Service suspended: a manifesto for resilience

Service suspended

On Monday afternoon I got a Whatsapp message from my best friend: ‘Honey are you aware the web link in your email signature is down? ‘. Bugger, I thought. How long has that not been working? For a day? Since FOREVER? Is there even a way to quantify how unprofessional that looks to potential clients? Unlikely. So I did what any panicked business owner would do: opened a recently sent email, clicked on the link below my name and big, splashy logo, and…

…Found myself on a page explaining that my website hosting service had been suspended.

So, again, I did what any panicked business owner would do, and called my website hosting service. After being put on hold for oh, I don’t know, about the length of time of the last ice age, I was finally informed that my website had been suspended because it was, ‘Using too many resources’. They couldn’t tell me what these resources were, only that I was hogging them, and had been automatically booted off the shared server on which my website had been sitting so happily for the best part of a year. Apparently I was scheduled to receive a call sometime that day. Given that it was, by this point, 5pm, and no such call had been received, I took this as a green light to rip them a new one. Needless to say, my website is functioning once more.

Now I pride myself on being a cup-half-full kind of girl. Give me any crappy situation and I will find you a silver lining goddamn it! The jewel I unearthed from this latest bout of technology trauma (feel free to read about the last one here), was a lesson in resources, and what happens when we squander them.

I’m talking about the big kahuna resources here:

  1. TIME

  2. ENERGY (physical, mental)

  3. SUPPORT (physical, emotional, financial)

We are – absolutely all of us – in possession of these resources; it’s only the amounts of each available to us that differs.

When we look at another person’s life with longing, it’s not that want to be them (as the saying goes, if you only knew the extent of other people’s problems, you’d want yours back), it’s that we covet their resources, or, more specifically, their resource levels. We wish we had as much free time as this person, or as much get up and go as that person, or as much emotional support as our friend with the big social network and great relationships, or as much cash as that chick wandering down Bond Street with the Chanel shopping bags. Life would be easier, right?

Think about it now. What would life look like if you had unlimited amounts of one of these resources?

As much time as you could ever want. Bucketloads of energy. People clamouring to support you in all areas of your life. What would you do? What could you achieve? What if you had all three? Because, for better or worse, time, energy and support are all inextricably linked. Superhuman amounts of energy can buy you time to do the things you love, as can a gigantic trust fund, which can also free up physical energy and unlock other facets of support. One follows another as sure as night follows day.

But it works the other way, too. The developed world is founded on the trade off between time and money, i.e., you sacrifice the greater part of each day for financial reward (otherwise known as ‘work’). Oftentimes a substantial amount of your physical and mental energy resources get ploughed into this deal too. A further exchange occurs between the financial support you earn as a result of your time and energy sacrifice, and other forms of energy, like food (to replenish your physical energy) and spiritual practices (say, meditation and yoga for mental energy), and the physical and emotional support you enlist to facilitate your work, like cleaners, childcare or therapies.

Life is an exchange of resources.

And a fulfilling life depends on exchanging your resources consciously and wisely. An ongoing conscious and wise exchange of resources builds something incredibly precious: Resilience.

I define resilience, quite simply, as having the resources you need, available to you in any given situation.

You need to work late? Fine, you have the energy to do that. A member of your family gets sick? No problem, you have time to spend with them. The roof falls off your house? No biggie, you’ve got a savings account for that very purpose. Prince charming turns out to be a frog? There’s always a friend to dry your tears.

RESOURCES = RESILIENCE

Being well resourced means being able to deal with s**t when s**t happens. To be able to allocate time, energy and support to any given situation without it being a huge deal. And it means being able to make a difference to others as well as yourself. As the personal development community bleats incessantly:

You cannot give what you do not have.

Which brings me nicely onto the question thrown up by my website situation: what happens if you don’t exchange your resources consciously and wisely? What effect does it have if you give too much and receive too little, or if you plough your resources into the wrong place? Simple:

SERVICE SUSPENDED

Now if you know me, you know I’ve been here, and it ain’t pretty. As an athlete in my early twenties, I squandered my physical energy like it was some kind of middle-eastern oilfield in the 80s: seemingly abundant and perpetual. It was not an exchange of any kind. Did it buy me time? Nope. Support? No way. And did I take care to renew myself and my precious resources? I did not. I ended up burning out big time, getting myself into a situation where any kind of training at all prompted a fresh bout of tonsilitis, until my body gave up completely, and I was left lying down for the best part of nine months with a mouth full of ulcers and a voicemail box full of, ‘When you are coming back to training?’ and ‘The crew needs you, Lizzy’.

For you, it might look different. It might look like waking up barely able to remember your name and getting signed off work for a month. It might look like collapsing on the kitchen floor in a puddle of tears in front of an audience of crying toddlers. It might look like opening an unexpected bill and being knocked senseless by a wave of nausea ‘cos there ain’t no way you can pay it.

When that happens, the flow of resources halts. Participation in LIFE is paused. Exchange is no longer possible. Service. Is. Suspended. 

These moments, I’ve learned, arrive for our own good and our own growth. It’s not till you’ve been delivered a right hook by life that you learn to return a bout-winning uppercut. But the idea is that, as life goes on and the blows rain down, you manoeuvre your way into a situation in which you 1. get knocked down less frequently and 2. bounce back quicker each time.

And how do we do that? By building resilience. Or, more specifically, by instigating resilience practices.

Those of us who’ve done the whole healthy eating transformation know that, in the end, it has nothing to do with getting your ass back into your favourite jeans. Good food and minimal junk is a resilience practice. As is exercise. As is meditation. As is time just for you. As is a savings account and a financial plan. As is fulfilling work. As are healthy boundaries.

I recommend conducting a bit of an audit of your resources: TIME, PHYSICAL ENERGY, MENTAL ENERGY, PHYSICAL SUPPORT, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, FINANCIAL SUPPORT – where are you over-resourced (as in, where do you have more than enough to go around?) and where are you under-resourced (barely have enough for you, let alone to share with anyone else)? The first step towards change is always awareness.

Then ask yourself how you can re-allocate. Perhaps you can in fact redirect resources straight from a category that’s doing well, say, financial support, into a category that isn’t, say physical energy (by investing your hard-earned cash in a trainer, a coach, a veg box delivery, superfoods and supplements, sleep solutions, meditation classes etc.). Perhaps you need to do a little tweak between all of them. And yet further tweaks.

True resilience isn’t something you’ll just find in your inbox one day, it’s a daily practice – making one choice over another, over another.

But it’s beyond worth it. Because when we’re online and on our game, great things can happen.

x Lizzy

If you’ve liked this but would LOVE to experience my new ‘Resilience resources’ workshop at your company, ask your lovely HR person to contact me.

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