When I was 29 years old, working with my first leadership coach, I got feedback that I was resilient. My coach went on to tell me that my story reminded him of a willow branch. It can bend, but it won’t break. That encounter over twenty years ago in my novice leadership career was a watershed moment.
When water drains from a single source but then hits a point of divergence, it divides. Perhaps it is a ridge that sends the water down one side or the other; it could also be a fork that creates a division. When we as individuals have these existential ‘a-ha’ instances that cause us to stop and deeply think – they are watershed moments. There was a before that moment, and an after that moment. There is a divide or a turning point in our thinking. Our water flows into a new basin, and we collect these moments as they help define our elasticity and wonderment in life.
Resilience is about recoiling after being stretched or springing back into shape once compressed or bent. To be a resilient person suggests someone can withstand difficult circumstances and press on in life. It’s not about mere survival as I know plenty of people who have been through difficult times but still smell faintly of resentment or anger. The residue is part of their pores, and they shed it in each encounter. To be resilient suggests more than survival, it suggests forward-facing growth with an abundant mindset. It means when the branch is stomped, trampled, or flattened, it slowly rebounds and stretches back into the light.
The universe urges us to explore our flow of thinking right now and ponder our own sense of resilience. This invitation to reflect allows us to hold up a mirror. How honest are we with how we are?
How are you? It is a mere acknowledgment. Most people respond with the word, fine, or good, or okay. Then we reciprocate with the same question and response exchange. Perhaps it is time to retire this socially constructed greeting for a while, given that we are now living in times where very few are actually fine, good, or okay.
Sometimes the most honest exchange is one in which there are no questions, but shared declarations such as:
You are here
I am here
I see you
We are together
I am with you
You are home
Then in our messy, compromised, worrisome, humanness, we can choose to go dark and stay trodden and bent (we need not go far, 2020 has a bucket of items we can pick from), or we can search for the light. Joy lives in the light.
There is joy in eye-contact, a good meal, a chuckle, a compliment, feeling heard, and knowing someone is with me (whether physically or psychologically). Joy can be a fountain; sometimes, it gushes, and sometimes it’s an infrequent soft drip. I always have control over the current.
After that encounter with my first leadership coach, I filed that watershed moment of resilience, and when it was time to start my coaching practice twelve years later, I knew. I knew my company would be called the Willow Group. Like many of you, my resilience is hard-wired. However, my honest joy is a day-to-day decision. I choose joy. What about you?
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker | Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation | Program Director for Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University