Developing Resilience #3

Previously I wrote about Being Calm and Being Confident as building blocks for resilient leadership. The third block of this resilient foundation is to Be Connected. Let’s take a look at what it means to be connected, and why its so important for resilience.

Perhaps there is nothing more frustrating than disconnection. Connection is something we all long for. Its such a strong universal value that marketing of “being connected” through technology makes a ton of commercial sense, even though I don’t really like this ad. After all, who personally longs for days filled with isolation and separation? The ability to form healthy attachments, called bonding, is pretty fundamental to becoming a healthy adult, having a healthy family, and even a thriving organization, but it takes more than a quality mobile phone connection. In fact, there is a good argument that technology’s appeal to deepen connection has often made us worse at it. But that’s a discussion for another day. Without quality attachment and connection, families and workplaces become individual islands stuffed into the same space, all vying for attention and relevance. Proximity does not equal connection.

Here are three key connections that if we attend to, will keep us growing and adapting to the challenges we face in life and leadership. Even if we have bad cell phone coverage…

Our relationship with God. As a follower of Jesus, who promises to dwells in and with us, we need to stay connected to him. Sin is ultimately about separation from his will and his best desires for us. So I need to keep present in my relationship with him. That obviously involves acknowledging and repenting when I’m doing my own thing. But perhaps more importantly, its seeking to live with awareness of his presence in me, and that he is for me. You could call that, “Abiding”. It can be easy to think about what to avoid (sin), but the Christian life is about abundance, not just trying to keep from making mistakes. Lots could be said about this, but here is a key question to consider: What does my attachment, or connection to Jesus look like right now?

To develop that connection, consider a way to start your day with Jesus, and something in the middle, and then at then end of the day. For example, as I begin my day, I routinely yield myself to him with a simple prayer that I will Go, Do, Say, and Give, whatever He wants me to this day.\, and acknowledging the control of the Spirit of Christ in my life. During the day, I periodically try to remind myself that he is with me and for me. At the end of the day, I say a short prayer as my head hits the pillow, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Its just to acknowledge have that I’ve fallen short in ways I don’t even remember, and that I need his forgiveness each day. And that I want to be connected to Him above all else. I read once where its not so much that my sins separate me from God, but that my separation i.e. disconnection, from God will lead me to sin.

Our relationship with ourselves. This is about my emotional self-awareness. Emotions will control us more than we want to admit. I’m pretty sure no one ever rationally thought themselves in to addictive and destructive behaviors. Feelings of despair, fear, failure, and shame all feed and drive us to disconnect from what brings life, and connect to false hopes for peace, or significance, or belonging.

Almost 20 years ago as I faced some deep personal and vocational challenges and disappointments, I met with a counselor. One of the first things she did was push a one page list of feelings across the table and ask me to pick one or two of the words that best reflected my feelings at the moment. I was a bit in shock, and though I can’t remember the words I chose, I remember how hard it was to admit them. The vulnerability it brought was piercing. I still have that same sheet of paper, and use it regularly, along with making maybe hundreds of copies that I’ve given away to others. The list helped me to identify what was really going on inside -not the image I wanted to project and protect of myself – which led to the simple question, “what is that about”? It helped me understand what was happening under the surface, and to deal with the emotional pain points driving my behaviors.

This emotional awareness is ongoing, but we need to start somewhere. My recommendation is to find yourself a similar list (google “printable list of emotions”) or download the free app “How We Feel”, and start to use once a day. Or at least, if this feels really weird at first, try it once a week to get you going. And ask yourself “what is that about?” and see where this takes you.

Our relationship with others. If our connection with God and ourselves is growing, there is a good shot that we can be connected in a healthy way to others. Jesus even says that loving God and loving others – as we love ourselves – is his greatest and highest desire for us. And his aim is for us to have an abundant life, not a narrow and boring one, preoccupied with rules and image management. Being connected to others isn’t a point in time victory – it’s a process, and it’s about not getting stuck. Relationships will be difficult at various times, even with people that we most love, like a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. Not to mention colleagues, neighbors, friends. Being connected in a healthy way is not trying to be best friends with everyone, or hoping things always feel easy and fun when you’re together. Great connections are forged through difficult times.

For now, identify someone you want to be more connected to, and maybe just reach out to them with a text, phone call, note, etc., and just let them know you are thinking of them, and hope they are having a great day and that they are amazing (in some specific way) And that you’d like to talk more soon. Maybe it will involve an apology, or genuine affirmation that you wish you’d given. Or just letting them know you care about their life and situation. If you meet, put the smartphone away, give them good eye contact, and find out how its going with them. And after they tell you, ask them to tell you more. Real interest and empathy will resonate. It will also build your resilience – as well as the person you are connecting with.

Being connected – to God, self, and others – is a lifelong process. No one nails it. That’s impossible. But our capacity to love and be loved will grow, and that is a foundation that will help us both enjoy life, face it’s adversities, and help others in the process.

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