Expect the Unexpected: Finding the Power in Being Resilient

September 19th, 2012 by Laura Longley

“Expect the unexpected.” That’s the motto of a certain reality TV show, which I’m (almost) embarrassed to say that I watch. It’s also become one of the guiding lights in my life.

We cannot control events, circumstances or other people, no matter how hard we might try. The only way to deal with the uncertainty of life without going crazy from the stress of it is to develop our ability to be flexible and adaptable. To get really good at being able to deal with whatever is thrown at us.

And most important of all, to truly know and trust that no matter what happens, we’ll handle it and we’ll be okay.

Yesterday I was provided with the perfect opportunity to practice my resiliency. I have a weekly radio show that is produced virtually. The radio station is on the East Coast, as is the engineer who runs the show. They connect with me using Skype, and with my guest either by Skype of telephone.

Just as the show was set to begin, the sound level suddenly dropped to where I could barely hear the producer, the guest on the phone, or the commercials playing in the background. I could hear just enough to know the intro was playing and that I needed to start talking.

As the first segment went on, I was communicating via instant message on Skype with the engineer. Twice I introduced my guest, only to find that she was not on the line, or that I could not hear her if she was. I quickly had to improvise what to say, because my plan had been to interview her.

The entire first segment of the show went by in this fashion. I used a quote from the guest’s book to talk about failure, off the cuff. When I was assured that the guest was on the line, even though I could barely hear her, I asked her to introduce herself. I couldn’t hear a thing she was saying, just that she was talking.

When I thought she stopped talking, I asked her another question, even though I had no idea what she had already said. At the first break the engineer called me on my cell phone and I completed the rest of the show that way, with no more issues.

This is a perfect example of “expect the unexpected.” Something weird happened technically, that was no one’s fault, and that I had to deal with all the same. I was very, very surprised to find that I did not panic. In fact, I didn’t even feel much stress about the situation. In the moment I didn’t really think about this, but looking back it kind of shocks me that I wasn’t more freaked out, especially since this was only my second show.

I credit years (and years and years) of working on letting go of having to control. I have lots and lots of experience at being resilient, and really do believe that no matter what happens in my life I will handle it and I will come out okay in the end.

And still, I’m pretty proud of myself and how I handled the situation on the radio show yesterday. Not so much that I figured out what to do and managed the situation. What I’m really proud of is that internally I wasn’t stressed out and upset. Yes, there was a little twinge of “oh no.” But it was very little. Yes, I’m patting myself on the back and saying, “Good job, Laura.”

Once we realize that any sense of control is an illusion, we can build our skills to become more resilient. Being able to go with the flow and knowing that we can deal with whatever happens serves us much better than trying to control ever could.

I have a client who had serious anxiety issues. It was apparent that her anxiety was driven by needing to know what the outcome of any given situation would be, which of course none of us can know. She spent a lot of energy trying to ensure that she would get the outcome she wanted, and even more energy worrying about “what if” the outcome was not the one she desired.

I really related to this client. This has been my journey for many years. In fact, I have often described myself as a recovering control freak. Therefore, I also knew the downside of trying to control, and the benefit in being flexible and adaptable. I knew how much better I felt once I let go of trying to control.

I suggested to this client that her energy was better spent on developing resiliency. She was so upset with me! She said, “I don’t want to have to be resilient! I just want everything to turn out the right way!” Well, don’t we all?  This is why we try to control.

We went on to have a conversation about the value of letting go of attachment to the outcome, and ultimately learning to trust herself and her resiliency. This conversation took place about 18 months ago. I still see this client and she has changed tremendously.

She has really embraced letting go of the outcome. Her anxiety level is greatly reduced, to the point of being almost non-existent. She is so much happier than she was when trying to control everything.

I am so proud of her! We laugh now about her outburst. We both recognize that it was the turning point for her. Like me, she still has the tendency to want to control, but now she sees it for what it is – an illusion that only creates anxiety and unhappiness.

So I hold myself, and this client, up as examples of how letting go of control and developing skills of flexibility, adaptability and resiliency are one of the keys to being happier.

Be conscious today about what you’re trying to control in your own life. What grief is that creating for you? How can you let go of trying to control and instead rest comfortably in knowing that whatever life throws at you, you’ll manage and come out okay in the end?


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