A friend sent me a quote the other day from the American writer and pastor, Joel Osteen: "We may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside." These words resonate with me so strongly on many levels in that they remind me that fortitude is brought to light from inside us, and may not immediately reflect what is happening around us. I'm also drawn to the idea that victory is something we are "living in," rather than the sum total of what we have achieved. And there in lies the elusive answer to the question that has dogged me these past few years: "Where does inner strength come from, and can it be fostered?" Without a doubt, the wellspring of our strength is borne of the return rather than from the journey.
I was listening to an interview with author and entrepreneur Nilofer Merchant on the Good Life Project, and she was asked how she managed to overcome incredible hardship and trauma in her past to get to where she is today. Her response was quite empowering in that she believes there are two types of people in the world, and both are working from the same ledger. There are those who define themselves by the column of the ledger that tabulates all of the failures, hurt, and disappointment in their lives. And the second group is comprised of those who choose to define themselves by the column, composed of all the choices they've made to overcome each of those obstacles in their life. When I look at life like that, I'd have to say that resiliency is not the absence of or immunity to setbacks and disappointments, but your ability to embrace the concept that even in failure, you have enough faith in yourself to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward.
I believe we all just want to leave a gentle footprint on this earth, and for me, that means striving to go to bed each night feeling I've made a difference, and hopefully left things better than the way I found them. Am I able to say that I meet that challenge each day -- definitely, "no." Life has a way of getting in the way, and as is most often the case, I'm the one who's in my own way.
While sifting through my Facebook news feed yesterday, I found a quote from the author Shannon L. Alder that caught my eye. "What separates people who made their dreams come true is not setting goals to achieve a life the way they expect it to be, but how they expect to be, in order to achieve it." Reading Alder's words brought my attention back to that concept of leaving a "gentle footprint" -- something that is all about where I've been, and who I've been, and something that has very little to do with where I'm heading.
Deep down, we all want to enact change in our community, but in so doing, we are required to take those first tentative steps out of our comfort zone. In the words of John Krakauer, "Many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future."
In order to pollinate an idea, you have to be willing to embrace the vulnerability, and thus take the first steps to harnessing all of the other unseen voices silently waiting to rally behind your cause or your passion. When it comes to beacons in my community, I don't have to look very far to find the intrepid bright lights building change around them. There's Heather Gardner, the driving force behind Toronto's Tribe Fitness. A passionate athlete and educator, Heather has carved out her own niche in Toronto's downtown core -- amidst the towering condos and busy freeway, Heather hosts free runs and yoga classes for others looking to not only pursue a healthy lifestyle but also meet new people and be part of a greater "tribe."
Looking to be inspired? You need look no further than Rhonda-Marie Avery, founder of the Envisions Project, "a non-profit organization set out to empower 'other'abled athletes to chase their dreams and choose their own adventure." Rhonda-Marie is a legally blind endurance athlete whose unwavering optimism and sheer tenacity has been a beacon to attract a loving supportive community around her -- people who share her belief that physical obstacles and barriers are placed before us to be overcome and not to limit us. This past summer, Rhonda-Marie ran the Bruce Trail in Ontario from end to end; that's 885 km in 20 days!
When it comes to the concept of "if you can't see it, be it," I can think of no better example than Lauren Reid, the founder of the When You're Ready Project. The recent news headlines have been dominated by the prevalence sexual violence in our society, particularly the stories concerning Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi, and the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia. While many of us were horrified by what we were reading in the papers and seeing on the news broadcasts, Lauren decided to actually do something about it -- to be the change. She has created a space where survivors of sexual assault can share their stories, "when they are ready."
I'll end by saying that if you're struggling out there today, or if you're frustrated by the status quo you see around you, I invite you to consider how you might leave a "gentler footprint" in your community. Embrace your resiliency by looking at how far you've come, and in so doing, you will live a life of attraction rather than one of promotion.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: