March 2017

We have a peculiar plant in our garden. Each year in summer, when it has grown to its full height, we receive admiring comments from visitors. Most of them think it is some kind of giant rhubarb, and it indeed looks quite similar. Its real name is butterbur (petasites hybridus). Its leaves grow to an enormous width of almost 1 metre – you could easily use them as a parasol or umbrella (the picture above will give you an idea). When you squat to look underneath the leaves in summer, you will find miniature green vaults beneath the closed canopy. Our hens like using it as a cool shelter during hot days.

After a long hibernation, when nothing can be seen of the butterbur above ground, it will start popping up like daisies during the first longer and milder days – like now. It is also the kind of plant that grows flowers before any leaves can be seen – light purple conically shaped ones that do not smell particularly nice. Soon afterwards the leaves start appearing and this is when the miracle happens.

The first day you see a few green spots appear here and there. The next day these have doubled in numbers but given the surface where this plant grows in our garden, they do not really stand out yet. But this continues every day, with a doubling of what was already there. This is what they call exponential growth.

What would it be like if we humans could demonstrate such growing power? Consistently proceed every day on the growth path that we have embarked on and not stop halfway through to lean back lazily. This is an annoying reflex that I often observe in myself and others. As if you sabotage yourself and do not grant yourself success – or you feel guilty about it. The same mechanism can often be seen with people who have lost a lot of weight through dieting, the well-known yo-yo effect. For some reason we stop doing what has brought us to the desired point.

I wrote about this earlier in the fable on ‘The frogs in the milk pail’. The recipe is fairly simple (but apparently also extremely difficult). Do you have a big dream that you want to realise, but you never take any steps because the challenge seems so gigantic? Do not hesitate any longer and start by introducing small and achievable good habits in your life on a daily basis and hang on to them consistently. Before you know it you will have achieved a great result, whatever this may be for you.

Would you like to have some support? Someone who keeps you on your growth path and who you can account to? Consider hiring a coach and contact me for a free introduction.

Anne new rond kl

We enjoy taking Django to the dog playground because it’s where dogs can be dogs and train their social skills with their peers. These encounters are not always playful and happy. Yesterday two sturdy dogs got into quite a fight with our adolescent. But these also serve as intense learning moments – it is all about how to read other dogs’ body signals. They sometimes learn the hard way that they need to give in to the rules of the pack if they want to come away unscathed.

And even after a serious confrontation like yesterday – being thrown on the ground and bitten in the neck (as a human observer you almost feel traumatised yourself) – Django did not seem to be bothered in the least, let alone left trembling with fear. It seems as if he possesses enormous resilience. However aggressive some encounters are, he immediately gets up and happily continues his way. I found the following definition of resilience: “the power to adjust to stress and mishap and become stronger. It is not just about ‘bouncing back’ to the original position, but also about the power to grow.”

I find resilience a very interesting concept, also in people, and it is a standard question in my intake questionnaire: “How resilient are you?” Maybe I should change the question into: “How resilient are you now?” because research has shown that it is not always at a constant level. Resilience is like a mathematical equation – which side weighs down more, the resilience or the stressors? The stressors can be so intense and/or persistent that even people with an apparently high level of resilience are overwhelmed. Most people have a breaking point – burnout is an illustration of that situation. On the other hand some people who did not seem resilient as a child develop it later in life and flourish. This leads me to the question: how can you learn to be more resilient?

One of the central elements is supposed to be perception. Do you perceive an event as traumatic or as an opportunity to grow and learn? The cognitive skills that make you resilient can indeed be taught. I already wrote about this in ‘Mind your language!’, my Inspiration of January. The way you think and speak about events has a great impact on how you experience them. If you call a setback a challenge, you will become more flexible and capable of dealing with it, you will learn from it and grow. If you describe a potentially traumatising event in terms of a threat, it also becomes a real problem. You become less flexible and more inclined to look at things negatively.

By consciously changing your thoughts about events, you will also change your perception of them and you can become more resilient. A coach can help you to achieve this. Contact me for a free sample session. You will in any case be welcomed at the front door by Django, our resilient dog.