Sunday, February 7, 2016

Steph Davis on Enduring Vs. Resiliance

If you've had tough times, you can relate to the ideas of enduring versus resilience. As a fan of Steph Davis, the famous free soloing rock climber and BASE jumper from Moab, Utah, I was recently impressed by the things she had to say in a lecture about her life.  Her words of wisdom were about hard ship, survival and resiliency.  “I’ve been a full time climber for 20 years and I know how to endure.  In the mountains, when it’s cold and wet and you’re hungry and dehydrated and exhausted and it’s dark and it’s storming.  You turn your emotions off and you keep going, because you have no other options.  No-one is going to get you off the mountain but you.”

Just as in mountains, your accomplishments, joy, pain and suffering are part of life.  When you loose someone you love, when you’re let go from a job or when there’s conflict in your life, it takes it’s toll on your emotions and tests your resolve. 

Recovering from hardship takes time and the ability to endure.  It also takes resiliency.  What’s the difference?  As Steph explains,  “enduring is really about being numb.  It’s about choking off all possible emotions and getting the job done, instead of, falling apart and giving up.”

When we’re stressed out, we often refer to our state as, “survival mode.”  This is much like Steph’s notion of enduring.  Going through the motions because we need to survive but not really feeling anything. 

Enduring and surviving are crucial.  There are many accounts of those who survive ordeals in the mountains because the climber continued to problem solve and kept trying.  There are also, many accounts of those who perished because they gave up or stopped trying too soon.

In life, that can mean continuing to go to work, pay the bills and do the chores even though your heart isn’t in it.  If you don't do those things, your life will fall apart. While essential, this is not really living.   Steph explained how hard it was to emotionally recover from the incident where her husband died while the couple was BASE jumping together.  After enduring for several months, she came to a point where she needed to take the next step in her recovery.

Standing at the top of a cliff in Moab Utah, Steph contemplated her first flight since the accident.  She decided to take it all in, the sadness and pain, the freedom, joy and exhilaration.  When she jumped, it was all there.  After the flight Steph explains, “I began to see the difference between enduring and resilience.”

Resilience doesn’t erase the pain, rather, it embraces the pain as well as the joy and exhilaration.   There are moments where, we realize that our experiences shape us, but they don’t define who we are.  Life is full of risk and uncertainty but the real risk, she explains, “is in making our life small.”  Embracing the risk with all that comes with it, is what leads to resiliency. 

Resiliency allows you to step back into your life.  While survival mode is often necessary for a period of time, it can be easy to remain there, not living life fully.   Resiliency, is a choice.  It comes from the way we think about things and our perspective about who we are and how we fit into our world. 

What ordeals have you experienced? Are you still in survival mode? Have you discovered the difference between enduring and resilience? How has “not really living” impacted your life? What was or is the next step for you? What do you suggest to others? 

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