Tag Archives: Resillience

Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean- Which Would You Rather Be?

Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean - Pic Collage
Carrot, Egg or Coffee Bean-Which Would You Rather Be- Pic Collage

On my most recent Library run, I came across a small book called The Coffee Bean (A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change) by Damon West. Curious about the title and cover, I picked it up and flipped through the pages. Surprised by the simple story format and cool illustrations, I borrowed it thinking it would be an interesting and easy read. When I settled down to read it, I completed the Coffee Bean story in an hour because of its simple yet fascinating message on how to overcome adversity and create positive change.

The Coffee Bean Story

The Coffee Bean story uses the powerful analogy of a pot of boiling water and how three objects (a carrot, an egg, and a coffee bean) are changed by the heat and pressure when placed into the pot. Though the carrot goes in hard; it becomes soft from the heat and the pressure of the water. The longer the carrot stays in the boiling water, the more it loses its original form, becoming softer and softer, eventually losing its vibrant color and taste. The egg has a hard outer shell that covers its soft liquid insides, but when placed in the boiling water, the soft liquid inside begins to get hard. And if the egg stays in the water for a long time, it becomes so hard that even the hard outer shell cracks. But when the coffee bean is placed into the pot of boiling water, it transforms the whole environment and water becomes coffee. So, as small as the coffee bean is, it is not changed by its circumstances, it completely changes its environment from the inside out.

Pot of Water Boiling over Wood Fire-Photo
Pot of Water Boiling over Wood Fire

Meaning of Coffee Bean Story

The pot of boiling water represents the hardships, challenges, and adversities that you and I face in life. The carrot, egg and coffee bean represent how we respond and are affected by the various circumstances we face. I do not know what your pot of boiling water might look like, but each of us have or have had a hardship or adversity that we have struggled to overcome or are still facing. Your pot of boiling water might be a divorce or separation, a broken relationship, the loss of a loved one, infertility, illness or disease, financial hardships or the loss of a job that defined you.

When life hits you hard or knocks you down, it is easy to throw in the towel, lose sight of who you are, what you believe and to give up on the dreams you hold dear. But at the same time, we also get to choose our mindset (fixed or growth) the attitudes we display (positive or negative) to help us be resilient and overcome obstacles. So how do you respond when you find yourself in a pot of boiling water? Are you the carrot, the egg, or the coffee bean?

When I think about my own life experiences (personally and professionally), I am sometimes guilty of allowing the harshness of certain situations to change how I behave and treat others. I can think of painful life experiences that have weakened me like the carrot, reduced me to tears and left me questioning why me? In other moments, the pot of boiling water I was thrown in hardened me like an egg who became resentful of those who hurt me and even struggling to forgive. Nonetheless, adversity has made me stronger and pushed me to be more resilient(See previous post) and better. So, as a coffee bean, I have also been able to take some of my boiling pot of water moments and transform them into coffee. And in so doing, I have overcame many hardships to have a positive impact on the people and organizations I come into contact with.

Hardships and adversity challenge us and can test our determination and commitment to what we value and believe is important. But we should never allow the circumstances of life to change us (make us bitter) or cause us to act outside of our true nature and what we believe to be wrong or right. We can choose to be a coffee bean by never losing sight of who we are, the power and strength within us and our ability to change our conditions (however difficult).

Whole Coffee Beans Falling-Image
Whole Coffee Beans Falling -Image

Life Applications: Five Rules of Being a Coffee Bean

The main message of the book is that, like the coffee bean, each of us have the potential to change the environments in which we operate or be changed by them. So here are five rules from the Damon West that you can use to become a coffee bean:

1.Get up every day and work out every day:  Here the workout is not just physical, it includes spiritually and mentally.  To get and stay in shape spiritually, West recommends you have a conversation with God and ask the following questions- How did I do today? Was I a good person? Who do I need to apologize to or forgive? For the mental workout, he reminds us that we are what we eat, so pay attention to the kind of books you read, the websites you visit, shows you watch, and the kinds of music you listen to. And for the physical, be sure to exercise, get rest, and pay attention to your nutrition.

