Resources for Recovering Resilience: The Cure for Exhaustion is Wholeheartedness

One of my favorite resources for recovering resilience of all time comes from the poet David Whyte reporting a conversation he had with his good friend Br. David Stendl-Rast. David was burned out working in the non-profit world, hesitant to risk following his passion to become a full-time poet. David asked Br. David, “What’s the cure for exhaustion?” Br. David replied, “The cure for exhaustion isn’t rest. It’s wholeheartedness.” And David found his determination to become the poet we so revere.

Experiencing a few whiffs of exhaustion myself in these recent days of revising the line edits for Bouncing Back, I acknowledge with deep gratitude the wholeheartedness that carried me through.

We come to wholeheartedness, in part, by identifying the core values that fuel our passions and aspirations. What I call Big Organizing Principles (BOPs), what philosophical traditions call values and virtues.

Among my clients, Betty, a single mother of three, identified her BOPs as patience, faith, and planning. Neil, a retired surgeon, shaped the course of his days through curiosity, gratitude, and awe. David, a car mechanic learning computer skills at the local community college, steered his course by hope, steadiness of purpose, and the love of his family.

How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives. -Annie Dillard

Exercise: Identifying Your BOP’s

  1. Identify three principles from this list that resonate with you as BOP’s:
accountability
commitment
cooperation
courtesy
creativity
dependability
determination
discipline
excellence
faithfulness
focus
forgiveness
frugality
helpfulness
honesty
humility
idealism
industriousness
joyfulness
knowledge
love
loyalty
magnanimity
mercy
modesty
obedience
orderliness
patience
prudence
purposefulness
reliability
resourcefulness
respect
reverence
simplicity
tolerance
  1. Identify three arenas where you are able to manifest these BOPs regularly. For example, helping kids with homework calls for patience; working with customers takes courtesy; volunteering at the homeless shelter once a week calls on your selflessness. Acknowledge your choices in already living your life from wholeheartedness.
  2. Identify one more BOP from the list, or another quality from your own list of values, that you would like to cultivate and which would be a stretch for you to cultivate. Set the intention to look for opportunities to manifest this BOP every day for the next month. It doesn’t matter at all how small the practice is, only that it is heartfelt.
  3. Notice how your view of yourself as an agent of change in your own life develops as you choose to become more wholehearted in the endeavors that matter to you. Notice your own resilience deepening as you choose how you craft your life.