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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter


A key, preliminary part of resiliency is self-reflection. Not a lot is said about it other than "think about stuff that's happened in your past and try to do better than the last time." While somewhat helpful, that is more of a platitude then a set of steps or instructions to try to emulate. I believe, much like overall resiliency, there are five essential parts to effective self-reflection. 1) Reflect on a past challenge. 2) Analyze all angles of that challenge. 3) Adjust your approach for success in this new situation. 4) Implement the plan for success. 5) Finally, repeat the reflection process as many times as necessary.

Rebekah Gregory reflects on many of her life challenges throughout Taking My Life Back. I initially thought these reflections were building a "poor me" story and honestly almost stopped reading the book until I realized what she was doing. She was presenting past challenges where she did not actively try to overcome or speak out. Situations where she was a spectator in her own life while others did the heavy lifting for her. Her challenge of completely reorganizing her life around her "new normal" after the Boston Marathon Bombing was not one she could watch from the sidelines and expect success. She was going to have to be resilient and take ownership if she truly wanted to get back to being fulltime Noah mom again. She was going to have to try a new approach using knowledge gained from her past situations. Let's take a closer look at some of the stories she shares in the book and how they demonstrate this self-reflection process.

1) Reflect on a past challenge. It can be worse, lesser, or similar in magnitude than the current one. It does not have to be the same type of challenge. Meaning if your current challenge is the loss of a loved one you do not have to reflect on another time you lost someone. It can be totally different just as long as it stands out to you. Rebekah was not a stranger to hospitals when she was admitted after the bombing. Years earlier, she hit a deer very early in the morning on a quiet part of road and, had it not been for her seat belt, she most likely would have died ( pg. 105-106). She had to spend two weeks on bed rest focusing on healing which probably seemed like a cake walk compared to her 37 days of in-patient care after the bombing. This event was similar to her bigger challenge and I am sure it strengthened her during the second healing process because she knew she had endured the deer trial first.

2) Analyze every angle. How did you react emotionally? Physically? Rebekah reflects a lot on her childhood and adolescence in the book. She notes how she would dettach from situations by mentally going to the boughs of the tree behind her house and viewing the world from that angle rather than in the present reality. Her father was abusive. He was fun and outgoing one minute, when they were in public, and the next minute imaginary alarm bells and warning lights would be going off all around her. She even names her approach the "Sad Skill" which is how she would push all of the negative emotions, fears, and tensions down deep into the depths of her pshyche and "keep it all smiles around friends" pg. 77. This eventually gave her Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which is a neurological illness that affects the signals the brain sends to the heart for adjusting rate and blood pressure. She could have reacted to her bombing challenge in the same way - by refusing to acknowledge the pain, grief, and struggle - but the results of this reaction in her past steered caused her to move on to step three.

3) Adjust your approach for success in this new situation. Rebekah's mother had endured unspeakable treatment before she boldly applied for divorce from her abusive husband. Her actions and will power modeled deep determination for Rebekah years before she almost lost her life on the pavement in Boston. Her mom is a believer in "talk is cheap and what you do is who you really are" pg. 62. Rebekah reflected on this attitude compared to her own attitude, the Sad Skill, and she adjusted her approach to more closely mirror her mother's.

4) Implement the plan for success. This is where the steps we talked about in our PREVIOUS post come into play. Get determined! You will succeed and rise above this challenge using knowledge from your past experiences and the five resiliency steps. "We certainly can't always control our lives, but we can control how we meet challenges" pg. 144.

5) Finally, repeat the reflection process as many times as necessary. It is almost never a one-and-done process. You will have to continue to reflect and modify. No single, past experience will ever have all of the ingredients to your success in your new situation. It will be a combination of lessons you have learned through many situations. Be patient! Do not quit or give up! You will have to be your own biggest cheerleader. There will be helpers, as Rebekah calls them, along your journey. Look for them and embrace them but keep a determined eye on yourself. Rebekah reflects that "without a clear sense of [her] own strength and a believe in [her] power of determination, [she] risked moving from being handicapped to being an invalid" pg. 171. I often tell clients "I cannot want your success more than you want it." Meaning, I cannot be a bigger cheerleader for you then you are. Be self aware enough to notice when you are running out of momentum and look again for past challenges to motivate you forward.

I had to do this a few times on a recent trail run I competed in on the island of Jeju, South Korea. I went with a group of friends and it is safe to say we underestimated the challenge we met. I cannot wait to tell you all about it in my next post on Nov 22. Until then, let me know what you think about this wonderful story of survival in the comments box, on social media, or send me an email! I love hearing from y'all. Happy reading!

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