2. Serve others:  When we lend a helping hand to others without expecting to receive, we are also helping ourselves. None of us got to where we are without the help and kindness of others. So volunteer, mentor, pay it forward and actively seek ways to bless and encourage others.

3.Remember You Only Control 4 Things:  Some of us like to believe we have more control over our lives than we do. But according to the author (And I agree) the only four things we control are in our minds. This is- what you think, what you say, what you feel and what you do. Outside of that, we control nothing.  So, focus on the things you can control and other people will notice your example and you will be able to make a positive impact on the environment around you.

4.Your past does not define you. Your past is your lesson and not a determinant of your future. We should try to learn from our past but do not dwell there. Your losses and mistakes do not define you. Your present is a gift, and your future should serve as a motivation for you to become the best version of yourself each day. So ask yourself if/how the choices you make today will impact your future self.

5. Energy is about body language– Your energy and body language are what people see before you open your mouth. Pay attention to how you walk, your facial expressions, your tone of voice- we are always communicating. Your energy is contagious and can impact people positively or negatively, so ensure that you are spreading something good. And always remember to smile.

When all is said and done, we will all find ourselves in our own pot of boiling water. No one wants to be the soft and weakened carrot, nor the mad and miserable egg. All of us must strive to be the coffee bean that says, no matter how much heat and pressure I face, I will not allow my circumstances to change me. Instead, I will change and improve my environment and get stronger in the process. So, imagine your most difficult life situation and ask yourself how I can be a coffee bean?

Until next time, Remember, #ItsALearningLife!

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Who- Moved-My-Cheese? 7 -Tips -for- Dealing- with- Change-Video

Revisiting Resilience: I’m an Overcomer and So Are You!

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Robert h.schuller

Think of a time when you were faced with what seemed like the biggest challenge of your life. Or a time where you felt the odds were stacked against you, or when you were faced with a problem that seemed like a mountain that you could not climb and did not have the ability to handle. Each of us have experienced tough times or situations that have made us feel uncertain and unsafe. So, whether it was poverty, loneliness, loss of employment or income, death of a loved one, a life-threatening diagnosis or some other life changing event, we have all had to overcome something, we have all had to be resilient.

Resilience Word Cloud
Resilience Word Cloud

What is Resilience?

According to The American Psychological Association, “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. ” So, when we talk about being resilient, we are talking about one’s ability to bounce back from failures in life, push past setbacks and detours to overcome adversity when even the best laid plans go awry. The COVID-19 pandemic (See previous article) presented us with perhaps the greatest test of our resilience in recent times. Resilience became the super skill to master as both individuals and organizations grappled with the drastic disruptions in life and the world as we knew it.

Both individuals and organizations struggled to deal with the impact of the global shutdown, quarantines, social distancing requirements, masks mandates and guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We saw millions of people lose their lives, families experience immeasurable grief, the burnout of essential workers, unprecedented levels of unemployment as businesses closed and the global economy took a plunge. Organizations have had to figure out how to deliver services to maintain operations in a rapidly changing environment, retain customers and keep their workforce connected and safe. While individuals had to wrestle with how to cope with increased level of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty due to the loss of normal routines, social isolation, illness, and death of loved ones as well as the need to adapt to new demands to do work and school from home. And even today, we are still in the middle of the pandemic and trying to find the best ways to navigate what the new or next normal will look like.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Thomas Edison
Do You Bend or Break?-sign
Do You Bend or Break?-sign

 

Why is Resilience Important?

At some time or another, all of us have had our mettle tested and have found ourselves in situations where we have been challenged to dig deep, be resourceful and creative to cope and respond. Even in this pandemic era, the businesses and organizations that have emerged as the real winners, are those that have adapted quickly to the changes in their industries and used technology to upgrade existing services and find new and creative new solutions to serve their customers effectively. Similarly, the individuals who have managed to thrive during these times are those that have embraced change, identified opportunities from the problems they faced and demonstrated the ability to adapt and learn quickly.

I have observed this same display of resilience with people in my circle and across the world who are making tough situations work and finding ways to push through difficulties and just keep going. Though we all have varying abilities to cope with the stress and uncertainty, we build our resiliency skill by how we respond to the situations we face, that is our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. So, how do you respond? Do you fight or do you give in to fear? Do you hold on to hope or do you despair?

