Four years ago I booked to go to Iceland to catch the Northern Lights as a treat for my birthday. You may remember the dramatic snowfall in London around 21 December in 2010: there weren’t enough snow machines to clean the streets from fresh powder; flights were cancelled. I could not go to Iceland.
Determined to come up with a plan B, I bought a lastminute ticket to see Kings of Leon at the O2 arena. I loved the band, it was a great consolatory prize. On the morning of my birthday, the concert was canceled due to a fire in one of the trailers parked near the arena.
At lunchtime my boss forgot he invited me to eat out and instead grabbed a sandwich with another colleague in his office.
With friends having other plans, I ended up spending the evening on my own at a pleasant local pub. Ten days later I contracted pneumonia.
I am sorry if you expected a happy ending. The morale of this story is a little different.
Things often don’t go to plan. They range from a disappointment over a pudding in a recommended restaurant to having your life in ruins, as it happened to the main character in Russian film Leviathan I saw recently. You may find out your partner has been cheating on you or that you cannot have children; your contract may not get renewed and you may get injured just before a race you have been training and fundraising for. Some of these unfortunate things may eventually work out for the better, some never will. The question is: how resilient are you?
I am probably not very resilient because it seems I am being taught the same lesson over and over again. I am not religious, but others may interpret it as Buddhist karma or a Book of Job. I regard resilience as one of the core life skills we all ought to master. It is as important as empathy, self-awareness or mindfulness.
To be resilient is to be able to bounce back like a rubber duck pulled down then released in a bath. It’s the ability to make the best of things in difficult circumstances, to recover quickly after a knockout, to cope well with life’s challenges and to find ways to overcome tough problems.
When things don’t go to plan it is tempting to dramatise the situation to start with - I am guilty as charged. It’s an easy thing to do with social media and instant communication devices at our disposal. Ultimately, you are your own best bet. The crisis won’t go away, but here is a reassuring thought.
Can you think of friends and family or someone from your professional network who is resilient? I know I can. It may be a friend who has made the best of the dire personal circumstances or a business mentor who has led his company through a series of ups and downs. Once you think of them, your own pit does not seem so deep anymore.
Every one of us has survived a crisis or two. Looking back builds up confidence that this too will pass. Things will work out in the end.