I recently read the book Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards. I am on a hiatus from business books and those in the psychology section of Barnes & Noble. My brain wants to be inspired and educated. I picked this book up because I have seen her interviewed a number of times and am so impressed with how she views her life. Here she is dying of cancer, she has young children, she is an advocate for health care issues and...she has been faced with her husband's very public infidelity. If there is anyone that can teach us a few things about resilience, it is Elizabeth Edwards.
So this got me thinking - when I am working with an executive, a patient, or even a friend and I am trying to help them understand the idea of resilience, I tend to say out loud, "More is the same than is different" no matter what it is he or she is dealing with. By focusing on the parts of your life that are the same, you can find your own strategies and tools for resilience.
Resilience is an important concept in companies with new hires, during training, when significant changes occur in the workplace, or when times are toughest. With performance appraisals you can spend one hour telling someone what a great job they are doing and when the meeting is over all the person remembers are the bad things they need to work on. We filter out the positive and hold on to the negative. Using the strategies of resilience, you can remove that filter to internalize a more balanced view of the feedback.
Here are some case scenarios where I believe it is important to look at "more is the same than is different."
Job Loss: We are not defined by our careers. In my opinion we are defined by our character and how we interact with the world. If you know someone who has lost a job, tell them, "More is the same than is different." They are still loved by their family, they are still full of potential and they have talents that are marketable. A report from Harvard even says that 73% of middle managers say their jobs haven't changed. What do you think?
Divorce: No one wants to get divorced but when it happens, it should be because all other options have been exhausted. Hollywood especially has had some nasty divorces over the years. People have to earn a divorce, I believe, in order to get one. Because getting one is not easy. More is the same than is different. With a divorce, you still have people counting on you, you still have people you count on, you still have to manage your money, and you still are capable of love and being loved.
Financial Struggles: I have a friend, Don Neubaum, who is a professor at Oregon State. He teaches in the business school and he and I went to high school together. I LOVE Don. It is okay because his wife Sandy knows it. In our conversations about the state of the economy and financial struggles that are occurring in businesses and in families, he believes that we should all learn from these lean years. Shame on us if we get fat financially when some of the struggles start to lessen. More is the same than is different. We all have to tighten our belts, do some serious soul searching on how we spend money, and be incredibly deliberate about our spending habits. No matter what the economic condition is, we have to be resilient and recognize that we manage money instead of money managing us.
Health: There has been a lot of research that there is healing power in the way we think. We can produce the good juices in our body that can build our immune systems. Yes, there is a limit. Yes, it is important to get the best health care possible, and yes it is important to remember that "more is the same than is different." With every health crisis, we are all still involved in our lives. We can become educated and we can live our lives with quality.
More is the same than is different.