Resilience: A Life Owner’s Maintenance Manual

Whether you buy a car or a blender, it comes with an owner’s manual with instructions, cautions and troubleshooting.  Your car needs fuel and regular maintenance: gas, oil changes and brake checks keep you safe and on the road. But unfortunately humans don’t come with a manual. We’ll define resilience as the systems you have in place to keep you safe, alive and on the road – moving forward on the path of life. It’s your life owner’s maintenance manual.

Resilience isn’t bouncing “back”. In life, the only place you can go is forward. So if you believe that resilience can undo what’s done and bring you back – it won’t. You’re not a rubber band, springing back to your “before” status: you can’t go back to being 20 years old, or get the body you had at age 20. You can maintain, optimize, learn, grow and move forward – IF you have enough fuel & the right maintenance to keep you going.

But – isn’t resilience about recovery? Yes it is, but recovery is about moving forward, having healed, learned or grown enough to keep going. You recover from an illness or accident – you don’t bounce back and undo it. You go beyond – not back.

If you don’t fuel or maintain your vehicle, it can’t keep going. Ignoring a red flashing light in your car? Not wise. Ignoring your fatigue, headache, sadness or the feeling that something is not right? These are your red flashing lights, and they won’t disappear because you ignore them. If you ignore long enough that flashing light in your car, it’s likely the car will stop working. If you ignore yours, you will stop working. You deserve better, and resilience is about preventing malfunctions instead of dealing with disaster and its aftermath.

Do you attend or ignore your own fuelling and maintenance? What are the consequences on your physical and mental health? On your quality of life? You can repair some damage on your ability to move forward in life, but you can’t replace your old life with a new one as you would with a car. This life is the only one you ever get – and it’s your responsibility. Are you taking good care of it?

More demands, more work and more change means you need more fuel and maintenance – not less. If you drive your car further, you need more fuel – it’s so obvious. If you drive yourself further, do you allow yourself more fuel? Do you get enough downtime and sleep, good healthy meals, a healthy walk – or drive yourself “on fumes”? We’re not talking about retiring from the world, but about building a better approach, doing a little tweaking, substituting a few habits here and there.

Pushing beyond capacity isn’t resilience: it’s insanity. Look at all the changes of the past two years, with work and life space blurring, with kids in and out of school, with so much on your plate. Just when you need more fuel and more maintenance, you figured that with so much going on, it was easier to forego taking care of yourself – you kept pushing, believing this built resilience? It doesn’t; it leads to burnout.

Resilience is about addressing what matters most. It’s taking a good hard look at reality, using your resources, skills and vision to find how you can support yourself to keep going, making the best of real-life circumstances. We humans have amazing ability to assess situations, find new ways, change, grow and thrive: a resilience approach helps you develop these life skills.

Easy, tiny small steps that make a big difference and build resilience.

  1. If you work from home, give yourself a work-only quiet space for work, so you can go to work and leave work. Even just a desk in a corner, with something to block the view and “close your office” after work hours. Off your sight and off your mind.
  2. Create a reasonable work schedule and hold yourself to it – don’t check emails or revisit work outside of work hours. Remember the last time you checked an email and found yourself still working two hours later? You were borrowing from your personal time – for free.
  3. Reserve 30 minutes after work and take a (much-deserved) break before you start dealing with family and personal duties. Take a walk, read a little, shower and change clothes, whatever gives you a break.
  4. Turn off all of your technology. Social media and watching virtual people on screen is not a life. Instead, pick up a hobby; read or write a book; learn to paint, weld or knit – have fun starting something creative… Passive watching doesn’t make you happier, and doesn’t make life more fun.
  5. Go to bed at a reasonable time to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you a prime candidate for stress, anxiety, burnout, depression, obesity, diabetes and more. 57% of Canadians don’t even sleep a bare minimum of seven hours a night. Stop fooling yourself: if you use an alarm and the snooze button, you need more sleep.
  6. Go outdoors in fresh air: to breathe, walk, watch the squirrels, shovel your driveway or admire your neighbour’s flowers. Even 15 minutes will bring your spirits up and give you much needed exercise.
  7. Stop believing that life will fall into place magically. If you want different, you’ll need to think different and DO different. Repeating the same hoping for different results? Not a good strategy. Instead, take one small step today – any of the steps listed above will work, if you do them. This is your life. Today is your life.

If you want different, you’ll need to think different and DO different. It won’t happen magically.


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