From a perfect mental storm to resilience in 3Ps

Two weeks ago a friend invited me to join his wind-surfing class. I thought, “I loved taking regular surfing classes in California and Hawaii, and now I could add the power of the wind to harness Mother Nature’s energy. Isn’t it awesome?” So, I paid for the class in advance, borrowed surf booties, and even managed to squeeze myself in a full-body wetsuit I bought in 2004. The latter came with a bonus: I didn’t have to shave my legs. Double awesome!

The morning of the trip, however, I began looking for a way out. Do you know that nagging feeling? When I caught myself doing this, I asked: “Why not?” To which, my mind with great enthusiasm and unhelpful sophistication offered a wide menu of excuses: “Ah, it’s too hot outside; too far to drive; what if you fall and break something; it’s a four-hour class and you’ll be dead tired; your back hurts (let me check, yes, it does hurt).” Yada, yada, yada. Clearly, I was stuck in a drive-through of a “bad food for thoughts” restaurant.

Maybe I needed reassurance, a friend who would say, “It’s going to be all right, it’s gonna be fun.” But no one did, because I kept these thoughts to myself. More ruminating led me to ‘realize’ that my life was like a pulse on a hospital monitor: It keeps beeping at regular intervals (which meant that the patient is still alive) but the line is nearly flat with neither highs nor lows. “It’s all my fault that my life is not what I want. And it’d take pure magic to turn it around,” I concluded. Have you heard that on average we have 70,000 thoughts per day, and 80 freaking percent of them are negative? As I failed to be my own reassuring friend, I became the disempowering statistic.

I turned to comfort food (chocolate biscotti in my case), then I paced in my living room to break the cycle, then I turned to Facebook to get my mind numb. After a while, I stumbled on a post by Sheryl Sandberg, FB COO, about the untimely death of her husband, her grief and her ways of coping with it, and the support that she received from friends and strangers alike.  I sobbed reading it. The post and close to a million comments it generated were personal, authentic, raw. What Ms. Sandberg and other people shared gave me a different perspective. Suddenly, I remembered how resilient I have been when unpredictable and unpleasant events happened in my life. Too many to mention, but here I was on my feet again with plenty of reasons to be grateful for. Ms. Sandberg also wrote about the 3 Ps of the perfect mental storm that could be turned into the 3Ps of resilience:

  • Personalization: Accepting that not everything is our fault.
  • Permanence: While we may feel blue at this particular moment, there were times when life was good, in fact amazing, which means that we can and will feel that again.
  • Pervasiveness: Not all areas of our lives are in flux (or deep mess) at the same time. We can always find at least one thing or one person to be grateful for.

Armed with the “3Ps of resilience” perspective, my 70,001 thought was different: “I can’t solve all my big questions in one day. Maybe today isn’t the day to go wind-surfing. It’s ok. There will be tomorrow.”

Then, as if by magic, I got a text message from another friend inviting me to a pool party. So, I put on my bikini, shaved my legs, and took off.



Photo credit: CEBImagery.


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