Survivors are born every day.
You may have heard that resilience plays a key role in whether people survive and thrive after a setback. Our ability to grit our teeth and bear it may have something to do with it, but I think there is another factor that is often overlooked: the support system. A support system can be a network of friends and family, and it can be a setting on your phone reminding you of when it’s time to go to sleep/workout/write.
Plenty of people face significantly serious life choices. For example: Do I switch careers? Do I go back to school? What should my major be? Should I go for that promotion? How do I deal with a demotion? Do I cut that friend loose? Do I stay in this relationship or not? Do I follow through with this medical treatment program?
I know, as I have faced a few of these decisions in the past, sometimes more than once.
I had a massive stroke at the age of 15, and was not expected to live, think, or walk again. I take great joy in the fact that not only did I survive and learn to walk again, I went on to obtain a graduate degree and am now working my way towards official certification as a professional coach. I was lucky, because it happened on a Sunday morning at a swimming pool. The lifeguards knew how to handle medical emergencies. Sure, the stroke left me with a movement disorder for which there is no cure, but I am here. I walk and occasionally (not often enough) jog.
At the age of 36, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, I was lucky. It was an aggressive cancer, but it was caught quite early. I underwent a little over one year of chemotherapy following surgery, but I am here. And this more recent experience served to remind me of the good fortune I have with such a strong support system around me (parents, husband, friends).
I am often asked whether it is my past challenges that created my resilience. But just like you, I was resilient the whole time. And I was lucky. Not everyone survives these things, and of those who do survive, not everyone thrives. Some are left stuck and unable to move forward; not knowing how to step into a new life, a new reality. For those who don’t know what to do next, I am here to tell you that there is hope. It is possible to rebuild your life after a major set-back. I have managed to do this at least twice in my life.
The answer to the question of how to build a survivor is that you don’t have to because we come pre-assembled and it’s a matter of tapping into our inner resilience and to putting in place the structures we need to accelerate our journey towards being our best selves. I feel so lucky because I am now truly happy. But it was a long road towards realizing that I couldn’t just go back to “my old life” after recovery. I had to rethink, prepare, and rebuild. Being a survivor is a lot like construction. First, you have to design your life from a solid foundation of awareness around your values and purpose. Then, you prepare the structure before you can layer-in the things that make a life a life (or a room into a room). Only after you complete these steps can you begin stepping into how you want to be in your new life.
I’ve done this, and so can you.