“If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up, figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it” – Michael Jordan
It’s safe to say we’ve had plenty of those this year!
How are you doing?
It’s not always easy to keep going through each new obstacle that springs up in our path, over, under, round, like a military assault course. Sometimes we can grasp the ropes, scale the walls and arrive at the finish line feeling positive and energetic, at other times we get caught in the nets, or the long scramble through the mud leaves us exhausted and weary.
I’m not talking about the challenges we purposely make for ourselves – like learning Spanish, or running a marathon. I mean the unexpected, difficult, unwanted challenges that arrive in our lives, although having said that, even the things we want to do, can sometimes leave us with unexpected and difficult challenges.
Before I got married, I encouraged my soon-to-be-husband to go skiing. I’m not the greatest skier, but I enjoy it, and wanted him to experience this fun, exciting challenge too. Breaking his leg on the third day was not fun or exciting, and as you can imagine, brought new sudden, unwanted challenges… like… how to get back home, and… potentially more difficult… how to persuade my soon-to-be-parents-in-law that it really was safe for their son to marry me!
The first feelings we usually have when facing a new challenge are usually fear and resistance as we assess the unknown and weigh up the risks. That’s ok. It’s important for our safety and survival, and it’s what we’ve been doing as humans since … well …since we were first human.
In tackling a challenge, we need to draw on our resilience – the ability to get through unforeseen circumstances or stressful situations and to come out the other side stronger. I used to think resilience was being tough and hard and strong, but actually, I think it is about being flexible, agile and adaptable. Some people call it our ‘bounce-back-ability’!
The great thing about resilience is that it isn’t a talent – we don’t have it or not have it – it’s already in us, and better still, we can develop our resilience by recognising all we have inside us that can help – our character strengths. We all have them and if we can remember times when we have been confident, or determined, or brave, or whatever it is that we need this time, then we know we can be confident, or determined, or brave, or whatever it is we need, again. Knowing that we have managed to scale the wall or scramble under the cargo net in the past, gives us confidence to do it again. We might even be able to climb faster or manage the scramble without getting mud up our nose.
Many of the tougher challenges we have faced recently are to do with the current situation, but others are completely unconnected. The latest new challenge for our family, as for thousands of others across the country, has been the return of our children to school. This is not straightforward under the present circumstances and comes with a whole pick ‘n’ mix of emotions – excitement and nervousness (which incidentally often feel the same which can be confusing, as both emotions trigger similar responses in the body), apprehension and fear, happiness, worry, confidence, anticipation, delight, relief, sadness – the list goes on.
The mix of emotions for each child, parent, carer and teacher will be different, but although this is a new experience, the emotions it triggers are familiar. We will probably have felt all of these things before at one time or another. By recognising these emotions and remembering how we have coped in the past helps us to cope again. New challenges are like old challenges, just in a different form with a different name.
Perhaps it is time to take a moment, look back, think about some of the challenges and obstacles you have faced. I wonder what you did and what character strengths you used to get through. Instead of thinking, “Phew, I just about got there” think, “Wow, I really persevered”or, “I came up with a good creative idea to get round that!” or “It was amazing how much confidence I had when I did that!”.
Give yourself a pat on the back for all you have tackled, especially at the moment, and notice your resilience. Then, when the next new challenge comes along, feel strong, knowing you already have everything you need inside to cope.
And there’s something else too…
You don’t have to go it alone. Make your friends and family part of your resilience team.
I will now confess that I have never actually done a military assault course but I know that if I did face one, I would be filled with all those emotions of fear, excitement, nervousness and doubt as previously described and I would want my friends and family there to encourage me when I faltered, to believe in me when I lacked confidence, and to cheer me as I stumbled across the line.
Pick your own support team and talk to them. Listen to all the positive things they say about you and your character and use those strengths when you need to.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering… my parents-in-law were very good about the whole broken leg thing, the wedding went ahead and we even went skiing again and managed an event free trip with no nasty surprises!
Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee
I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far.
To get in contact with Deborah, email email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us