Is there one simple New Year’s resolution that could improve everyone’s life? I have never been a one-size-fits-all sort of thinker. Maybe I have lost it—who would dare to think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to life that would make everyone happy?
Hah! Pondering this brought up a related question to consider: Why do some people find peace, happiness and success while other people fail? Why, when bad things happen, do some people suffer while other people make lemonade? I want to find the secret to making lemonade from life’s lemons and make it my New Year’s resolution for this year and for life.
Why do some of us hang up in frustration when we have been put on hold for the fourth time and other people persist? Why can some veterans come home from war and function well while others struggle? Why do some people with a debilitating disease exude grace and peace while others are overwhelmed and depressed?
I once asked a special needs teacher about kids who come from troubled families. I asked her why some kids from tough backgrounds or challenging family situations make it while others don’t. Her response was: resilience. She felt some kids simply had more natural resilience than others had and could therefore overcome life’s negative events better.
Resilience is defined in my Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as "the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused by compressive stress" or "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." Resilience sounds like a quality we would all want. These definitions remind me of a foam rubber ball. I want to be more like a foam rubber ball that bounces back and recovers its shape.
My New Year’s resolution for this year is simple. I am going to try to be more resilient. I found myself wondering if that would even be possible if resilience is a natural ability or an innate quality? Yes, I still think so. I think we all actively cultivate qualities we want to see in ourselves. After all, we choose new behaviors like weight loss, healthy eating, exercise, and frugality, or we make relationship, career, or other life changes, and we try to pursue a host of other good qualities like calmness, patience, or persistence. Why not greater resilience?
First, I am going to work to make countless choices to be resilient when life kicks up the usual problems throughout the year. I am a huge believer in the power of choice. I believe that we, as people, have the power to choose. I think we all can make better and different choices on a daily basis. Every day life gives us many opportunities to make choices. For example, when my kids are stomping around the house and arguing, I can choose to yell at them or I can try to approach the situation calmly. If I choose calm, I have made a good choice. If I yell, I can reflect afterwards to try to turn it into a learning experience in the hope that next time, I will be more ready to make a better choice.
Second, I am going to surround myself with things that help me be resilient. Nature is one of the first things that come to mind. Nature can be calming and it does a great job of redirecting my focus when I am upset. I appreciate nature. It is big. I am small. I sometimes simply take an outdoor walk or look out the window to help me regain perspective. Owning dogs also helps me to be resilient. Coming home to unconditional puppy love every day definitely improves my resiliency. When my emotions are stirred up, it also helps to have something in my hands like crocheting, to calm myself and redirect my focus. Figure out what environment or people or pets or activities or things help you to be more resilient and surround yourself with them. You know what things soothe you. Focus on them.
Third, I am going to work on my attitude. If I can’t change events, I can still change how I perceive them and how I choose to react to them. Is the glass half empty or half full? When the garage door spring breaks in the middle of winter, am I going to panic or problem solve? Am I going to be grateful for what’s going right in my life or am I going to dwell on the stuff that upsets me?
Finally, I am going to learn to get comfortable with living with life’s paradoxes. Some things both scare me and challenge me—such as the opportunity to give a presentation in front of a very large audience. Some things make me feel happy and sad—for instance, watching my children leave home and start their own lives. The better I get at accepting paradoxes rather than resisting them, the easier it is for me to make lemonade rather than stare sadly at the lemons!
What would happen if we all worked to be more resilient? I think it would be amazing. Instead of banging into each other and coming away shattered, cracked, bent, or broken, we would bounce away like a foam rubber ball and come back whole and ready for the next adventure! Are you ready to work on your resilience for this New Year’s resolution?
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.
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