OUR ABILITY TO ADAPT to changes in circumstances determines to a large extent whether we survive and thrive, or wilt under new conditions. If resilience is so crucial, what exactly is it and how can we cultivate it? Although I have had the pleasure of studying with some of the world's best university professors and students, I actually learned the answers to these central questions the hard way--taking a crash course in the school of hard knocks.
Due to my inability to see at night, when I was three years old my parents discovered that I had a rare eye disease that the doctors said eventually would rob me of my eyesight. Their prediction came to fruition when I was attending the University of Tennessee. It was there when my eyesight took a turn for the worse. While in anatomy class, I realized that I simply could not see enough details in order to identify the parts of the cadavers. At that moment, my hopes and dreams for my future self were as lifeless and cold as the corpses that laid on the table in front of me.
It was as if a sledge hammer crashed into my chest--my emotional and psychological state staggered under the impact. A boa constrictor of hopelessness began wrapping itself around my body and started to squeeze. It was hard to move, hard to breathe. My deep feelings of hopelessness stemmed from the fact that I could not imagine a future blind self that was close to the future sighted self I once had envisioned.
We often ask children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" None of them--and I mean none of them--say, "I'd like to grow up to be a blind person." Still, in order to make change work, we have to figure out how to achieve, even in the midst of our unchangeable facts. I had to figure out how to make blind look good. The technical term is "cognitive reframing." What that essentially means is learning how to create the stories that get us where we want to go. This first and foremost means we have to be able to visualize greatness within our conditions.
In order to do that, we have to know what is inside our sphere of influence and what is not. If it is outside of our sphere of influence, we have to accept it, embrace it, and paint a picture in our mind's eye of how it can look good to us. If it is within our sphere of influence, we lay out a strategy, plan, and execution framework for influencing it to fit our vision for the future. This new vision becomes our blueprint for thinking. Every thought, conversation, action...