Michele Waterman
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Resilience to the Rescue

A few weeks ago, I had to dig deep and tap into my own parenting leadership. My morning started before I was out of bed. I woke up early to exercise and immediately checked my text messages as soon as I turned off my alarm. Our daughter was on a trip to Disneyland with her choir. She was with one of her best friends and she was very excited about the entire trip. So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up to a stressful text message from her insisting that she come home.

Holy cow. How could this happen? Wasn’t Disneyland the happiness place on earth? It turns out that several things had gone wrong; first one of the buses broke down and they all had to wait for two hours so their schedule for the day got messed up, then she and a friend didn’t go to the right spot in the park to meet up with everyone and they were late getting back to the group only to be yelled at in front of their peers and chaperones. In a nutshell, she was shamed for making a mistake. Feeling shame, lead to feelings of intense anxiety, and anxiety fuels fear. She wanted to come home because she wasn’t having fun, she was totally stressed out, she was afraid of making another mistake that could lead to additional humiliation and didn’t want to be in trouble. 

So here is the deal—I’m embarrassed to admit that my knee jerk reaction was to fly down to Southern California and rescue her. I wanted to fix it and make it okay. I wanted to support her and make sure she knew that I valued her feelings. But how would picking her up really help her? How would she really benefit from the rescue? Did she in fact need rescuing in the first place?

My next thought, “I need a powerful affirmation card.” I frequently start my day by randomly picking an affirmation card from a big collection that I’ve acquired. Affirmations give my mind a good push in the right direction and they are an important part of developing a positive mindset. Tony Robbins talks about the power of focus—where focus goes, energy flows. That makes sense when you think about it. If we think negatively, our mind acts like a magnet attracting negativity into our consciousness. Conversely, if we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, our mind will find reasons to celebrate and opportunities abound.

So, I selected a card that was fantastically fitting. It read: I have unlimited potential. Only good lies before me. The joy I find in my career is reflected in my overall happiness. Wow! How true is that? I LOVE what I do. Being a personal development coach is the perfect use of my gifts and talents and I get to work with people that are motivated to become the best version of themselves. Well, that affirmation card may not have been the parenting leadership tip I was longing for, but it gave me a minute to reflect and get some perspective the situation at hand.

Ironically, the next day I picked an affirmation card that perfectly sumed up the lesson that Alyssa learned: I turn every experience into an opportunity. Each problem has a solution. All experiences are opportunities for me to learn and grow. I am safe.

As I think back to that morning, my motive was to ensure that Alyssa avoided pain and discomfort by picking her up early from the trip, allowing her to return to the comforts of home. But the reality is that I would have denied her the experiences that she needed to walk through in order to build character and resilience. Resilience is so much more than “toughness” and one’s capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. We don't build resilience by avoiding pain and difficulty. In fact, resilient people have a “tolerance for discomfort,” according to Brene Brown.

Thank goodness I didn’t dive into a rescue mission when Alyssa begged to come home. She didn’t need to be saved. She needed to persevere, to feel her fear, and to stretch through her emotional discomfort. The beauty of this entire situation is that Alyssa acquired more evidence that she is capable of confronting her fears and she is resourceful enough to solve her own problems. By dealing with her emotions and facing her challenges head on, she became more resilient—making her stronger and more powerful.

How do you rescue yourself from experiencing pain? What fears do you need to confront right now? What affirmations help you stay on track?

To learn more about how personal development coaching can help you face your fears and become more resilient, visit www.michelewaterman.com.