Perhaps you’ve heard or read a version of the story related to the title of this article. In the story, a dejected daughter tells her mother how difficult her life is with one problem after another, and how she just wants to give up.
The mother takes her daughter into the kitchen and heats up three pots of water to a boil. She places a carrot in one pot, an egg in another, and ground coffee beans into the third pot. In about 20 minutes, she pulls the carrot and egg out of the water and places them into separate bowls.
From the third pot she retrieves a cup of coffee. She then asks her daughter what she sees and the daughter replies “a carrot, an egg, and coffee.”
Her mother goes on to explain how each object had faced the same condition of the boiling water, yet each had turned out differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting and came out soft and weak. The egg went in with a fragile shell protecting its insides and came out with its insides hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique in that they had changed the water.
The story of the egg, carrot and ground coffee beans is a metaphor that explores various ways people react to and are impacted by adversity:
Some occur organically, such as the death of a loved one from natural causes. Others may occur by accident, deliberate acts, disease, bad decision making, or just plain old bad luck. How you navigate through those things and come out on the other side is impacted by your level of resiliency.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It is also defined as the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad has happened.
What resilience is not is a means to bypass processing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions experienced when a mishap occurs in our lives. For example, there are various stages of grief that have been identified, although everyone’s experience of grief is unique. The point is, it’s a process.
Even though our resiliency muscles have probably strengthened organically by virtue of the simple fact that we’ve lived longer, thus experienced more adversity, cultivating those skills remains important as we age and continue to be faced with challenges such as health issues, financial insecurity, loss of loved ones, loneliness, and other challenges.
The following are some habits that may help us develop a stronger foundation for thriving in general and that may also come in handy when facing future adversity. Better yet, they could help us avoid certain unwanted events all together.
It’s simple. You are better able to tackle anything life throws your way if you practice the sound habits of eating well, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of rest. In other words, eat a rainbow of veggies, take a walk (or participate in another physical activity you enjoy) and catch your zzzs!
Practice controlled breathing on a regular basis to help you learn to regulate your autonomic nervous system responses, especially if you tend to be overly reactive. There’s an abundance of information available online including such practices as “box breathing” and “4-7-8 breathing.” Don’t forget to get your doctor’s blessing first!
Cultivate healthy mental habits such as mindfulness meditation, positive thinking, a gratitude practice, reading, and mental acuity exercises. It’s also important to have fun! Let your inner child out to play and find something to laugh about every day!
It doesn’t have to be a large network but be sure to include one or a few people that have your best interests at heart and who you know you can count on when crises or difficult situations arise.
Not to oversimply, but realize you are not powerless when it comes to dealing with adversity and building resilience. Construct a strong foundation to help yourself weather hard times and remember to use some or all of the suggestions above to better navigate those times when they occur.
And just like the ground coffee beans that were transformed by the boiling water into a cup of coffee, you too can use difficult times to transform yourself into a stronger, more vibrant, and well-adjusted person, which in turn builds even more resilience!
What has helped you most in navigating and overcoming adversity? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in the process?