In 2006, my husband won a company trip to Prague, an untouched magical world in the Czech Republic. His company’s theme was dealing with change, and Prague has a rich history of this and more. My husband and I were dealing with our own personal changes so this was timely and serendipitous! In addition, I was discerning my next career move and was enrolled in a part-time ministry course for discernment. I knew I wanted to help build resiliency in some capacity, yet was still wondering where this could fit into the business world. The class was focusing on forgiveness, an important concept to building resiliency. Despite this, I felt compelled to go.
I was in for an unexpectedly powerful experience that would remind me once again of the freedom to choose how we deal with our struggles. Ultimately, we are in charge of our own motivation in life. Change is a natural, yet some of us are given struggles that are beyond the usual. When this happens, we have two choices: we can survive, or thrive.
On our first day of unguided tours in Prague, my husband and I planned a trip to the downtown center. We were both excited and anxious as we boarded the local bus. We had spent a few hours the night before mapping out our route and destinations.
One hour after leaving our hotel, we were lost and far from the Prague center. Eventually, after several twist and turns, we found ourselves in an unexpected place, the Jewish Museum in Prague. The day was sunny, bright, festive, as I envisioned a café with wine and cultural atmosphere. Instead, I stood by the door of the museum, compelled to enter. We did.
We quickly found ourselves in a section of artwork, poems and drawings composed by children as young as 5 years old who had lived in the Terezin Ghetto. This Jewish ghetto was established by the Nazis as a temporary dwelling place before the Jews journeyed to their death in a concentration camp.
In this sacred place of the museum, children left messages for the world with beautiful works of art and poetry. Glued to the many great works of art, I openly cried and cried, dismayed and honored that synchronicity had brought me here. This artwork remains a symbol of children who developed resilience beyond our human comprehension. They were expressing their WHY despite their chaotic existence.
In that Jewish ghetto of Terezin, despite the monstrous Nazi plan for their lives, these children kept searching for meaning and purpose. I thought of my son safe at home, my hurts from my own difficult childhood, and the roller coaster of my career and life. I stood inspired beyond imagination. Even as I write this blog, the tears fall. I remain humble. Despite all their hardship, they took their intentions and expressed them with hope despite circumstances. Without these works of art we would not have known their realities, or how they may encourage and inspire others.
The tour provided super clarity to continue my work as a Coach. While working with clients, I continue to share my stories of Prague, including the works of Viktor Frankl, and his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning. if this appears appropriate.
Both Terezin and Viktor Frankl demonstrate that finding your “WHY,” your reason to exist, and the inspiration to seek meaning and purpose in life, is a key foundation to a resilient mindset. Leaders are meant to serve and these childern were doing just that.
Resilient leaders know that failures and mistakes are not dead-ends. They’re an inevitable part of life. Expect them and accept them as learning experiences. Most successful entrepreneurs and leaders fail many times before they finally find a business that works. They’re resilient because they don’t let failures and the pain of growth stop them! They let the failure(s) become the catalyst for growth.
Viktor Frankl’s book takes you through three years of his experiences in Auschwitz as a prisoner of war. His key observation was that he and other prisoners who focused on purpose and meaning, their why, were less likely to succumb to infection, disease and death. Some prisoners, like Viktor Frankl, found meaning and purpose even in these conditions! They connected with an inner RESILIENT partner!
Fortunately, we are not Terezin prisoners or Viktor Frankl, they were historical figures beyond both words and description. What we can learn from these stories is the power of why and the secrets to a resilient mindset. In our busy modern world we tend to be brainwashed by offers of instant gratification, some shiny object or gimmick. It has been through working with my own messes, both personal and business, that I have realized the answers are found in self-awareness, attitude and a growth mindset! A true leader finds their “why” and develops their business visions, goals and action steps around this. We have a power to choose how we lead our lives!
We can only see our WHY when we have an attitude that invites these answers to us!
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. The sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not another result of camp influences alone.”– Viktor Frankl
The heroes of Terezin, Viktor Frankl, and many of our own stories show that we grow resilient because we don’t let failures and mistakes stop us. Instead, we use our full catastrophes as learning experiences the same way a scientist uses trial and error as part of the discovery process. Studies show that people who suffer repeated setbacks grow in resiliency. Why? Because they’ve learned that life goes on despite difficulties. We all need a WHY to stay inspired!
“He who has a why for life can put up with any how.”Frederick Nietzsche
So how do we find WHY as our centering Resilient Foundation?
In my leadershipYOU Program we start with creating space so you can get better acquainted with the authentic you. This results in you forming your own definition of WHY.
In the interim, here are some questions to begin with:
- What do you love to do when you have spare time?
- What parts of your present job or life activities do you thoroughly enjoy?
- What do you naturally do well?
- Imagine you are writing your epitaph. What things do you want to be remembered for? What things will your life be incomplete without?
- What gives you zest, energy and passion?
- Why are you here on earth?
- What were you biggest successes and why?
- What were your biggest failures and why?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg to wake up your meaning and purpose. Knowing your WHY leads to all your branding, marketing and power in business! Your business will become resilient proof! So it makes sense to spend the time to get it right. Only you can find out your true “why.”
Learn more about me, Shelley Cox at TheCoachingNest.ca. I’ll introduce you to Career and Leadership MINDSET habits and competencies that will help you lead with CALM Power, to attract more money, visibility, business growth and RESILIENCY.