Last month the Piedmont Post published Part One of my article about resilience, which covered the first characteristic of resilient people: a staunch acceptance of reality. My source for this exploration of resilience is research published by Diane Coutu in the May 2002 Harvard Business Review. According to Ms. Coutu, the second characteristic of resilience is: a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful.
There are two general philosophical positions about life: one is a journey philosophy and the other is a destination philosophy. People I know are not totally one or the other, but one or the other definitely dominates at different points in time. For example, I characterize the destination philosophy as someone who might live with an underlying story like:
• I won’t really be able to relax or enjoy myself until I become an equity partner in a top ten international law firm.
• I won’t really be able to relax or enjoy myself until both our children graduate from Harvard.
• I won’t really be able to relax or enjoy myself until I run a marathon in less than three hours.
The downside to the destination philosophy is that it stops you from living or exhaling until you arrive somewhere or achieve something. In the destination philosophy, meaning is limited to only one possible outcome. The problem is that you may never get there so you may never live fully.
I am not implying that the journey philosophy is a life without goals, dreams, and ambition. The journey philosophy is characterized by the disposition to find meaning everywhere, even when bad things happen, even when destinations and goals are not achieved.
In the midst of the worst recession since the 1930’s, resilient people are asking:
• What is there here for me to learn?
• What new opportunities might this reveal?
• Where do I find peace and strength when stress and disappointment are all around me?
Believe it or not, some of our resilient clients have told us that after the drop in value of their real estate, their investments, and their business, they realized that their “excess wealth” was really a distraction from what is really important to them. Their wealth kept them busy with trips and indulgences that were not particularly deep or satisfying. Now their losses have forced them to go deep inside:
• What do I really count on?
• What do I really care about and value?
• What am I grateful for?
The journey philosophy helps us view life as an adventure. What will happen tomorrow? No matter what it is, where can I find meaning and value? Where can I find myself in this new challenge? In response to material loss, I have witnessed people deepening their marriages, their faith, their experience as parents, and their gratitude for community.
The next time I write this column, I will explore the third characteristic of resilient people: an uncanny ability to improvise.
Jim Bell, CFP® is President and Founder of Bell Investment Advisors, Inc. 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630 in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management and career planning services since 1991. www.bellinvest.com 510-433-1066