“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” -Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

As much as we love smooth waters, an Arab proverb states that smooth waters do not make skilful sailors.

“What type of person will I be when the storm arises?” Advanced life skills are needed to navigate these sometimes treacherous waters.

The study of resilience has identified us to some of these advanced life skills that I’m going to share with you. Think on these resilience factors so that can be ready to successfully navigate the storms in your life.

Creativity- Creativity is using the imagination in a way that, once again, helps you mobilize your resources and navigate tough situations in life. Creativity and humor are related resiliencies. One of the most helpful tools to tapping creativity during hard times is the practice of freehand journaling every morning in order to tap into your inner resources. Other helpful forms of creativity may include drawing, listening to music, painting, walking in nature, and meditation.

Humor -Humor is an offshoot of creativity. Learn not to take yourself or life too seriously! Learn to cultivate your sense of humor, because when you do, it will help you play in the midst of difficulty, shape your reality by offsetting pain, and help you laugh in the face of the absurdity of your pains and troubles. By no means do I mean that you should minimize or pretend that your troubles don’t exist. However, being able to find humor in every situation will help you cope more effectively. Learn to enjoy funny books or movies. Laugh often.

Morality and Values- This means that you have identified your core personal values, and that you are living and acting on the basis of an informed conscience. It means that you have developed a philosophy of living and a moral framework and principles for behaving and decision making. Ultimately, these values and principles will serve as roots that will give you nourishment when the storms of adversity pound against you.

Insight- The life skills here involve learning to ask tough questions and to give honest answers. It’s about asking yourself hard questions — about your strengths and weaknesses, for example, or about the role you play in your own problems — and giving yourself honest answers. When going through hard times, the questions you choose to ask yourself are key to how what you will focus on and how you will handle the storm.

Here are some suggested questions to help you develop insight about your difficulties:

“How did I manage to get up this morning and get through the day?”

“What’s kept me going day after day despite feelings of hopelessness?”

“How is it (“What have I done so) that things are not worse?”

“What’s kept me from completely giving up?”

“How did you learn to cope with such an awful situation?”

 Independence- Research has shown that adults who emerged in healthy ways from distressing childhoods practiced independence as defined in the following way: they distanced themselves emotionally and physically from the sources of trouble their life. Independence begins in children with straying – wandering away when trouble is in the air. In adolescents, independence grows into emotional disengagement – detaching from troublesome situations and standing up for oneself. In adults, independence takes form in separating – taking control over the power of one’s pain.

2 Ways to practice independence when adversity comes your way:

  1. Give it time. Take the time to acknowledge the pain of the adversity, but also take charge of it by distancing yourself from it. This is very different from denial, or repressing pain by pretending that it does not exist. Resilient people allow themselves to experience pain, but they share it with trusted friends, and they also do other things to distance themselves from the pain.
  2. Set boundaries. Only allow yourself certain times to think about or reflect on the adversity. If you are prone to worry, schedule 15 minutes of worry time. Then, when painful feelings or worry come up, tell yourself, “I’ve got my worry time scheduled–I’ll think about it then.”

Initiative- Initiative is the ability to take charge of problems, instead of being overwhelmed by them. You must learn that if you are ever going to live long and with significance in this world, you are going to have to accept and embrace adversity as a challenge and opportunity, rather than something to be overwhelmed by. The bigger your dreams and goals, the more adversity you can expect.

It takes a degree of mental toughness and creativity to approach the problems of living in a way that will benefit you the most. I suggest utilizing Tony Robbins’ power questions both to approach the daily hassles of living as well as the bigger crises that come into your life.

Here are the morning power questions according to Tony Robbins in Awaken the Giant Within:

  1. What am I happy about in my life now?
  2. What am I excited about in my life now?
  3. What am I proud about in my life now?
  4. What am I grateful about in my life now?
  5. What am I enjoying in my life right now?
  6. What am I committed to in my life right now?
  7. Who do I love? Who loves me?

 In the most responsible and developed stage of morality and values, we have an obligation to use our gifts and talents to serve others, even in the midst of suffering and pain. I cite some examples here: Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. These are only a few examples of persons who tapped into morality and spirituality in the midst of adversity.

I hope that you will use these advanced life skills to successfully navigate the ups and downs of life, both the seemingly small, and the very big.