Resilience Evil … This too shall pass

Yoda

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”

– Nelson Mandela

Over the past years, thousands of self-help books and articles were written about resilience. Lots have been said on this matter – yet I do not necessarily agree with all the theories exposed, and whilst I am not a resilience expert, I have read a lot about it and had to exercise resilience rather regularly over the past months … So I decided to join the group of “people who write about resilience”.

First things first, what is resilience about ? To make things simple, resilience refers to the ability to deal with change and to adapt to it. It is the ability to resist to pressure, in a sound way. By sound way, I mean without passing through depression or moments of black out or freak out ( which is not the easiest part)

If you look at the definition of resilience on the Oxford Dictionary website, they also refer to the resilience of material ( a piece of fabric), stating that it is “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape”

For mankind, resilience is most of the time used when talking about challenging life situations (death of a beloved, loss of a job, major life changing conditions) etc …

When in the middle of a crisis situation, a resilient person will not let adversity define her. She will actually manage to keep on going and find ways to overcome the TEMPORARILY situation she is facing.

You may remember that “ when life gives you lemons” quote …  (make lemonade, Caipirinha, delicious lemon cake .. ) – well resilience would be this ability to make a good things out of the sour lemons you could be given.

Resilience is for me a critical skill that all of us should work on. Yes, I said work on, because resilience is actually something that all of us can develop. There is not such a thing as genetics in being resilient. Of course, some people may be stronger or more optimistic than others, but the point is that we all can develop this “resilience” muscle. Resilience has been proven to help managing stress and reducing risks of depression – so those 2 reasons should be hopefully a good incentive for all of us to keep on this direction.

The point of this post is above all to clarify conceptions I had about resilience and share them with you in case you might find them useful for your future practice. I will make a “how to resilience on a separate post”.

Resilience does not consist in pretending everything is ok

Resilience indeed is made to help you overcome tough situations but it does not imply that you should bluntly pretend that everything is ok and do as if nothing had happened, especially if this is not the case.

On the contrary, the first path to resilience is to accept and be honest with your emotions of the moment. By being able to externalize, interpret and translate how you feel about a situation, you will be in a better shape to overcome the challenge you are being thrown at.

Trying to put a brave face and smile, saying that there is no problem at all, whilst thinking the contrary is for me a dangerous way of coping with a tough situation and taking the risk of this hitting you back further down the line.

The thin line is to be able to move forward once you have acknowledged all the possibly tough emotions and pains you were facing – else this could then lead you to possible episodes of depression.

Being resilient is not something that you acquire from one day to another

Resilience is something that you will learn to develop with time and with experiences as you progress through life. As mentioned above, some people may be more equipped for resilience than others, but you will be able to become a resilient guru with practice.

Whether we like it or not, as pretty as life is, we all know that there will be moments where our hearts, patience and guts will be tested, and as you go through those difficult moments, resilience will make a whole lot difference on the way you will go through those challenging moments. Think about resilience as a “sport” … the more your practice the better you will get. You never saw a sedentary person waking up one day saying he will go running his first half marathon the coming Sunday … it goes the same way for resilience. You will learn to deal with situations and to get over it more and more “easily” ( I do not like that word too much as some life events may still be pretty hardcore) the more you practice resilience.

“Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure”

This quote comes from an article published in the  Harvard Business Review by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan

I think this is a great way to explain what resilience is about and also how to build it. Too often we tend to forget that resilience is about how we recharge and not about how much we can cope with. Without recharging, we would not be able to be the resilient guru we would love for very long.

This article backed with scientific data explains that that our ability to become resilient is driven by our ability to recover and to be able to take “breaks” in the middle of the “resilience battle”. This is particularly true in the professional environment. Achor and Giellan explained : “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again”.

