How well and quickly do you recover from difficult, tough or challenging events?
How quickly do you spring or bounce back from circumstances that try you?
How elastic, flexible or pliable are you when you are being tested almost to the limit?
Does your life demonstrate masterful plasticity when faced with adversity?
Do you have true grit and resolve, and do you rise from the ashes after being faced with challenging or even traumatic perceptions or experiences?
Having endurance and resilience is essential for you to have a well-lived life. Otherwise, your added daily distress levels can pile up, resulting from your inability to adapt to your constantly changing world. The perceptions of loss of that which you seek and the perceptions of gain of that which you attempt to avoid are the sources of your various distresses, but your ability to absorb shocking news with equanimity is one of the signs of maturity, wisdom and mastery. Having the fortitude and courage to remain poised or return to poise after being challenged, regardless of perceived circumstances, is essential for living an exemplary, leadership-positioned life.
It is not so much what happens to you that truly matters as much as it is your perceptions, decisions, and actions or response to what happens. These are what you have control over. They are what truly give you power and what make the greatest difference in your life. Taking command of these three neurologically driven processes can make the difference between being a victim of your history or a master of your destiny.
You have two distinct primary areas in your brain that impact the way you react or act to your daily stimuli and events. One is your amygdala, a subcortical area sometimes called “the desire center” that comes online when you are in survival mode and emotionally and sometimes foolishly overreacting to life. Its response is sometimes called “systems 1 thinking” because it is fast reacting and is designed for perceptions of subjective emergency. It is the seat of hindsight. It reacts before it thinks. Your amygdala is particularly responsible for your impulses and instincts and short-term gratification. It is reflexive more than reflective and narrow minded more than broad minded. Because your desire center is more subjective and biased, it is generally more emotionally polarized and often associated with potentially rigid absolutes. It fires off when you are seeking prey (goal-supportive opportunities) and avoiding predators (goal-challenging threats). It assigns emotional valency or charge and initiates elevated dopamine and/or adrenalin responses. It speeds up your aging process and can curtail your immunity.
“You require no extrinsic motivation to act in order to achieve what is most important or valuable to you. You spontaneously pursue whatever this highest priority is.” – Dr. Demartini
Another primary area of the brain is your prefrontal cortex, sometimes called “the executive function center,” that comes online when you are in thrival mode and thoughtfully and wisely pro-acting in life. It is sometimes called “systems 2 thinking” because it is slower acting and is designed for perceptions, thoughtful decisions, actions of utility, meaningful and objective strategies and longer-term purposeful pursuits. It is the seat of foresight and reflection. It thinks before it reacts. Your prefrontal cortex is more responsible for your inspired long-term vision, strategic planning, mitigation of risks, execution of plans and self-governance. Because your executive center is more objective, it is more neutral and adaptable and perceives less fear of loss or gain. It balances out your neurochemistry and governs and enhances your autonomic and immune functions and its resultant alpha and spontaneous gamma waves synchronize your remaining brain along with your heart. It is in this area that a greater level of patience, poise and resilience is born.
So how do you awaken your executive center and its function? This is where living according to priority comes into play. You have a unique fingerprint, a specific set of values or priorities you live your daily life by—your hierarchy of values. Whatever is highest on your list of values, you are spontaneously and intrinsically inspired to do and fulfill. This is where you are most disciplined, reliable and focused. You require no extrinsic motivation to act in order to achieve what is most important or valuable to you. You spontaneously pursue whatever this highest priority is. And whenever you pursue meaningful priorities and challenges that serve others and that inspire you, your life does not fill up with as many distressful challenges that don’t. On the other hand, if you are not filling your day with high priorities that inspire you, your day will be destined to be filled with low-priority distractions that won’t.
When you fill your day with high-priority actions, your blood, glucose and oxygen flow more into your executive center and you become more strategic, objective and resilient. You wake up your natural born leader that may be lying dormant within.
When you do not take command of your day and live according to your highest priorities, your lower priority distractions will inevitably emerge and possibly engulf you. You will become more vulnerable to outside opportunists and time-consuming distractors. Then your blood glucose and oxygen will begin to flow down more into the subcortical area of your brain—the amygdala, the desire center—and initiate a series of more reactive and rigid, subjectively-biased, ungoverned survival reactions. Now your immediate gratifying amygdala and its corresponding gut brain’s impulses and instincts will dominate your behavior and your non-resilient, less efficient and effective distress response will ensue.
When this happens, your adrenal gland will pump out cortisol and the distress response will shrink your space and time horizons and initiate immediate, gratifying survival reactions. Now you will react before you think and have to learn through hindsight, trial and error, instead of foresight and thoughtful strategic planning. You will now be less effective at perceiving, deciding and acting. And you become vulnerable to outer circumstances, more than capable of pursuing your inner yearnings of meaning and the inspirations of your heart.
So, it is ultimately how well you live according to your priorities that can determine your level of resilience. When you “knock your day out of the ballpark” as some say, through living with a clear prioritized agenda and ticking off your highest priority actions or items throughout your day, you feel on top of the world. And you go through your day and come home with more resilience to face whatever is waiting for you.
When you let your perceptions of the outer world’s challenging events dictate your reactions and you put out low-priority distracting fires all day, you can become a grizzly bear—ready to overreact throughout your day and upon returning home.
You, your employees, your friends and your family of loved ones all deserve to see you as your most authentic self, ready with resilience to inspire, lead and exemplify the way. So prioritize your daily actions and delegate your lower priorities to those who would love to take them away. Say yes to what is most important and meaningful and no all the rest. Give yourself permission to master your life with resilience and live with wisdom.