Fish Leaping from Full Bowl to an Empty Bowl
Fish Leaping from Full Bowl to an Empty Bowl

I’m An Overcomer

I remember my “Coming to America” almost nine years ago. I migrated from Jamaica to U.S. with my then 2-year-old daughter and settled in Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. As you can appreciate, one of my main priorities was finding gainful employment equivalent to my skills and professional background. I would love to say that everything worked out as planned but they did not. One of the first challenges I had to navigate was the weather. I had migrated in the month of November in what I now understand was a mild winter. However, coming from a tropical island, getting used to public transportation and the cold weather was difficult and required a huge adjustment. I remember carrying my daughter in my arms as we walked in the cold or waited at a bus stop. Nonetheless, I was keen to maintain a schedule as if I were working for both of us. So, I got up early everyday (Monday – Friday) and braved the weather to drop her off at day care so that I could report to the Employment Center at 8:30 a.m.

When I got to the Employment Center, I took advantage of their job fairs, workshops, and computer facilities and staff to help me do my job search and apply for jobs. Over the days, weeks, and months, I applied at least 30 jobs a week in what felt like the black hole of job search engines with each application requiring a tweaked version of my resume to hopefully get my resume in the hands of a hiring manager. Though I was qualified for the jobs I applied for, I had moved to one of the most competitive job markets in the U.S. with a high concentration of government and technology jobs. I was sitting in workshops with people with PhDs, security clearance and experience working in the states that I did not have. The process was long, disheartening, and frustrating as I did not have a network to lean on and had to build new relationships as I learned to navigate life as a small fish in very big pond.  After almost six months and many failed interviews, I finally landed a part time Administrative Assistant position with local government which was a level I had never functioned at.

The difficulties I encountered did not stop there. For two years, I worked without full benefits while still having to take care of expenses for day care and our one-bedroom apartment. I struggled to find a fulltime position in my professional field and at a level close to what I had done before. When I did find such an opportunity, it was as if I was starting all over again with my first job after graduate school. I tell people that I probably cried more tears in my first five years living in America than I probably did in my entire life. It took another five years until I finally got back into management.

Over that period, I dealt with many personal and professional setbacks and struggled with self-doubt and questions about whether I had made the right decisions to leave my home and job in Jamaica. But failure was not an option. Like many other immigrants before me, I was determined to stick to my plan and do all I needed to do to succeed with my goals and dreams. In the process, I had to reinvent myself, pivot, and adapt to my new environment.  I took advantage of every learning opportunity I could access, enhanced my professional credentials, networked strategically, and used informational interviews and volunteering to build relationships and a new network. I continuously sought out new ways to leverage my skills, engage with others and stay relevant.  And even today, the journey continues.

How to Become Resilient?- Sign in the Sand
Sign in the sand -How to Become Resilient?

How to Become Resilient?

So back to that challenging situation I asked you to reflect on earlier. Were you focused on just surviving the situation, bouncing back, renewal or learning and growing? Resilient people practice all the above. In challenging times, what you do and where you put your focus can make all the difference in the results you achieve. Therefore, when you are faced with the next difficult situation, where will you put your focus? How will you choose to respond?   

  1. Survive and recover:  In this mode, the focus is simply to get through whatever you are dealing with after experiencing one of life’s storm. Here the motivation is for things to get back to normal.
  2. Bounce back:  Setback after setback, are you built to adapt? In this mode, the focus is to embrace the changes happening around you and to demonstrate flexibility to adjust to the shifting circumstances while staying on track.
  3. Renew /reset:  This is the ability to begin again and resume something that you had abandoned after a setback. Here the focus is on finding your groove again to keep the momentum going in the direction of your goal.
  4. Reinvent/create anew:  Since necessity is the mother of all inventions, in this mode, the focus is on seizing opportunities presented by the problems you are facing and trying to find new ways to respond. What is another way I can get this done? What can I do differently?
  5. Change and grow:  How are you learning from your experiences? Here the focus is on the steps you are intentionally taking to improve yourself and your abilities. So, what will you do to help yourself and others?   

