I was listening to NPR as I grabbed my first cup of coffee that morning.
With disbelief, I heard the news that Russian president Putin had brutally invaded Ukraine. My breath quickened. Did I time-travel back to the Cold War era?
It was 2022, so I turned up the radio volume and listened with rapt attention. I couldn’t believe it. I felt sad, outraged, and had an immediate impulse to act on behalf of the Ukrainian people.
A year later, Putin continues to wage a devastating war against the Ukrainian people. I’m still asking myself, “How is this happening?!”
My thoughts quickly shifted to the dogged determination and resilience of the Ukrainian people. Their stories offer new ways to develop your own resilience in currently challenging circumstances.
Closer to Home
Given the impacts of the pandemic, significant shifts in the workplace and economy, rates of national gun violence, and frightening climate events, you’re experiencing all of this somewhere on the reality spectrum from, “Can’t wait to get back to normal,” on one end, to “Nothing in life will ever be the same,” on the other end.
Regardless of where you on the reality spectrum you find yourself, you’ve been changed by events around you – near and far from home. Some aspects of change you can articulate, other parts may seem too big or abstract to name.
Cumulatively, we’ve all been through a lot and we’re not out of the woods. It’s normal to feel psychically bruised, sobered, and untethered. There may also be feelings of gratitude, appreciation, and a sense of, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
As I listen to my clients explore their own reactions (from their unique spot on the reality spectrum), I consider the best way to meet them and respond.
What I know is this: we must take time to pause and reflect on the impact of the forces upon our nervous systems, our relationships, our attitudes, our energy levels, our perspectives and our hearts.
Without pause it’s too easy to react to the drama of the moment, engage in petty arguing, fall into despair, or worse, engage in self-loathing.
The important truth to remember is that we’re all doing our best, period.
Read the statement above again and note what you are saying to yourself.
My guess is that you had a strong reaction to that statement. Most people are either a “Hell no, we are not!” or “I do my best to think so.”
It’s easy to get caught up in a particular brand of self-righteousness, otherwise known as the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE).
The fundamental attribution error is the tendency people have to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors in judging others’ behavior.
Because of the fundamental attribution error, we tend to believe that others do bad things because they are bad people. We’re inclined to ignore situational factors that might have played a role.
One study showed that when something bad happened to someone else, subjects blamed that person’s behavior or personality 65% of the time. But, when something bad happened to the subjects, they blamed themselves only 44% of the time, blaming the situation they were in much more often.
With the FAE, we can easily fall into habits of blame and drama that are then reinforced day to day, soon to become a part of who we are. The danger is in not realizing we’re slipping into dark moods, blame, fatalism, and inaction that don’t work in our favor.
Not so, the Ukrainian people.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, people looked for ways to do their part to protect their country. Instead of succumbing to drama and bias, they chose to offer their unique skills to fellow Ukrainians and the world.
- One woman, a high-end dress designer before the war, volunteers to make body armor vests for Ukrainian soldiers.
- A violinist, creates music videos to play in common areas, like train stations, to raise money for the war and help fellow Ukrainians feel less isolated.
- Artists sell images on Etsy that can be downloaded and printed around the globe to raise money for their families and neighbors.
These examples are not surprising given the nature of resilience.
“Resilient people possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.” (Coutu in “How Resilience Works,”)
The resilient Ukrainians
- Quickly came to accept the reality of Putin’s war
- Hold freedom and democracy as birthrights
- Jumped in to improvise – to take the next best right step as their story is unfolding
So how are you to frame your life situations when you find yourself wandering, out of sorts, questioning the next step?
- Pause to take a look at the reality all around you. Then name it for what it is. Read this.
- Remember your values and ask, ‘What’s the best use of me here?’
- Don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to explore best responses with a sense of play, curiosity, grace, and self-compassion.
I’d love to hear how you are framing your current situation. Take the poll below and I’ll share the results with you in two weeks when I sent out a Pragmatic Practice. (Results are anonymous)
Where are you on the reality spectrum?
- I’m good and think others often react too much. Select
- Working to return to my sense of normal. Select
- Life’s different, but it’s definitely going to get better. Select
- Our world and lives are forever changed; we should accept our fate. Select
- We’re in a downward spiral, and people will keep being awful. Select
ABOUT THE CREATOR OF The Leadership Pause
I’m Dr. Chris Johnson, psychologist, executive coach and author of The Leadership Pause: Sharpen Your Attention, Deepen Your Presence and Navigate the Future available on Barnes & Noble, Bookshelf, and Amazon
I draw from the book content in crafting Calm the Chaos for Busy Professionals, on online course, and Are You Willing to Go First: Conversational Keys to Leadership Success, two of my popular course offers.
Rhythm Ritual Workout: What if you took an hour to clear out space in your head and heart to connect with yourself, your clients, and your projects? Can you imagine?! It all starts with a 60-minute guided pause I call The Rhythm Ritual. The Rhythm Ritual workout follows a consistent flow of 8 strategic actions to promote your well-being and work-life integration success. Join here for these 6 free workout sessions, my give back to this community.
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For more information, contact me by email: DrChris@Q4-Consulting.com, or visit my website Q4 Consulting (q4-consulting.com
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