The comparison I would use to explain what could happen if you do not take break and  to recharge is stress. Stress is initially an engineering term that define an amount of pression that is being applied to an object, and which with time tend to deform the object. Compressive stress will tends to squeeze the object, tensile stress will stretch it and shear stress will cut it. So think about yourself as a body which submitted to regular pressure and tensions from the day to day life. If you are not taking breaks or stop being in the middle of the agitation, but instead only go for the resilience battle … you may find under continuous pressure, ending-up stressing you at the very best or exhausting you.

Life is already challenging on its own, so be sure to remember to be kind to yourself and to take those moments to recharge so your resilience abilities remain strong over time

Resilience is not to be used to make up for someone’s else cowardice.

Do not let people use the concept of resilience to make you accept the bad decision making or justify such or such unpleasant action they are about to tell you.

Indeed you will need to be resilient if this person is about to tell you something unpleasant, but who is the best placed to support you on the resilience path is you. I have seen too often individuals or organizations telling people us that one must remain resilient because they are about to tell or do something that will most likely be upsetting.

Example: “Well dear, you gonna have to be resilient because the company is not doing well and you may at some point be impacted  … “

Well … Fair enough.  No one could challenge the logic that if you are more likely going to have to leave the company (unwillingly) you will have to build resilience to accept this “ending”. Yet there is a difference between you being resilient in front of an adverse situation versus a third party dropping the resilience magic word just before telling you something that will hurt you, or because they do not want to bear the responsibilities and consequences of what they are about to do or say. Resilience should not be used as an excuse to redeem someone from the responsibilities of its acts or says, or poor decision making.

So there we are … those were several clarifications I think are worth keeping in mind. I am sure there is a lot to be said still on that topic. Keep in mind that eventually, being resilient is a journey, there will be moments where it will be easier than other, but do not give up, because this is something that will help you to make it through life, which as beautiful as it can be, will also shake us up. As Alain to Botton rightly said  “One’s doing well if age improves even slightly one’s capacity to hold on to that vital truism: “This too shall pass.”

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In 2000 I will be as glamour as Jennifer Aniston. A modern tale on why you should have less expectations towards your expectations.

If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail. – Heraclitus

I can still remember when my friends and I were fantasizing about how life would be in 2000… We were lucid enough to know that cars would probably not be flying yet, but still creative with regards to how our future selves would look like. As far as I was concerned, I thought that on 2000, my 14 years old self would have long hair, braces and the charisma of … Jennifer Aniston (?! … Friends was running high at that time)

Years passed and as we welcomed 2000, there were neither braces nor long hair, and charisma … probably as much as what a donut would have. Life went on, and I must admit that I quite quickly overcame and accepted the fact that things did not turn out as expected.

Years passed and as I started to work, I recall a conversation I had with my boss (and friend) back at the time, around how I was seeing my career path as well as my personal projects. In a nutshell, it was : working all over the world until reaching 25/28 and then consider moving to France and settle down. Again … years passed and if I look where I am today, it is the same story as the Jenifer Anniston glam … reality can be quite skewed from expectations.

Was I ever disappointed or sad with those 2 episodes ? Hell No!!!

Surprised : Yes, and for the very best to be honest.

This is not meant to be mean or to turn the back to whoever was by my side at those times – but just to show how plans can simply derails from expectations, and get us in much different and often better situations than what we may have imagined for ourselves.

Of course, those are rather “trivial” examples of expectation vs. reality, but talking with friends and sharing experiences with them recently, we tended to come down to the same conclusion.

When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is. – Tara Brach

Does it mean you should live a life with no goals ? Absolutely not.

Does it mean that among the goals and objectives you want to achieve, there should be room for the unexpected ? I would tend to think so.

By focusing on your goal, you are taking ownership and responsibility for where you want to go, whilst by letting down expectations, you are opening yourself to a universe of (unknown) possibilities as to how you may get there. In essence, focus on the moment and on the what, more than on the should, remembering that it is not because things do not go as expected that they are necessarily wrong.

