Carolyn Phelps, Ph.D

November 3, 2014

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” That is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman who OBVIOUSLY knew a thing or two about resilience. And by that she did not mean drive without your seat belt. (Yes. They had seat belts back then. Professor Google states they were invented in the early 18th century. Though the first patent wasn’t issued until February 10, 1885.  This fun fact I include for those of you deeply entrenched in Geeklandia.) What she meant was, if we’re not pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, sooner or later we’re not getting out of bed. And while a long nap can be good for the soul, living in your bed is, let’s face it, not living. So Resilience Lesson Number One: IT IS HARD TO DEVELOP RESILIENCE FROM YOUR BED.

Of course there are some days when doing that one thing that scares us IS getting out of bed. And that’s okay. The way I figure it, is I did my one scary thing – and I already feel braver to take on the day. And that, my friends is how we develop resilience. We do that little thing that scares us and in doing so, we make a deposit in our resilience bank. In case you’re wondering, that bank works just like Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan and US Bank and all the other little and big banks alike: do not expect to be able to withdraw from your resilience bank if you are never contributing in the first place. So Resilience Lesson Number Two: DO NOTHING, GET NOTHING.

It’s really great if you can find something that you love to do that scares you a little; it’s like a two-fer in the deposit biz. You are doing something you love which means you have the opportunity to generate some gratitude towards a universe that allows you the opportunity to do such a thing; AND you’re doing something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone, so that you can add to your sense of courage. CHA CHING! I figure skate. I started learning to figure skate 2 months  before my 35th birthday. It is a sport that you are supposed to start learning 2 months before your 4th birthday. Let’s just say that this choice has given me many opportunities to contribute to my resilience bank.

Person Who Just Found Out I Figure Skate: Are you good?

Me: No.

PWJFOIFS: Do you do triple jumps?

Me: No. I told you I wasn’t good.

PWJFOIFS: Boy, I would never be able to do triple jumps.

Me: Me neither.

PWJFOIFS: Are you sure you’re not good?

Me: If I was good, you’d be talking to my agent.

PWJFOIFS: Then why do you do it if you’re not good?

Me:  I’m quirky that way.


Certainly, I do not understand the LaNaya and Barry choice of skydiving. But the point is, it clearly contributes to their resilience bank. And it’s a good thing because turns out they needed it. And for you naysayers who are all hot to remind the rest of us who are soaking in the lesson that  “if they didn’t skydive they wouldn’t have been in the accident in the first place” consider this: their ability to survive the accident AND get back on the skydiving horse means they made a whopping contribution to the resilience bank. That getting back on the horse thing is huge! They made deposits. Then they made a big withdrawal. Then they made a WHOPPING deposit.

How else can we make deposits to our resilience bank? Be grateful. Good things happen to us EVERY DAY. We should notice them. We should notice them. (That was not a typo – that was a call to action.) Complete strangers do kind things for us. Silly things make us laugh. We are lucky as often as we are unlucky. Resilience Lesson Number Four: HUNT FOR GEMS AND COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.

Be a glass half full kinda person. It’s a choice. You will live longer. (The science says so not me; I’m just a messenger delivering the good news.) Yes. You may be disappointed. It may not work out. And sooner or later you will fail. Why? Because we all do. But when we fail – it will help to be able to draw from our resilience bank. Which means we better be making deposits. And so consider this: It may work out. We might be gleefully surprised. We may succeed. Resilience Lesson Number Five: BE A TIGGER, NOT AN EYEORE. (If you do not know what this means then start reading Winnie the Pooh because clearly you have missed something important in life.)

Make sure you have people. At the end of the day, we are social animals who need people. We do not need a ton of Facebook friends to pseudo like us. What we need is a few tremendous people we can count on when the trouble comes. Because it ALWAYS comes. Because that’s what it means to be human. Sharing our lives enriches us and protects us all at the same time. When we cannot muster courage to face our own challenges, we can rely on the faith others have in us. The other day I heard this from a mother to her child “You’ll be ok! I’ll be right here.” We never outgrow the need for that. So we better make sure that we are growing our relationships. Resilience Lesson Number Seven: HAVE YOUR PEOPLE CALL MY PEOPLE AND WE’LL DO LUNCH.

In Rocky 5 (Oh. Sorry. Yeah, I should have done a “Guilty Pleasure Alert” before I typed the phrase “In Rocky 5.”) But now listen. In Rocky 5, Rocky Balboa says “It ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”  So you see, you never know who you’re going to learn something really useful from. Which is my final “Resilience Lesson.” Resilience Lesson Number Eight: SYLVESTER STALLONE KNOWS A WHOLE LOT MORE ABOUT RESILIENCE THAN PEOPLE GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR.

Hope to see you on Thursday for an incredible conversation on Forgiveness.

Carolyn Phelps PhD LP

Licensed Psychologist

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