Forget About Resilience, Focus on Stability

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Today, as I enjoy the view from a park bench at Webster Pond surrounded by geese and ducks, I’m reflecting on the many times I’ve had to scoop myself up off the floor after taking some hard hits in life. I’ve been told my resilience is admirable. However, I don’t believe it’s the reason for my quick recovery from personal setbacks. I attribute that to the effort I put into being healthy, mentally strong, positive, realistic, and focused on my goals, which are all things that contribute to stability in life.

An illustration of a man on a tightrope and an injured person on a hostpital bed.

Contrary to popular opinion, being stable doesn’t equate to being boring, obstinate, or unmotivated. Do you remember Weeble Wobbles, those egg shaped toy figurines with heavy bottoms? Their stable cores allow them to roll with the punches without toppling over. Metaphorically, they have the ability to remain centered when faced with an unexpected course correction in a chaotic situation.

Resilience means picking yourself back up after a fall. Your ability to be resilient is related to how fast you can “spring back” or recover from difficulties. It is often referred to as grit or determination. Are these learned skills or character traits? How do you practice resilience? To quote Thomas Wayne from Batman, “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to keep falling, I wouldn’t have given up skateboarding. I want to know how to take a hit and not get knocked down and that takes a different approach.

Stability means having the ability and resources to not fall (or not fall as hard) in the first place. Being stable not only helps avoid the pitfalls of life but also helps every day be more constructive, calm, and enjoyable.

To improve your stability you must be dedicated to personal development. Without intentionally trying to better ourselves, we gravitate towards chaos. Life events and relationships at work continually nag at us, but with the right tools, we can navigate each situation and remain centered, just like Weeble Wobbles. Without the proper tools we’ll get knocked back long enough to incur compound repercussions (it’s not a coincidence that one hardship often follows another). While an unstable person sulks week-after-week from losing their job, other relationships may be affected as well. On the other hand, a stable person draws on inner strength, leans on personal networks, and seeks out tools to collect themselves, learn from the event, and move on.

Stability is no guarantee that every day will be smooth sailing. Every seemingly stable person has their breaking point. There’s a reason Will Smith’s behavior at the 2022 Academy Awards was shocking. Maybe he’s not the stable person we thought. Or, perhaps that was the last comment that pushed an otherwise stable person over the edge.

A stable ship is calm in rough waters. I don’t want to be on a resilient ship.

From my experience as both a leap-taking human and a horseback rider, the 5 elements of stability are:

  1. Mindset. Your worldview very much determines how stable of a person you are. If you are triggered frequently when watching the news or opening your Facebook feed, you will spend a lot of energy on things that are out of your control, leaving you with less bandwidth for things that are more manageable.
  2. Focus. Like the rider on a horse, if you are easily distracted, you will go down one path while your life (the horse) takes another path.
  3. Alignment. When you align your values with your actions, with other people and where you spend your time, energy, and dollars, you become much more in-tune with the opportunities around you. You also build better relationships, which is another key to building stability.
  4. Balance. Take a look at our sketch for this article above. Tightrope walkers extend their arms for balance. Eventually, they realized that they could balance even better if they had longer arms, which is where the poles came in. But notice what the poles actually do. The ends of the poles go up and down, sometimes below the very rope they are walking on. Balance means keeping your head while things around you shift. Balance is about leaning one way when you need to and another way when the need changes. Don’t be so set in your path that you get knocked off.
  5. Center. This is what I call core. Your core is your inner strength. This is the one part that others may see as grit or determination. It also includes faith, believing in yourself, and doing what you know in your heart is the right thing to do.

Here are my suggestions for bringing these 5 elements, collectively called stability, into your personal development goals.

  1. Recognize that stability is a good thing. Take a look around your work and home life and identify areas that could use a mindset shift, focus, alignment, balance, or centering.
  2. Keep track of how you feel when you’re not feeling stable and what the cause(s) might be.
  3. Work on remaining calm under pressure.
  4. Give yourself time before making major decisions. Avoid hasty action.
  5. Build trusted relationships with people who can understand and share your burdens.

This final piece of advice I have may not be for everyone, but I find that reality checks help keep me stable. All of the events listed above are a part of life. Instead of trying to wish them away, either do something about them (if you can) or accept them and the life lessons they bring.

Be aware of the life events that are likely to take down even the most stable of people and work on the above elements if you know they might be coming.

In a world full of Humpty Dumptys, be a Weeble Wobble. — Laura Thorne

I presented a webinar early on in the pandemic when everyone seemed to be wobbling quite a bit. If you want to learn more about this subject, check out the webinar recording.

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Originally published at https://www.macny.org on April 12, 2022.

Laura Thorne specializes in strategy and execution through workshops, coaching, and other services. Click here to learn more about Laura’s consulting partnership with MACNY. Want to to suggest an article topic or make a comment? Contact Laura at laura@laurathorneconsulting.com.

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A follow-your-heart in multiple directions person. I love cats, super sweet non-dairy coffee, travel, and 80s flix. I write about personal and prof development.

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Laura Thorne

Laura Thorne

A follow-your-heart in multiple directions person. I love cats, super sweet non-dairy coffee, travel, and 80s flix. I write about personal and prof development.