As The Dalai Lama  said, sometimes not having what you want is a wonderful  stroke of luck.

The pursuit of happiness

Henry Ford

“Happiness is the art of never holding in your mind the memory of any unpleasant thing that has passed.” ( Unknown)

Celebrating 1 year living in Brazil, one of my dearest dreams, I gave a thought about the pursuit of happiness – which led me to where I am today.

You may say I am a dreamer, you may think I am futile or that I live in a world wearing pink glasses … I am OK with it. I won’t stop believing that as much as everyone has the right to freedom, we all have the right to be happy.

As easy as it may sound or as it is to say, happiness may though not be so easily reachable. Proof of this, is that  hundreds of articles distilling advice on how to be happy are released daily on the internet.

I am though so thankful because most of my family, friends and entourage are overall happy and content with their life. However, our appreciation of happiness, our ability to feel happy, and our belief that we truly deserve to be happy will vary throughout our lives.

Even if thankfully – little is required to be happy, there may be projects and prospects of happiness that will be harder to reach as we live.

There will be days where you feel like walking on clouds, with a light mind and a light heart, yet there will be days when you will be stuck and feel that you can’t take it anymore, and that you cannot get or deserve what you are dreaming about. That is for those days that I am writing this, should you ever need something to get you out of struggles.

Whenever you doubt about your right to be happy, whenever you lie in bed eyes opened looking at the ceiling, lost in thoughts. Whenever you ask yourself if you deserve what is happening to you, whenever you wrongly tell yourself “enjoy what is happening now because it is not going to last” or “you are not deserving what is happening to you” or “why should you get to experience such a nice life when other people are suffering”.

Whenever such thoughts ever come to your mind, I want you to remember that you are entitled to happiness and that you are the only one who can make it happen.

It will require energy, risks taking, and in some instances battling, but you can make it. Battles does not mean fighting or being mean, and it does not require to hurt others, but it surely means standing up for your cause – always respecting others, and yourself.

There will be times when, as you are about to reach your goal, you may suddenly feel like being at the edge of a cliff, paralyzed and afraid of making one more step forward. Be brave enough, it will pass.

Nowadays, one of the most common reasons for people not being happy or not being as happy as they truly deserve is the weight of their past. We are surely the results of situations and choices made in the past, and even if we cannot erase them from our personal history, nothing and no one is allowed to hold this past against us nor hold us back from being happy TODAY, TOMORROW, because of what happened yesterday.

We are not defined by our past, but we are who we are because of it. 

There will be doubts, there will be fears, there will be ghosts of the past, there will be people “knocking at the door of your conscious”. It is up to you to decide if you want to let them in.

There will be jealous, lost or sad people trying to influence or discourage you from getting what you want and being where you want. No doubts about it… but I would just tell them to go and love themselves and help them getting out of the negative spiral they may be caught in. Though do not let them make you walk away from what is yours, especially because happiness is positively contagious.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

Eventually what Henry Ford said is very applicable to this theme … ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

Happy Bastille day France

 

Lampion

The national day in France is on July 14th : Bastille Day. The celebration of Bastille day consists in having a Firework and the Firemen dance ball, and every town in the country would have its own. Some are nice, some are as kitsch as possible, but in the end, it is a nice opportunity to get outside and have fun.

As I grew up, I used to go the Bastille days’ celebration almost every year. Even though I enjoyed it, I never really paid extra attention to the event as it was kind of a tradition, almost a routine. As I started working 4 years ago, I did not have the opportunity to go to the celebration. The first 2 years without going were ok… I could live without it. The 2 other years were more painful, as I actually realized it was part of my “French DNA” to go and see the firework with my parents and enjoy that day in my country.

This year I was lucky enough to be free on July. I decided to book my ticket to attend the celebration in my hometown – and it was worth it as you’ll see later in the story. In June I called my parents over excited to let them know that this year we will celebrate together. In my hometown the celebration actually happen on the 13th at night, and consists in : a walk in the streets with , the parade of the firemen, the marching band of the village play on the main square of the village, and FINALLY the firework and the ball.

