I just listened to an interview with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on the NPR show, On Being, with Krista Tippett. The interview centered around Sheryl’s and Adam’s new book about Sheryl’s husband’s death and Adam’s work with resilience. At the end of the interview, Sheryl said that it is really about “post traumatic growth”, about how we meet devastating life experiences and how we can move through them into deepened growth and resilience.
At the end of the interview, when Sheryl talked about the importance of gratitude and how grateful she is to be aging, to be here, it got me to thinking about how we are naturally wired to engage in a process like “post traumatic growth” if we have the right kinds of support available. Again and again throughout the interview, Sheryl and Adam described what I would call “choice points”, those moments where we have an opportunity to try on a new thought or perspective.
I was touched by the ways in which Sheryl received Adam’s input about resilience, even as she grieved the loss of her life partner and the father of her children. She said she was helped by learning about the research that’s been done on resilience and that brought to mind the power of new information to help us make unanticipated choices in our lives. Sheryl described how took in that information and allowed new perspectives to emerge. That didn’t mean she overlooked or overrode her grief. Instead, it demonstrated a capacity in her to consider new options in addition to feeling her grief.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to notice how you move through the current stresses and losses in your life. At this time, we are in the midst of large, collective experiences that are traumatic for many people. One of the questions you might ask yourself this week is, what choices am I making as I deal with whatever challenges I meet along the way? How do I support my inherent resilience and ability to make choices when I find myself upset or activated? It helps to remember that the brain is wired to focus on the negative, being a survival organ, so we need to encourage it to see other options that may be overlooked.
For example, do you take time to look at the beauty around you? Do you spend time seeking good news, inspiring input, spiritual guidance, support when you need it? Do you notice when you may be on the verge of being overwhelmed by stress and are you able to choose to take a breather from whatever feeds the stress, such as news or social media input?
There aren’t any right answers to these questions. Instead, it’s more a matter of tracking your stress level (or distress level) and being able to take some time to settle, calm down, be inspired instead of frightened or agitated. It’s about finding your particular rhythm of engaging what you want to change and also being able to choose to create some time for ease when you feel you’re overloaded.
Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat judgments on the head and as they arise, move through, and move on. There’s no need to engage them or respond to them. They most often represent activation rather than any kind of information that’s actually helpful.