Helpful or Harmful?

Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about how our thinking impacts resilience. 

A quick RECAP of last week before we continue.

We learned that RESILIENCE can be DEVELOPED (1,2), that Resilience helps us THRIVE in moments of adversity (3), and that Resilience CONSERVES ENERGY (4)! As an essential first step towards developing the skills of resilience, we began to INCREASE our personal AWARENESS by looking at our TRIGGERS. 

Why?? Because what we THINK impacts our resilience (4).

Last week, I invited you to spend some time with your INNER MONOLOGUE and simply listen. What did you hear? Was it difficult to listen without judgment? 

Hey - if you found it challenging or felt discouraged by unhelpful thoughts - YOU’RE NOT ALONE! I never said this would be easy, but I wholeheartedly believe that is it worth your effort. I’ve been working on my resilience skills for a number of years at this point, and I still find that my thinking is not always helpful. 

So a little encouragement:

Aim for progress not perfection. Breathe. Practice patience. 
Be gentle with yourself and know that your efforts will be blossom in time.

This week, I want to share a small moment of personal adversity to ILLUSTRATE the impact our thinking can have on personal resilience. So, here goes: I recently had a interview where I found myself doubting that my previous experience made me a qualified candidate for the position. My excitement for the potential of a new opportunity turned to thoughts and questions that quickly began to shift my excitement to fear.

A peak into my inner monologue about 10 minutes before the interview looked something like this — “Am I ready for this? Do I have enough experience? Hum… probably not. I’ve never done this before… Ugh. What if they see a better candidate? Or I fail to meet expectations? What if they just flat out reject me? Well, they probably will since I haven’t done this before. Ugh, I should have prepared more. I am clearly not qualified for this position. I mean, what am I doing here? They’ll see right through me. Why am I even bothering with this interview?” 

It happened in a matter of seconds. 

I was hardly aware of the choice. Yet, I gave away my strength and drained my own resilience with unhelpful thoughts. I was challenging myself, creating my own adversity, and the interview hadn’t even started yet!

The problem was my THINKING.

How could I be at my best? I was wasting energy on something completely outside of my control. I failed to acknowledge that I cannot control how the interviewer (or anyone else for that matter) perceives my experience or change my employment history minutes before an interview. 

My trigger was a combination of fear of the unknown and potential rejection. And it’s pretty common. Dare I say, “normal” to feel vulnerable in moments like this. However, in that moment, I let FEAR control my inner monologue. I hope you can see how my series of internal thoughts were both unhelpful and inaccurate.

My trigger derailed my thinking, projected me into an unknown future, and made me feel less confident in the moments right before I was going to present myself. 

Not an ideal way to start an interview! 

Thankfully, my story isn’t quite over. As I said, I have worked on my skills of resilience for a while. I was able to see that my thinking was kicking me down the proverbial stairs for no good reason. I understood that my thinking was unhelpful and unproductive. And I knew what I needed to do. I needed to use a little resilience and get FLEXIBLE and ACCURATE (4) with my thinking. I understood that my thinking was within my control, so I made the active choice to stop my thought train in its tracks. 

I took a breath. Gently reminded myself that I needed to be on my own team and that I wanted to interview, to risk growth - something I value deeply. Then, I refocused and began to DIVERT and CHALLENGE (4) my unhelpful thoughts. 

What do I mean? Well, thoughts are just that - thoughts. We can choose to engage them or not. Trouble comes when we believe unhelpful thoughts are true. 

Was I being ACCURATE? 

Well, the reality of my situation was that I was about to interview for a new position. I was both excited and nervous. (Pretty natural given the situation.) I was also prepared. I had done diligent research. I had applied. They had invited me to interview. We were both exploring an opportunity, and realistically, I had a lot to bring to the table even though I did not have direct experience. 

This PAUSE to get flexible and accurate about my thinking (4), allowed me to take control of my thoughts, redirect them, and use the remaining few minutes I had to fight my fear and help myself. I challenged myself to think of examples from my experience that I could share to demonstrate how I could leverage my skills to rise to the challenge of this new position. Did I get the job? Not this time. But that’s not the point! Getting a job is not entirely in my control. The point here is that I was able to enter the interview and navigate it with confidence and agility. I was able to show up and do my best in the moment by making certain my thinking was HELPFUL. And that, felt good.

Why am I telling you all of this??

 Because your BELIEFS are the lens through which you see the world (4). 

Your lens impacts how you feel and what you decide to do. It creates or steals opportunity. And it most certainly impacts your personal resilience. Can you imagine how things would have gone if I had continued down my original train of thought and not redirected my inner monologue? What if I had chosen to believe my unhelpful thoughts? Well, I can think of several possible outcomes, and frankly, none of them end well for me. 

So how did I manage to take a pause and redirect my inner monologue? 

I used the ABC Model (4). It’s a tool for resilient thinking that shows how an Activating event triggers your Beliefs which impacts your Consequences by driving your emotions and behaviors. 

A—>B—>C

It can be difficult to parse out these connections in the moment as they happen quickly, seemingly automatically, but we do have a choice! 

It’s all about flexible, accurate thinking. It’s possible to have awareness in the moment. To catch your thoughts before they derail you and drain your resilience. To breathe. To look and to see what is helpful and what is harmful. To challenge. To refocus. To practice flexible, accurate thinking and BUILD RESILIENCE. It gets easier with practice.

This week, I invite you to catch your inner monologue in action and redirect it. Let’s be flexible and accurate in our thinking as we develop resilience! So the next time you are triggered, look at your inner monologue and ask yourself - 

Is my thinking Helpful or Harmful?

Good luck! And I’ll see you next week to talk more about Resilient Beliefs.

 

 

Once again special thanks for the thinking and work of the following folks!

References

1. Alvord, MK, Grados, JJ. Enhancing resilience in children: A proactive approach. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 2005; 36(3), 238-245.

2. Masten, AS, Cutuli, JJ, Herbers, JE, Reed, MJ. Resilience in development. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 117-131). New York: Oxford University Press; 2009. 

3. Masten, AS. Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist. 2001; 56(3): 227-238.

4. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.