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Texas has finally thawed from what will be remembered as the worst winter storm of our lives – I hope! Multiple waves of both ice and snow decimated our power grid, leaving almost all of Texas without power at some point. Suffice it to say, our infrastructure isn’t built with this type of weather in mind. Power outages left houses vulnerable to subzero temperatures resulting in frozen pipes and plenty of social media pictures of people flushing toilets with melted snow from their yards. One contractor I spoke with said the insurance claims from this storm are expected to be greater than all those submitted from Hurricane Sandy. All in all, I think it would be fair to describe the event as catastrophic. Yet in the midst of all the tragedy, stories of triumph began to emerge. All built around one common theme – people helping other people. I’m reminded of the words of James, the brother of Jesus, when he wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” What James calls perseverance, I call resilience.

Webster defines resilience in two ways: (1) the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; (2) the ability to spring back into shape. Resilience is synonymous with another term both researchers and the military have been studying for years – hardiness. Psychological hardiness became a popular topic in the early 1960’s. Researchers discovered certain people possessed the ability to handle difficulty easier, and they embarked on a quest to discover why. As a result of their research, they determined hardiness, or resiliency, is associated with three factors – commitment, control, and challenge.

Commitment is simply presence. It’s the ability to stay engaged in the task or situation in front of you. Control is how people respond to difficulty. In other words, resilient people recognize they can’t control external factors in their lives, but they can control their internal response to those factors. Challenge is living life believing you can learn from any situation, good or bad. Funny it took a couple thousand years for science to confirm what James wrote in the Bible. People who face their trials head on, who internally decide to control their response, and who see difficulty as an opportunity to learn something do better in life.

The military has data to back this up. In two separate studies, one in special forces candidates, the other in West Point cadets, they determined resiliency was the number one attribute associated with greater graduation rates in special forces training as well as greater leadership capacity in West Point graduates. Resiliency matters to the military because they put their people in harm’s way, which increases stress. Here’s what the military considers the top primary stress factors on soldiers in deployment. See if you can relate to any of these.

Isolation / Ambiguity / Powerlessness / Boredom / Danger / Workload

It’s quite normal for one of these to trigger stress in our lives. But rarely do humans experience all of them at the same time. This is why major catastrophic life events are so difficult. They force you to experience four, five, or even all six simultaneously. James is right, trials do produce perseverance. But the good news is resiliency can be trained. Here are two ways you can become more resilient.

The first is get connected. You need to be connected to a community of people. The formation of community as a result of tragedy is how people resolve to get through hard events in their lives. Remember 9/11? But for all the stories we heard of strangers helping strangers during this winter storm, what you didn’t hear were all the connected communities of people who were supporting each other as well. CrossFit is unique in the fitness space because of its communal focus. If you only workout with a class but never get to know the people, you’re really missing out. Community is essential to overall health because it is a critical component of our spiritual nature. Better resilience will come from getting connected. It will also come from staying hopeful.

Hope is more than an optimistic view of life. I know plenty of glass half full people who don’t respond well when the stress is on. Hope is a gut level belief that everything will work out as it should. Here’s the problem – you can put your hope in almost anything. Another way to think of hope is trust. What would you trust that everything will work out as it should? Because that’s some pretty big trust right there. I spent 39 years trusting everything from people to careers to 401k’s to my own talents. Let me save you some agony and let you know without hope in God, you’ll never be as resilient as you could. Believe me you’ll weather some storms. But sooner or later the 2021 Texas winter storm is going to blow into your life. And when that happens, without faith in God, it will be more difficult. Hope in God builds resiliency.

Find a community of people dedicated to something bigger than themselves. Find hope in the one true God who loves you and is for you. Find difficult situations and embrace them. There you will discover more than just purpose in life. You will find resilience.

Questions for Reflection:

Which stressor do you best respond to? Which triggers you the most and why?

Isolation / Ambiguity / Powerlessness / Boredom / Danger / Workload

What training methods do you use for resiliency? What have you found to be most effective?

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