Bouncing forward after a challenging event
Bouncing forward is an extension of the concept of bouncing back. When we think about the idea of bouncing back, we generally associate it with a challenging event, yet it applies equally to a prolonged period of struggle such as the two-year and counting pandemic. It is important to keep in mind that challenging events or periods of time are not necessarily a negative experience for everyone. Such events or moments can actually be a catalyst for us to transform, or reinvent ourselves. This is where the idea of bouncing forward is born. Greek philosopher, Epictetus, captures this idea well in his discourses.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.Epictetus
So how do we bounce forward from pandemic stresses, blues, or blahs to thrive?
An analogy to Japanese art: Kintsugi
Kintsugi, the art of golden repair, is a great analogy for the first step we need to take to bounce forward: embrace our flaws and imperfections to build something stronger through revitalization and a new lease on life outlook! Dr. Alexa Altman shares more detail about the connection between Kintsugi and mindset.
Our ability to bounce depends very much on perspective, can we put this challenging moment into a wider time horizon? This gives it greater perspective (which usually serves to diminish our perceived magnitude of an issue).
Bouncing forward by reframing the narrative
Whenever we hear other people, or we ourselves, say: “Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?” – the statements reflect a narrative of being what I refer to as “in the passenger seat” of the car. One where we tend not to feel in control of the situation and, left unchecked, can slip in blame, self-pity and general victim thinking. In these moments, it is important to reframe our self-narrative.
What does this mean?
It means, recognizing that not-so-great things can happen to us just like they happen to other people. This simple rewiring of our thinking allows us to move from the passenger seat back into the driver seat and therefore in control. In other words, we quiet the little voice within each of us. To quiet it, we need to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings we’re having because they are happening for a reason. Once we acknowledge them, we then need to understand them. Why questions tend to elicit understanding, for example:
Challenge: I’m feeling threatened by Jane, she’s got promoted over me.
Why am I feeling threatened?
Because she got a promotion in the team and now holds a higher job than me even though we started at the company together.
Why does her promotion provide invoke feelings of threat?
Because I wanted a promotion too but didn’t get one.
Why didn’t I get promoted?
Because I didn’t perform as well as I needed to.
Why didn’t I make the time to perform as I needed to?
Because I was prioritizing spending time with my family over putting in the extra time on work projects.
Why was I prioritizing my family over working?
Because spending time with my kids is more important to me right now than getting a promotion.
So, connecting the why with the outcome quickly quiets inner critical voices, and puts us back in control over our decisions (and their outcomes).
Be kind to yourself
If a good friend or family member told you: “I am feeling really down about myself, because of I am not good enough. I’m useless at everything I touch, I not worthy of good things, I just don’t deserve anything” – would you say the same things to them in that moment as you say to yourself? I am quite confident in saying that more than 99% of you would say “of course not, I would be supportive and compassionate with my friend or relative.” It is through this specific type of example that we must remember the importance of being kind to ourselves. We must gift ourselves with the same support, empathy, and compassion that we give another person.
We all face challenges and adversity in life; however, our outcomes differ primarily because of our own frame of mind in such moments. It is not about merely surviving, we need to grow, transform and thrive after a challenging event or period of time. A few steps to think differently put us firmly on the path to do just that, bounce forward. The post-pandemic future can be as bright as we’d like it to be, are you ready to seize yours?
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Give it a try!
Cartoon credit: author unknown