A few weeks ago, my youngest brother and I had a conversation about resilience and how we feel like we have developed a healthy dose of it due to our childhood. We grew up in home that made many happy memories, but we were not afforded the luxury of having a lot of money. Our basic and many non-basic needs were consistently met; however money insecurity persisted. As a result, growing up my siblings and I developed a keen sense of resourcefulness and resilience to the challenges that come when you barely have enough. I’m grateful for those experiences. These qualities gave me the confidence to move to DC after college with nothing but my graduation money and a sparse resume, assured that it would all work out. (btw, it did) My “I’ll figure it out” attitude fueled subsequent leaps of faith (and moves) throughout the past decade that have led me to where I am today, at a place where I am operating from a good place. The conversation with my brother led me to think about how if a person can survive – and thrive – under less than ideal situations, how much more can she be when intentionally surrounded by things that are good for her?
Adversity shapes a person’s character in ways that a less arduous path cannot because the setbacks and the lessons they bring simply aren’t there. In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell promotes the idea that a person’s seeming disadvantages are often disguised competitive advantages. I wholeheartedly agree with his outlook, but I also question how many of our own obstacles or challenges as adults are actually our own doing?
We may have little control over our childhoods or inherent physical impairments, but many of the challenges that the everyday person faces nowadays are more self-inflicted in nature. Stress about living up to expectations set by others, worries about how we are perceived, the struggle to look, act, and think a certain way, the constant pressure to get it (read: everything) right. These are the types of obstacles that don’t contribute to our ability to build resilence but rather chip away at our core beings. Sure, we’re bombarded with many of these messages all day and sometimes these pressures may come from people we love, aren’t we still able to choose what we ingest and what we reject?
I titled this piece “Plant where you grow” because I think that as adults we enjoy a much larger degree of choice than we did as children, and with that freedom to choose we have the option to create our best lives. Instead of continuously putting ourselves in situations that present roadblocks to personal happiness and growth, we have the ability to recognize and make choices that support whatever it is that we really, truly want. I’m not saying it is always easy, but the choice is always there.
I spent a big chunk of my twenties surrounded by people and expectations that I’ve come to realize in my thirties, were not congruent with my belief system. A bulk of my energy, both mental and physical, was focused on maintaining a certain image and pursuing a life I didn’t necessarily want. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve shifted my attention away from what I once thought was expected to what feels right for me, and as I continue to do that, it seems like more and more good fortune has found its way into my life. I don’t think it is a coincidence.
In addition to shedding some self-created obstacles, I have actively planted more productive thoughts and habits. Deepening my yoga practice, eating fewer dougnuts (wah!), and taking advantage of downtime have helped me gain more mental clarity and explore new sides of myself. But keep in mind that cultivating a healthy environment may may look completely different for you or for someone else because we’ve all got our own unique shit. As this year nears an end and I start reflecting on the past ten months, I can actually say that I am calmer, more decisive, and getting better at trusting my intuition more. I’ve actually, well, grown as a person – go figure!
As you wake up each day and go through the normal routine, I challenge you to second guess everything you’ve always done and make a conscious decision about whether those practices are truly helping you live your best life. If you’re not satisfied with where you are, take steps to make changes. You don’t have a to plant a lot of new seeds just to witness growth; a little positivity will render more – you’ll see! 🙂