We can live in the past, live for the past (the good old days, when life was simple and easy), consciously draw a line under the past, or simply keep moving forward with purpose and energy.
Of course, it’s hard to linger on drawing a line in the sand, when you’re moving at pace. Perhaps the best time to talk about the past is with friends. And as a way to plan new adventures together that recreate the best of the past.
If we were less mature and less tactful in the past (than we are now) and if there were things in the past that if we could go back in a time machine and change, we would, then maybe the good old days weren’t quite as rosy as we remember them.
What has all this stuff about time got to do with resilience? Quite a lot as it happens. Time gives us perspective and a critical mass of experiences of all kinds to draw from. Perhaps to build resilience, the ideal life is the life of diverse experiences. Along the journey, if we can’t accumulate enough resources to shield us from negative events, then at least we can accumulate enough resourcefulness to handle negative stuff that comes our way. Whenever I watch the movie ‘The Bourne Identity’, I’m always amazed that the main character has enough skills to find money, allies and other resources just when he needs them. He might be troubled by his past and have some serious memory blanks, but the guy does have skills to get through an uncertain life.
One resilience thing that some people overlook, because it’s invisible, is the goodwill bank. The goodwill bank is both resource (things you do to build up goodwill with people) and resourcefulness (the thing you turn to, to help you stay resilient). The best parents spend a lifetime putting deposits in the goodwill bank with their children. Good friends do it mutually. Smart employees do it too. I don’t mean being unethical in the workplace and running your business model on favours and conflict of interest biases. It’s more about fostering commitment and creativity in problem solving based on caring and knowing you are cared about too. The goodwill bank is more like a conventional bank. How you use the money can be good or bad. Building up credibility and trust with the bank manager is what counts.
With the goodwill bank, the currency is hard to value. People forget you helped them. But if you do it steadily, that is what they remember. Trust is earned one test at a time. I’ve worked for a few charities and the charities concerned talk about building up long term relationships – with suppliers, funders and even beneficiary groups. Goodwill and consistency are cousins on friendly terms with each other. And a little effort over a long period is generally easier to handle than one solid, intensive burst of activity, following by nothing more. It sure works with parenthood! And teachers find students learn from regular reminders and regular practice.
Perhaps with most noble examples are people who go above and beyond for their community, their city, their country, or their planet. They believe in something around them and they believe in the future too. They actually want to keep putting deposits in the goodwill bank, for as long as they can. That’s admirable and it also shows personal resilience – Nelson Mandela could probably turn to any number of people for whatever he wanted, provided it was legal. Food for thought?