I’m guessing many of us read articles about work-life balance, which suggests we are happiest when we keep the demands of work and life equal to be effective at both. But losing your equilibrium is much more damaging. Personal equilibrium is when we can keep all opposing forces in our lives in balance, or we can quickly restore that balance when something knocks us off kilter. Think of a marble at the bottom of a bowl; it’s in equilibrium, and even if the bowl is tipped, it will experience a restoring force and return to position.
Which is what we need to do – develop actions that will bring our life back in balance when unplanned forces disrupt our equilibrium.
To be clear, I am not suggesting we stay static. Planned changes often have a very positive impact on our lives; job changes, graduating from college, marriage, parenthood. It usually doesn’t take us long to find growth and a new balance in our lives.
The unplanned forces can cause us to lose our mooring and drift into rough waters.
I experienced this when I deployed to Iraq.
For the first several weeks, I felt lost and I had to determine what I needed to get back in balance. It wasn’t until I was able to find a way to have regular contact with my family, adjust to the time zone and weather, and go for runs within the walls of a FOB (Forward Operating Base) – it’s a lot of repetition. It wasn’t until I determined my mission and got to know my peers that I finally felt back in control.
Resilience restores equilibrium.
Resilience is being able to quickly regain our balance when life throws at us the unexpected. Resilience is the ability to withstand, recover, and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. It is not something you either have or don’t have, but something you must develop and nourish.
Let’s look at the six essential traits to build resilience and restore equilibrium when disrupted.
- Self-Awareness – The ability to understand and be aware of different aspects of yourself – traits, behaviors, and feelings. It allows you to evaluate yourself in response to the unexpected. When we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident, make sounder decisions and communicate more effectively.
- Self-Regulation – The ability to recognize and combat our negative behaviors and manage disruptive thoughts and impulses. It’s challenged in the face of multiple cognitive, emotional, and environmental threats.
- Optimism – The ability to actively recognize the positive in any situation. As humans, we naturally look for threats to preserve self-protection, so we must consciously develop the skill to “hunt for the good stuff.” Optimism and gratitude build perspective, which serves us well in challenging times.
- Mental agility – The ability to think quickly, flexibly, and accurately. Avoid thinking traps, like catastrophic and circular thinking. Recognize your biases and rely on mature problem-solving skills.
- Character Strengths – Know your strengths and weaknesses and apply your strengths to overcome challenges. Know the strengths of others and collaborate to overcome challenges.
- Strengthen Relationships – Positive relationships are essential to resilience, and destructive relationships can threaten your equilibrium. One must know how to communicate effectively in a constructive, active way rather than a passive destructive way.
This past year has been especially tough for all of us, and I can say I have personally lost my own equilibrium. Yet by revisiting the basics of resilience, I was able to get my life back in balance.