Vulnerability, composure, and courage. Building resilience in the face of difficulty.

As high achievers and performers, we naturally encounter difficulty and challenges as part of living life around the edges.

How well we manage these difficult moments has a significant impact on our performance and sustainability as a performer.

At the heart of this is our ability to cultivate an authentic vulnerability and openness to bringing pointed focused attention to our internal difficulties.

Now, this may not seem like the most obvious or easy path to building greater resilience. Still, research has demonstrated that it accelerates our ability to work through pain and ultimately to recover faster.

Rather than habitually repressing, distracting or struggling against our difficulties, which prolongs recovery, mindfulness is the radical practice of allowing or making vulnerability a choice.

In a team environment, greater vulnerability creates safer environments for individuals to try new things, innovate and be more creative. This does not mean we overshare or unfilter our communication, but rather it is simply making ourselves aware of what is happening in the present moment without wishing it were any different.

Not denying our own emotions allows us to do the same with our co-workers and teammates, building empathy and connection when groups encounter difficulty. The resilience of the team is not only maintained but amplified.

Research on the brain’s insula and ACC and how they prepare, react and recover from stress are the signature traits of resilience and optimal performance. Through our mindful meditation practice, this can be trained.

But so often, our habit is to repress, distract, or struggle against stress or triggering demands. Our fight, flight, freeze reactions are well-honed.

A less discussed reaction is our “fix” reaction – an intense resolve to improve oneself that comes from a sense of personal unworthiness or not being good enough. I need to be more or less, better, or need to change in some way. It starts with the assumption that I am not good now or need fixing and that I don’t trust the power of my wisdom. Amongst elite high performers, this is a common affliction.

With wide-open, curious attention, we can learn to change our relationship to these emotions to see them for what they are and make wise choices on how to best work with them.

Let’s take fear as an example. Instead of pretending it is not there or reacting to it by running away from it, we befriend it, put out the welcome mat, recognize it and be a curious observer to understand it and accept that it is even there in the first place. Denying it will only prolong it. Unless you bring these into awareness, your unconscious beliefs and emotions will control your experience and perpetuate your identification with a limited, small egoic “thinking” self.

While pain and difficulty naturally show up in life, learning to meet them fearlessly as they arise allows our relationship to our discomfort and the stories surrounding it to shift.

Shifting from a narrative that “anxiety and fear are things that happen to me, and I need to react to them” to “these are things that I experience as part of what I do and have a choice in how I respond to them.”

It is basically about “not flinching” and not moving away from anything that shows up and practising the adage that what’s in the way is the way.

“When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. But above all don’t wobble! – Zen proverb

Once we accept and recognize these feelings are there, we can then call on our natural curiosity by directing more focused investigative attention to our present experience — an active and pointed kind of inquiry. You might ask yourself: “What most wants attention? How am I experiencing this in my body? “What does this feeling want from me?”

Being an impartial witness of your own experience requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences in which you regularly find yourself. Observe it, and step back from it.

“As you cultivate the witness, things change. You don’t have to change them. Things just change”. Ram Dass

The foundational attitude of non-attachment is not that you don’t own anything, but rather, nothing owns you. Your goals in the form of external outcomes, including associated successes and failures, and holding up the expectations of others fluctuate throughout our lives.

When we tie our self-worth to things that exist outside of us, consequently, our perception of our self-worth moves up and down as well, allowing them to control us.

Leading from the inside, by moving towards our emotions, makes us immune to these fluctuations and allows us to tap into our intrinsic self-worth, which cannot fluctuate.

What we are going for here is building our capacity for equanimity and courage. It is having mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. It starts with building our capacity to stay present to difficulty as a skill that can improve with mindfulness.

Learn more about our different programs and recruit us to explore new possibilities through mindfulness.