man, especially in the age of technology, but I keep trying, and I am doing okay with the gadgets. I think the most important thing we can do as we age is to keep challenging our brains.
- Find an exercise regime you’ll stick to. I’m sort of a gym rat. I can be a bit obsessive about working out, but for me, a day without exercise is a bad day.
- Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past. Somewhere along the line, I learned that I can’t do anything about what happened a minute ago, but I can do my best in the next minute, so I keep moving forward.
- Recognize what makes you uniquely strong—and own it. I have two great strengths: my faith and my tenacity. Sometimes the second quality drives my wife nuts, but I just won’t quit.
I found having this list most helpful in my life. Let me know about your list.
Image is in the public domain, courtesy of Zaibatsu