As the D day arrived, we got ready to attend the firework.

10:30 pm, the show started.  It was a really nice firework: lovely colors, music perfectly in sync with the show. The explosions always make me shiver. I love fireworks.

11:00 pm, the ball started.

I arrived in my hometown12 years ago, and every year since then the same band called “Square root” plays and makes people dance until the end of night. To be fairly honest, the singer sometimes struggles with the tunes or with the lyrics when is come to English songs (but it is so brave of them, and I do admired them when they started singing “In the Navy”….The beginning is not the easiest one for a non-English speaker J ) . I love the ball because there you see people from 2 years old up to 80 + on the dancing. All with very different styles (some with better than others. Though everything goes smoother after several beers.  

Midnight came through. Unlike Cinderella my car did not get transformed into a pumpkin…
Instead, a security guys started to be a bit sweaty as some people entered at the rear of the scene where the musician were, to “visit” the area and get closer to the handbags that were stored in the cloakroom.

00:05 am :  A van with 5 people drove toward the city hall, and stopped. As nobody was allowed to drive in there, the guys started to wonder what would happen then. It was a “false alert”. A 40 + woman got outside of the van, to pick her daughters up.  False alert.

00:15 am :  A new guest joined the party, as a car of policemen arrived to drive around the city and ensure everything was alright.

Meanwhile, the musicians were on fire , playing “Satisfaction”, “Waterloo” and many other hits.That was quite rock ’n’ roll Bastille Day celebration.

After all that I thought it would be over for the day. I THOUGHT.

00:30 am, my parents and I took the car to head back home. A girl in front of us was not walking very still, but despite it, she got into her car. After driving over 200 meters, she ended up driving on the left side of the road (we drive on the right in France). At that point, we knew that she probably did not drink Coke all night long. This was confirmed when we saw the car leaving the main road to drive on the sand path through corn fields, probably to avoid being caught by the policemen. Bold initiative but not sure if this was be a successful one. We shall see.

What to say after such an animated night. The 2013 Bastille Day celebrations were extremely fun this year. As critical and tough I can be toward my country and the people, it felt good to be able to celebrate the national day in France. Special thanks to my parents for coming with me and making me have such a great time. Looking forward to the next one !

The picture come from the site: http://www.tourisme-en-sarthe.com 
It is a picture of the “lights” we walk with in the streets during the celebration of Bastille Day.

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (2)

Avocado SaladSo how do you feel after eating that fresh homemade Tzatziki? I bet you feel amazing, and you already start feeling the Pamela Anderson (Or Justin Beiber for you gentlemen) growing in you….

As I am very nice, and want to be part of your “transformation”, here is another 5 minutes healthy and tasty recipe: Spinach & avocado salad.

On a more serious note, I am sure some of you experienced the same as I did when growing up: having to eat disgusting mushy soggy spinach at the canteen. (The cook would keep on staring at me and doing dark eyes until I finish the last leave in the plate). Yikes. I can still feel the iron after taste… You know that delicious taste you get when the vegetables have come directly out of the can! Later on, I realized that spinach are actually very good, and can be also eaten fresh (like the recipe I am giving you today). I also realized that eating spinach would not make me have the same arms as Popeye, and I will then have to go to the body pump class on a weekly basis…

You can eat the salad for a light dinner or as a side to a white grilled meat for instance.

Recipe for 2 servings :

2 big handfuls of fresh Spinach leaves,
1 avocado,
1 tomato,
Half a red onion,
1 table spoon of sliced almonds,
The juice of half a lime,
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar,

Turn on the oven, heat at 180◦ Celsius. When hot, spread the almonds in a tray and let them roast for few minutes in the oven until they get a nice light brown color. When done, take them off the oven and let cool down.