Our responses to life’s many challenges will undoubtedly be different, but by choosing faith and hope, we can find the strength to push through. So regardless of what your find yourself dealing with at this stage of your life, I hope you choose to thrive and not merely survive.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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Rated R: That Resillence Factor

If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Winston Churchill

I’ve often heard that quote and found some humor in it (As you might as well). As I wrote this post, I couldn’t think of a better reference for framing what resilience truly means. This quote from Winston Churchill, named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, and widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, provides timeless wisdom that help us understand the concept of resilience. Simply put, resilience (resiliency) refers to one’s ability to bounce back from the adversities (Illness, failures, trauma, disasters, tragedy or loss) experienced in either or personal, or professional lives. Resilience speaks to courage, determination, hope, that will to win or succeed, no matter how tough the race gets, how great the obstacles are, or how difficult the fight.  That resilience factor,  determines not only  how well we adapt and  cope with change, and the challenges life throws at us, but also whether we merely survive or thrive, and even influences how we see ourselves as victors or victims.

“Whether you think you can, or  you think cant- you’re  right.” Henry Ford

Is resiliency a skill, a trait, a talent that comes more naturally to some than other? Probably, but this might not matter in the long run. For me, resiliency is more of a personal quality, a mindset that influences the behaviors some people show in times of great difficulty. And while it may seem that, some people are more disposed or more proficient at it, this might be a result of their different life chances and experiences. We all know someone in our circle(s) of influence (client, friend, family member, and coworker) who has faced adversity. And at one extreme, there are those who seem unable to recover from the situation or event, or move forward. Their stories are filled with despair and hopelessness. On the other end of the spectrum, there are others, who despite the pain, hardships and  setbacks, push pass their circumstances and display that inner courage, determination and a will to succeed despite the odds. How then do we account for these different responses in people? Truth is, we are all wired differently, but that resilience factor can certainly determine an individual chances for success or failure and even their  performance on the job.

“Almost Every Successful Person Begins With Two Beliefs, The Future Can Be Better Than The Present And I Have The Power To Make It So.” Author Unknown

 In today’s unpredictable and rapidly changing environment where organizations exist, resilience has become a highly desired trait for both leaders and employees alike. Organizations are investing significant research, time and money into talent management and leadership development programs to build resilience in their teams and to help employees understand the importance of resiliency. In so doing, resilience is being touted as a “new skill” valued in employees, much like customer service in its heyday. After all, resilient employees make resilient companies.

7 Tips to Become More Resilient

So whether you were born or not born with resiliency as a special skill or trait, you can certainly, develop or hone it. You can deliberately choose to demonstrate resiliency in our responses to setbacks, change and adversity at work or in our personal lives. As you choose, here are a few tips that might help you develop your resiliency:

  • Practice self-awareness by understanding who you are (Strengths, gaps, and talents), and by defining what is important to you (Values).
  • Establish a vision for yourself by determining what your goals are and how you would like your life to be. Once you’ve done this, be resourceful by finding ways and opportunities (Using long and short terms plans) to leverage your skills and talents to achieve your goals.
  • Learn from your failures and mistakes and don’t get derailed by focusing on them. Truth is, you will not be the first or last to suffer setbacks and detours. Acknowledge your current situation and your role in it, and then move forward.
  • Embrace a positive mindset and perspective that will help you make sense of all your experiences and help you overcome your challenges. There is a lesson in every experience and these provide great opportunities for learning.
  • Believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities (even when no one else does) and keep striving towards your goals even when things do not work out as you planned. There will always be people who do not support your goals, surround yourself with the ones who do.
  • Develop positive relationships at work and healthy friendships. Not only will these relationships help you to cope with stress, they will give you key support when times are difficult and also people to share and celebrate your successes.
  • Practice a balanced lifestyle that embraces your spiritual, physical, and emotional self. Remember to pray, rest when you need to and have fun on your journey.

Therefore,  the next time  you find yourself in a difficult situation– Choose to Be Resilient! For as the  great  Jamaican reggae singer and legend  Bob Marley once said, “You Never Know How Strong You Are, Until Being Strong Is The Only Choice You Have.”

Until next time-  Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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