Being thankful in a rough year – like 2020 – is tough. The COVID-19 situation, economic fallout, and socio-political unrest have led to changes we did not expect. The end of the year (including Thanksgiving season in the United States) is an ideal time to reflect on what has been and what might be.
While adversity brings pain and discomfort, we have 3 superpowers to get us through it and out. They are acceptance, patience and resilience. We need each and all of them to keep ourselves together when life falls apart.
When you accept what-is, you see things for what they truly are, rather than wish them to be different. You process unpleasant thoughts and emotions instead of suppress them. You keep climbing the steep cliff to get to the top, not jump off midway at your own peril.
Acceptance is not the same as giving up, condoning, or being complacent. You still have desires, goals and preferences. You still seek to make changes or defend the status quo. But you distinguish between what you control and what you don’t control. You recognize that while you might not have a say in big decisions, it’s your small daily actions that really matter.
You accept that you don’t always get what you want and you don’t have to get everything you want. You accept the present moment and the past, and you attend to the next moment and the future. You decide what you need to hold on to and what you have to let go of.
You’re not hooked on being right. You stop labeling yourself and others. You understand that choices and actions are based on nuanced and complex reasons, not one-dimensional motives. You’re able to engage with others who have different opinions and perspectives. You don’t just resort to labeling, blaming, stereotyping, censoring, and shutting down disagreements.
Although it’s comforting to be with kindred sprits, we grow and stretch more from seeking to understand those who are not. By staying open to conflict and tension, we gain a more holistic view of the world. This helps us sort facts from interpretations, distinguish narratives from truth, and separate groupthink from our own thoughts.
With the superpower of acceptance, we’re able to transform unbearable difficulties into welcome opportunities. We move from emotional rigidity to emotional agility. Only then can we make choices and take action in alignment with who we want to be in a given situation.
Patience is an essential virtue for navigating uncertainty. It keeps your nervous system calm and your immune system strong. But we don’t get to exercise it much when our credit cards, smart phones, microwaves, and Amazon Prime make it so easy to get what we want right now.
Patience is allowing outcomes to unfold and goals to be reached organically and in due course — when more striving or more complaining is counterproductive. We practice waiting to get unfulfilled needs met while we look for substitutes and alternatives.
It often takes years to master our craft, optimize our skills, discover our gifts, and apply our strengths to create massive impact. There is no magic pill. There’s no overnight success.
Along the path, you might need to slow down, drop the stones you’ve been carrying, and lighten the load. Trust your natural rhythm and make space for rest, rather than obsess over your ability to produce.
With the superpower of patience, we know when to keep going, when to pause, and when to quit. We use routines, rituals, and repetition to get a little better every day. We make small tweaks in tiny moments to make a big difference. We course correct instead of rely on auto-pilot.
Having the grit to move through tough times, trusting yourself, and acting courageously are necessary to deal with life’s realities. To bounce back from major setbacks and everyday disappointment, we need to embrace vulnerabilities, have strong connections, honor our needs, process resentment, and find humor in grief.
Resilience helps us to move forward, flourish and thrive regardless of what life brings our way. We feel the anger, sadness and fear that come from losses, but we don’t let these feelings and emotions break our spirit. We can bend and flex in appropriate situations and hold our boundaries and set limits when necessary.
To get over rocky terrain, you have get back up and brush yourself off when you stumble or fall. You keep moving even when your confidence is shaken.
To cultivate resilience, you practice a wide range of responses and explore different possibilities for recovery. Sometimes you need to take the wait-and-see approach, not take instant action. Sometimes you need to move through rough patches, not end the relationship. Sometimes you need to laugh more, not meditate more. Sometimes you need to talk to a trusted confidante, not journal about your inner conflicts.
When you find meaning in crisis and purpose in hardships, you create resolve and strength to overcome. You drop the victim mentality. You don’t wait for others to take you in, take care of you or stand up for you. You put yourself in charge. You stand on your own and yet ask for help and receive it well when it’s given.
With the superpower of resilience, you have the ability to respond to setbacks and not just get strung along by external circumstances and conditions. You replace self-pity, anxiety and worry with a positive mindset. You see the big picture. You consider the temporary nature and existential uncertainty of all things.
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Acceptance, patience and resilience are 3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year. They help us see the silver linings, no matter how faint they might be. They are natural and innate, but they can be crushed out with profound loss, defeat, disappointment, trauma and fear-based messaging. We must keep cultivating, rediscovering and developing these superpowers to withstand crisis, create bonds, defend boundaries, and grow from hardships.
Regardless of the depth and breadth of adversity you face, there’s a high probability you’ll get through it and out. Your being alive is proof you’ve done it before.
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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.