Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

Well-Being with Whitney: George and Martha Washington, Resiliency Role Models

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

On President’s Day, Americans think about our nation’s first president — George Washington — whose birthday inspired the holiday. We see his face on ads for President’s Day sales, and may be inspired enough to look up some fun facts about him or his wife, Martha Washington (the first First Lady). But how often do we really pay attention to how their long-ago relationship can give us wisdom today?

George and Martha Washington deserve a closer look. They’re excellent examples of how strong well-being is connected with strong leadership. It was because of how well they took care of each other that they were able to lead others well.

Making Time to be Together Often

George and Martha made their marriage a top priority in their busy schedules. They chose to be in each other’s company whenever doing so was possible.

At home at Mount Vernon in Virginia, they ran the plantation as a team during the days and enjoyed rich conversations in the evenings. They often hosted friends and family members for suppers and balls, where they loved to dance together.

When George’s public service as a Revolutionary War general and first U.S. president required travel, Martha did her best to be present with him. She visited battlefields, moved to new homes, and went anywhere else she had to go — during a time when few roads or bridges had been built and travel was dangerous. People routinely got thrown off horses, robbed in stagecoaches, or caught on sinking ferry boats. But George made elaborate plans for Martha’s travels, sending friends to accompany and protect her every step of the way.

Sometimes the first couple couldn’t avoid being apart. Yet they still made time to reach out to each other through letters, pouring out their thoughts and feelings on paper to stay connected. Every week, they made time to stay in touch by writing.

Sharing Joy and Sorrow

When they had something to celebrate, they did so together. The Washingtons often took advantage of opportunities to host parties, surrounding themselves with people they loved. During George’s presidency, they invited people in their vast social network to supper feasts every Thursday at their home in New York. At Mount Vernon, they regularly welcomed guests for celebrations. They ate, laughed, danced, played cards, and held hands — enjoying each happy moment to the fullest, whenever they could.

When they were struggling with sorrow, they helped each other carry their burdens. George and Martha had to endure a crushing burden of grief together, dealing with the deaths of scores of family members — including children from Martha’s first marriage whom George had adopted. The first couple also faced the relentless pressures of developing a new nation. That stress took a toll on their health, causing illness that led to more sorrow.

The key to their well-being through it all was their commitment to support each other emotionally in any type of circumstances. George and Martha made a habit of checking in with each other about their feelings and sharing those emotions with each other honestly. Then they urged each other to nurture well-being practices in their lives. George sent people to visit Martha when she felt lonely, while Martha urged George to control his temper in stressful situations.

Encouraging Each Other to be Resilient

Building resilience skills was a top priority for the first couple, who faced many crises and challenges while working to build the United States and had to persevere in the face of all sorts of uncertainty about how their work would turn out.

Martha once wrote about resilience: “I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances; we carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us, in our minds, wherever we go.”

George and Martha were both wholeheartedly devoted to their faith, which fueled their resilience. Throughout their lives, they each spent significant amounts of time in prayer every day, and they worshiped God and served people often in their church communities.

They came to trust God so strongly that they could look beyond their circumstances to him in any situation — and rely on his strength to flow through them as they followed his guidance day by day. “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God,” George said.

So this President’s Day when you’re reminded of America’s founding couple, let their lives inspire you to do something to take care of your own well-being. Then reach out to someone else you care about, encouraging them to do the same. In the process, you’ll lead the way to something good, just like George and Martha did.

Well-Being with Whitney: Olympic Endurance

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Riding my bike for 10 miles, mostly uphill, in the rain recently at Mont Tremblant national park in Canada, I found myself thinking about the athletes competing in this summer’s Olympics in Rio. What incredible endurance they have! My bike ride was challenging for me, but it was nothing compared to what Olympic athletes endure. What is it that motivates Olympians to keep practicing their sports faithfully, over and over again, and to keep going in competitions even during the toughest challenges?

I think their inspiration is similar to what inspired me during my own athletic exertion: appreciating the benefits of the journey itself, no matter what results end up coming from it.

That’s what inspires my favorite Olympian of the Rio games, USA beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings. Walsh Jennings’ long winning streak (she had never lost a match in three previous Olympics) was broken when Brazilian team Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas won a late-night match over Kerri and her teammate April Ross. Kerri and April won the next time after that, so they earned a bronze medal overall. Kerri didn’t like to see the gold medal she was expected to win slip away, of course. But as much as she works hard to win matches and medals, she keeps the healthy perspective that the journey of playing her best is what offers the ultimate value.

Kerri has lots of wise advice for how to endure our journeys like champions. A key strategy she has for her own endurance during matches is: “Breathe — be in the moment. Believe — have faith that you can rise above it. Battle — you gotta be prepared to go for as long as it takes.”

So often, when we’re faced with a choice about whether to endure or quit in a situation, we consider only what we hope the results will be. We decide based on the likelihood of good results happening from our effort. Should we keep loving that difficult person we know, or just give up on the relationship if he or she isn’t responding the way we’d like? Should we keep volunteering for that cause we support, even if all the hard work never leads to the paying job we need? Should we keep praying about that chronic health problem when we don’t see any healing taking place?

Olympians know that the journey is more important than the destination. Sure, they’d love to win medals for their efforts. But the most important lessons they learn come from simply experiencing the journey, no matter the results.