Wash the spinach leaves. Dry them with kitchen roll.

Slice the avocado and the tomato..
Slice very thinly the red onion with a mandolin; roughly 2 mm thick.

In a salad bowl, put the spinach leaves. Add the tomato, the avocado and the lime juice.

In a bowl, mix 3 table spoon of olive oil with 1 table spoon or balsamic vinegar. Add a bit of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Mix.

Drizzle the salad with vinaigrette and toss to coat (quantity of vinaigrette depends on your taste…).

Serve immediately with a slice of toasted sourdough.

Ta-da !

Unfortunately the picture is not mine as I did not think about taking a pic of the salad when I was done… but at least there is Spinach and avocado on it 🙂

The picture is from this website: http://www.heatherlikesfood.com

Cooking healthy food : demystifying the myths (1)

Tzatziki

As soon as Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are over, our favorite magazines, TV shows and internet sites release their first subject of the year: how to look like a mermaid (or a body builder for you gentlemen) for the next summer holidays. By that, you need to read : how to get rid off the muffin top you got last winter after eating jars of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream while watching the full seasons of “Downton Abbey”, you little lazy and weak creature ! I won’t mention the turkey, Christmas cakes, chocolates and other delicatessen you got between Thanksgiving and December 31st. 🙂

Golden rule for this challenge: If you want that amazing body, you will have to eat healthy. Ban all processed foods, cook fresh and tasteful home-made recipes. To help you, a team of nutritionists put recipes together. At that point in time, you are super excited and already see yourself wearing that amazing red bikini, highlighting your nice curves, running on the beach like Pamela Anderson (and you gents, proudly showing your 6 packs, and smiling with the brightest smile ever, ready to make all the chicks on the beach fall in love with you.)

HUM … Well… this was before you and I check the ingredients required to cook those healthy meals! After that, the mermaid/surfer look vanished and became a mirage.

SERIOUSLY, who has at home and ready to be used: chestnut flour, Jamaica pepper, purple potatoes or donkey milk ?

Do you really think that the supermarket at the corner of the street I live sells black tomatoes?

Do I look like a girl who can eat cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

And you reader, do you have time to cook a delicious home-made fresh spring roll, with a papaya salad when coming back home after an 8 hours working day ? 😉

If you can find and/or do all of the above, I admire you ! On my side, I decided to try easier recipes that require “boring” ingredients (just kidding), because tt is time to Demystify the myths of healthy food recipes. Last week I had the opportunity to try 3 recipes that were very easy and tasty. I thought I would share them with you.

The first one I am going to share with you is the Tzatziki. It is a Greek recipe, made of Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and fresh mint. It takes literally 10 minutes to do.(The other recipes will follow in future posts)

For roughly 4 people (as a starter, or 2 people for a light dinner) , you will need :

450 grams of Greek Yogurt,
1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and grated
2 to 3 cloves of garlic crushed,
2 table spoons of fresh chopped mint,
2 table spoons of Olive oil,
The juice of half a lemon,
Salt, pepper and smoked paprika (optional, only if you like spices)

1. Wash the cucumber, peel it and deseed it. Grated it to have very thin slices (almost about to melt in a mouthful). Place the cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with salt. Set aside and allow the juices to escape.

2. Mix the yoghurt, cucumber and mint. Add the garlic, lemon and olive oil to the mix. Season with pepper. Garnish with mint and smoked paprika before serving.

Tzatziki is better when served chilled. Do not hesitate to keep it in the fridge. Sometimes it is even better the day after as all the ingredients infused in the yogurt. I served it with some toasted sourdough bread slices with a dash of olive oil on top.

PS : In all honesty, I am kidding, I am very happy about the food I got over winter, and would not starve myself just because I want to look good in a suite… instead I go to the gym so I can enjoy good food, but remain and look healthy.

The picture in the post comes from the site “Food people want”. http://www.foodpeoplewant.com