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celebrating resilient friends

This article first appeared in Choice Health magazine in 2013.

Looking at the ways in which those close to us manage adversity can give insight into the true nature of resilience.

Let's face it - we all get what I call 'Lifed' at times and whilst some people get feelings of inadequacy, fear or anger, others seem to class the challenges and the feelings that go with them as a 'wobble' to be overcome. As I thought about the points in my life where I use to feel down it dawned on me I now handle negative situations much better, and have done so for some years. I suspect it is no coincidence that this more resilient approach came from opening myself up to new deeper friendships and allowing myself to receive as well as give.

I wanted to examine the area of friendship and support and how that can enhance our own resilience. I am blessed to have some very special people in my life whom I care about deeply as they do me. It wasn't always that way. Like many teenagers and going into early adulthood I focused more on what people thought of me and less on friendships and showing my 'Inner self'- warts and all! There is something very comforting and centering about knowing you are still appreciated and loved even when you drop the ego, mess up or feel you have let yourself down.

One such friend is Ann Lowe who happens to also be our Communications Consultant for The Resilience Programme.  Over a latte I shared with Ann how inspired I was by many of the friends I had chosen to travel my journey with and she had the great suggestion of inviting one or two of them to share their stories so that readers could be inspired too.  

Ann shares her findings .....

Tianne and I knew that we wanted to write about the value of deep emotional connections with friends: we both understand the value of having a close network of people to rely upon to meet our human needs of love, connection, and security. 

It isn’t news that friendships help us to be resilient: throughout life’s challenges the presence of a supportive friend (or two, three or four!) to listen whilst we unload can be the difference between a bad day, a good day, and a very good day. 

But what of those friends who do more than just listen? Those who, by the nature of their vast inner reserves, their positive outlook on life and their ability to bounce back from adversity, demonstrate a resilience that inspires us to become better and better?

As we talked, Tianne spoke of two of her close friends who have different yet inspiring stories to tell – from overcoming bereavement, health or financial problems… to building a fantastically successful business during a difficult economic climate through hard work and determination.

Both kindly agreed to allow us to share their stories here: which we hope demonstrate the ways in which the mind-set that a person brings to their life has the greatest impact upon their happiness. 

Tianne was also keen to share her own journey – which has contributed to her unique ability to connect with people through her work.

But first, here are her resilient friends.

Beverley Wedgwood of Alcumlow Hall Farm in Congleton, Cheshire 

Tianne and Beverley have certainly gone through life’s ups and downs together – getting married, having children, divorce, bereavement, and building their businesses. Beverley says ‘We’ve grown together and we both know we can call on one another at any time for non-judgemental support. For me, in a world where I often put on a brave face for those around me, especially my children, it is invaluable to have someone that I can truly let my guard down with.

On a personal level, I’ve been through a lot. Within a five year period my husband died, I had my home taken from me, had to live with my mum, and had a cancer scare. When my husband was alive we lived in France and had a relatively affluent lifestyle. I subsequently learned that he was involved with a criminal activity – something I was not aware of when he was alive. Both myself and my children were physically threatened and at one point we were under police protection. 

I returned to England with nothing and had a lot of adjusting to do. Learning to be on my own, still fearing for my safety, and a big change in disposable income. I found ways to be strong – whether that be allowing myself some private time every day so I can take stock of what is going on, or in particularly bad moments, seeking out support from my friends.

I make sure I stay positive – I put a smile on my face and remind myself that I am not going to be beaten. I like to think of the footballing analogy – how many times do you shoot at goal before one hits the back of the net. I keep trying and know that things will click into place.

This approach is certainly working: I’ve now met someone else and started a business… I’ve worked from the bottom up, but life is good again.’

Phil Gray of Watts Commercial Finance Ltd

(www.watts-commercial.co.uk)

Tianne nominated Phil as one of her resilient friends because of his consistently positive outlook on life, and I experienced this by just listening to his voicemail recording. When we spoke, he was upbeat yet grounded about his business success.

Phil says: ‘I’m not exactly sure why Tianne would nominate me as a resilient friend. Looking at it from a business perspective I do feel that I have captained the ship throughout the recession, and ensured that I am a figurehead for everything we do. Even through the downturn, we’ve grown year on year by performing at a high level, bringing passion to our work, delivering exceptional customer service and adapting to a changing market place.

I have an amazing support network – I've built a team around me that feels like a family, we stick together, we succeed together and we fail together. We’d take a bullet for one another. On a more personal level, I try to keep my feet on the ground and often find that any setbacks that come my way aren’t as bad because of this.

I feel happy being me and comfortable with the level of success I’ve reached. Getting to the next level would be great, but I’m not overconfident and I make sure I appreciate the good times that are already happening’.

And so what about Tianne? 

Prior to the recession in 2008, Tianne was running a thriving business. She had a training contract with two large corporate organisations, including Virgin Trains, and a long waiting list of clients at a private clinic she used as her base. But almost overnight this came to an end. The big corporates cancelled all external training in an effort to cut costs in the downturn, and the Clinic put a stop to all advertising spend. In addition, at this crucial moment she lost all of her savings due to a bad investment.

Tianne reflects on her situation at the time: ‘I remember thinking I have three beautiful children who need clothing, feeding and for me to be strong for as I am a single parent. Rather than sink down I vowed to rebuild myself even stronger than before. My back was against the wall for sure, but here was an opportunity to make my foundations even more secure. I’ve learned from experience that resilience comes from these times of adversity and kept focused on the diamond analogy – a diamond after all is just a lump of coal put under extreme pressure! I took the decision to be a diamond, and am happy to say that I went on to build a better, more thriving training and coaching business ’.

Tianne went on to explain to me how losing everything has changed her outlook right up to the present day. ‘I certainly do live in the moment now. Although I plan for the future, I accept that the plan can change. And I never underestimate the value of friendships – I have an amazing support network around me of people who listen if I’m not feeling at my best, who don’t judge me or my situation. For me, being resilient isn’t just about being strong, but instead about having an understanding of your strengths, when and where you might need help. It’s about the mind-set you bring to adversity and the choices you make. I would urge anyone who is currently experiencing adversity of any kind to take stock of what they do have – what is going well, what is working – and then seek out the opportunities to grow. I am honoured to be able to work with people every day, helping them to explore and grow, and I’m proud to say that I practice what I preach in my personal life’.