“What defeats us doesn’t define us. Our response does.”
Glassware is fragile. Drop it and it shatters. Humans are not fragile by nature, although we at times choose to be. The closest word commonly used to describe how humans can respond to adversity is resilient. But even that doesn’t quite capture it. Resilience implies an ability to rebound to where you were before. The truth is, humans have the ability to be the opposite of fragile. To rebound even stronger after a setback. Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized the term antifragile in his book by the same name. After hardship or setback, we have the capacity for growth above and beyond our previous state. Learning and crystallizing that changed everything about how I approach setbacks.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my brain loves to bark at me when something goes south. It’ll tell me I’m defeated, not good enough, any number of negative viewpoints. My brain, however, doesn’t get to decide how I respond. Neither do my feelings. In fact, I don’t decide in the moment at all. I made up my mind long ago and wrote out what I believe and how I’ll respond in my CORE.
Now when something goes sideways, here are a few different core statements I can rely on – which one I tell my brain depends on the situation:
- We are made for challenge and growth. To do otherwise is a slow death.
- I believe that failure is an event and a teacher, not an identity.
- I believe that struggles create opportunity for growth and strength.
- I believe the obstacle IS the way and cannot be avoided without severe chronic consequences.
- I believe taking on acute pain is life giving over time.
- I will not wish things to be other than what they are. (Thanks, Epictetus)
- I will face and choose the acute pain of solutions (life giving on the other side) over the chronic pain of anxiety or indecision (life draining over time).
- I will view failure and setbacks as feedback and opportunity.
- I love embracing the suck.
I’ve made my decision long before the hardship comes. What are you deciding now, before your next setback comes along? Don’t trust your brain or your feelings in the moment – they can easily go haywire. What do you believe, what will and won’t you do? Write it out and get it in your CORE.