My friend Natalie Bell came up with the phrase “anticipatory resilience” the other day. I like it. I think it’s an important practice, to rehearse being resilient in situations coming up that may be daunting, even potentially de-railing.
Asking a supervisor for a raise; preparing for an audit by the IRS; telling your brother and sister-in-law you won’t be visiting them for Thanksgiving this year; confronting a teenage son about drug paraphernalia stashed in the closet.
Practicing being resilient ahead of time can be an essential part of a resilience mindset: viewing a new/unknown/potentially difficult task as a challenge, a possibility rather then a problem, as an AFGO – another frickin’ growth opportunity.
I think it’s quote possible – even necessary – to cultivate anticipatory resilience.
Exercise: Anticipatory Resilience
1. I would start with reviewing situations where I have already been resilient in meeting a difficulty, in solving a problem, and I truly know that I have. For me, even navigating my way through a a new part of town to visit a friend, discovering what resources I needed to do that, feeling competent at finding my way and celebrating that I did, is cultivating my resilience mindset. I can review as many previous moments of resilience as I need to, to perceive and trust myself as someone who is, in fact, resilient.
2. Then I would practice imagining myself successfully negotiating something a little more challenging: having to confront a dear, dear friend about how their style of self-centeredness (narcissism?) is leaning into really irritating, if not toxic. Rehearsing what I need to say (compassionately!) and what I need to hear in return (receptivity, openness, interest). Anticipating what resources or skills I might need to navigate this challenging conversation successfully. Rehearsing my own responses if this conversation goes well, and also if it doesn’t go well; imagining myself as skillful and resilient in either direction.
Then, of course, actually having the conversation and learning 1) how to have this kind of conversation skillfully, 2) how to learn from this kind of conversation if it didn’t go so well; it’s all still developing resilience to deal with the hard stuff of life.
3. Then practicing anticipating resilience in situations where I’m already anticipating something difficult: opening the letter from the IRS, calling my doctor about the results of a mammogram, calling the plumber to investigate a really funny smell coming from the kitchen sink.
Rehearsing first; imagining myself being resilient in coping with bad news, if it is bad news, anticipating my own capacities to handle this, whatever it turns out to be.
Anticipatory resilience strengthens our resilience mindset to cope with anything, anything a all. And to increasingly trust that we can.