Not many people in my professional life know this about me; I have beaten metastatic breast cancer three times.
Twice by refusing chemo and surgery and fiercely pursuing things that I could identify with as “my cure.” The first time I was diagnosed was 25 years ago. I went through chemo, radiation and surgery that found 11 positive lymph nodes under my arm. The medical prognosis wasn’t so rosy. My attitude was to stubbornly proclaim that I would live to see my youngest daughter, who was 1 year old at the time, grow up and be successful. She is 26 now.
I did it by searching for evidence that it was possible to survive against all odds. Along the way I picked up habits that taught my immune system what to do to get back on track, as well as habits that inadvertently taught me resilience. They were not only habits of healthy, sensible eating and exercise, but of daily calming, visualization and purposely enjoying every moment of life with gratitude. I became more aware of the little things in my surroundings and experiences, smelled more, tasted more nuances in food, enjoyed life with eyes, ears and other senses open. Something I started calling “Living Life Loudly.”
Becoming resilient often starts with an “Oh F#@&” moment. (I stole that from Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen.) His book is about learning to truly listen so we can get from the overwhelmingly negative, helpless emotion to the insightful moment of “OK”, meaning, “I can do this!” It is about some steps in learning to be resilient. The next few newsletters will add to things you can learn to become more resilient.
Here are some things that I have learned about resilience:
- Resilience can be learned, and, since not all of us have it naturally, that is the point of this newsletter
- In order for me to succeed I had to be resilient. It applies to leaders too
- My initial shock led to overwhelm. Sometimes it came in spite of my success. Leaders can learn from their overwhelm too
- Being resilient is being able to deal with the contradictions of success and the inner voice of doubt.
- It is about finding strength in practicing compassion for and patience with yourself. Having negative thoughts and moments of doubt are not failures, just times I needed to be kind to myself and then re-focus
- It is never too late to learn to be resilient
- Things won’t change if you continue to plod through, hoping that someday you’ll get ahead or it will be better. I learned that I could flip the switch on cancer by doing something new about it
- You have to consciously decide to start to become more resilient
- It is not about having all the facts and right conditions, life is messy sometimes and practicing to become resilient can start right away by one simple act
- Try taking a deep breath when you sense overwhelm. It is a good place to start.
I have earned my stripes, I can teach resilience to you and your staff. Let’s start with you reaching out to me.