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Motivating Ourselves in Hard Times
By Susan Dunn

A couple of years ago, psychologist Al Siebert who’s studied resilience and is the author of “The Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too, wrote an article for a disabilities website. I’ve saved it because I think it applies to all of us, and I found it meaningful.

Here are some of the tips he gave:

bullet“Stay connected. Decide you want to connect well with others.” Research has proven the isolation is more detrimental to our wellness than high blood pressure, obesity of smoking, and isolation can occur in a roomful of people. Connect. If you need some lessons in this, that’s what coaches are here for.


bullet“If you have a “victim” habit pattern, replace it with one that gets you what you want.”


bullet“Learn to tell your survivor story so it helps and inspires others. Don’t be an emotional crybaby.”

I have been more inspired by the personal “survivor” stories I’ve heard from other people than by anything else in my life. We need desperately to learn from survivors, because we all have our crosses to bear, and because we never know what the future will bring.

When I’m down I think of Churchill and Roosevelt, two disabled people who the Allies in a very difficult time. I don’t think it was an accident that they led their countries at this time. These two men knew resilience because of their personal tribulations – Roosevelt being paralyzed from the waist down, and Churchill having his “black dog,” his lifelong depression.

Roosevelt told the nation “The only thing we have to fear it fear itself,” and because he’d been there, we listened. Churchill gave us “Never give up. Never, never, never, never.”


bullet“Ask for what you want from others. Thank them if they respond.” This is so gently put. When we can reach that state of acceptance – of “possibilities” without “expectations,” our lives go so much better.


bullet“Replace constant preoccupation with yourself by increasing empathy for others. This includes knowing what it’s like for people to be around you.”

I was marketing a church at one time and worked closely with the minister. There was a woman who had been in a car accident which paralyzed her from the waist down, and killed her father and brother. Her way back to wellness was along once, a struggle we all watched with agony and what support we could give. At one crucial point the minister told me it was “time.” He was going to “sentence her” to become a Big Sister for a solid year. Get it?


bullet“Look for the meaning in your experience as Victor Frankl did, a holocaust survivor”. If you don’t know his story, look here. Frankl’s prime inspiration for existing in the death camp was Nietzsche’s statement, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”

Self-esteem, says Siebert, is how you feel about yourself, and what determines how much you LEARN after something goes wrong. It acts as a buffer against “the slings and arrows of fortune.”

And while, we’re there, we know that few have been or will be as eloquent as Shakespeare. Hear him on adversity:

Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing. --Shakespeare, "As You Like It." Act ii. Sc. 1.

Yes, sweet are the adversities when we can grow and learn through hard times, keep our faith and hope in the future, and find good in every thing.

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Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers positive psychology coaching and Internet courses in emotional intelligence, optimism, strengths and resilience. She has EQ products available for licensing for individuals and businesses. She is the author of numerous ebooks, is widely published on the Internet, and a regular speaker for cruise lines.

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