When we choose to endure a situation that we sense God wants us to stick with, we can’t predict how it will ultimately turn out. But we can be sure that just by going through process, we’ll emerge as stronger people. As the Bible says in Romans 5:4, perseverance (another word for endurance) produces character, which in turn produces hope in us.

I certainly wouldn’t have won an Olympic medal for my bike ride, but because it challenged my endurance, it did make me stronger. I’m glad I didn’t give up, even when high hills loomed and mosquitoes swarmed around me. Once I decided to finish the trail, the rain didn’t seem annoying; it was exhilarating. My legs were sore when I stepped off the bike, but I felt encouraged that I could endure the problems in my life with more resilience afterward.

While you enjoy watching athletes compete in the Olympic games, try to notice the ones who don’t win medals, yet still do their best and stay strong until the end of their competitions. Let them inspire you to stay strong as you face your own challenges. Their examples of endurance can motivate all of us!

Well-Being with Whitney: Olympic Resilience to Overcome Challenges

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Olympic athletes are masters of a skill that’s vital to wellness: resilience. As we watch them compete in their sports at the summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we can learn a lot about how to overcome challenges by tapping into the inner strength that comes from resilience.

Everyone pays attention to the Olympic champions who end up on the podiums, winning gold, silver, or bronze medals. Yet regardless of how well the athletes perform during their brief time to compete at the games, all are champions of character. They all worked intensely and made significant sacrifices to dedicate themselves to be the best they could possibly be at their respective sports — from swimming and gymnastics, to running and biking.

I visited Montreal, Canada — site of one of the most popular summer Olympics — to learn about Olympic resilience and how we all can apply those lessons to our lives.

The brightest star of those games was Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who at only age 14 became the first person to win a perfect score at an Olympic gymnastics event. Not only did Nadia set that world record, but she won three gold medals at the games and became a celebrity for her athletic accomplishments and girl-next-door-charm. But even Nadia, who seemed perfect, had significant challenges to overcome. Around the same time that she was shining in the world’s spotlight, she was dealing with the stress of her parents’ divorce and having to switch coaches.

A Japanese gymnast from those same Olympic games, Shun Fujimoto, didn’t quit even after he broke his right knee during floor exercises. His determination to complete his routine helped his team win a gold modal.

Other athletes who didn’t make the awards podium still showed incredible resilience. One of them was Canadian race walker Alex Oakley, who at age 50 became the oldest track and field Olympics competitor but didn’t let his aging body discourage him from trying out for his fifth Olympics. Another was Princess Anne, an accomplished equestrian who broke a long tradition of remoteness in the British royal family to join and compete with the British horse team. Entire national teams who failed to win the medals they wanted still won at resilience. For instance, after Australia’s Olympic team returned home without winning any gold medals at the Montreal games, they worked together to create the Australian Institute of Sport, a training organization that has helped other Australian athletes learn how to sharpen their skills.

We all face significant challenges on a regular basis. Whether life hits us with a broken relationship, a job loss, a health crisis, or some other challenge, resilience will empower us to navigate the situation with strength. Let’s aim to be champions of resilience!

Well-Being with Whitney: Brazil, the Olympics, and Trying to Solve Overwhelming Problems

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Sometimes problems grow so large that they overwhelm us. That’s when we especially need resilience to stay hopeful and keep trying to find solutions. Watching the people of Brazil host the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year shows how hope and progress can still emerge from a mess of overwhelming problems.

The list of problems the Brazilian people are facing right now is a long one.

An outbreak of the dreaded Zika virus in Brazil stopped some Olympians and spectators from coming to the games, and Brazil’s residents continue to fight the illness. It’s transmitted through a means that’s hard to avoid: contact with mosquitoes, which are prevalent outdoors.

Then there’s the severe water pollution in Brazil. Brazilians are placing their health at risk whenever they use their polluted water for basic needs like drinking, cooking, and bathing. The site of Olympic sailing and windsurfing events, Guanabara Bay, is so polluted with sewage and garbage that scientists warn anyone coming into contact with the water risks contracting infections or diseases like hepatitis.

Brazil’s economy is on the brink of collapse, as well, with widespread poverty as Brazilians endure the worst recession there since the 1930s. The financial crisis has led to increased crime like robberies and gang violence, creating security concerns.

On top of all that, Brazil’s government is facing the problem of how to deal with corruption issues. Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is going through an impeachment process after being accused of breaking financial rules. The interim president during Rousseff’s suspension, Michel Temer, is trying to lead a government in turmoil, where people don’t agree over how to deal with the nation’s many challenges.

Yet despite all the overwhelming problems Brazilians face, they still welcomed people from all over the world to the Olympics in Rio this summer, and they’re still living with faith and hope as they work on solving their country’s problems. Many Brazilians are meeting their challenges with resilience — just like Olympians do.

We, too, can face any problem we encounter with resilience. Rather than complaining or worrying, we can focus our time and energy on trying to solve the problem, and remain hopeful through the process. As American inventor Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Sometimes problems are beyond our ability to solve ourselves, but even in those cases we have a choice to be resilient — to persevere and adapt in adversity — or not. What overwhelming problem are you facing right now? How could you let the stories of this summer’s Olympic-size challenges in Brazil inspire you to tackle that problem with resilience?