You may never know what steps have brought someone into your life or down your pathway. Our lived experiences stay within us until we boldly share them with those around us. One such experience recently shared was eye-opening. One remarkable young woman started out in life prematurely in a far-off land, traveling around the globe until she found her home today – and the love of her life – to bring her own child into the world. Her early-life obstacles remain private unless you are fortunate enough to get to know her more intimately. These types of stories are truly amazing – and support that awesome things can be attempted and achieved, doors can be opened, and mountains can become molehills in some fashion – with persistence and hard work, and a little grace from up above.
All of this leads back to keeping an open mind. When you meet someone for the first time, remaining open (not prejudging by appearance) helps to bolster your acceptance and understanding of the individual as you get to know them. Sometimes stereotypes and our own unconscious bias make this difficult and even challenging. One such amazing example of listening and learning from stories is on YouTube – told by Chimamanda Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story. It is eye-opening, heartfelt and drives home the importance of keeping an open mind and getting to know others before making a judgement.
Assumptions can often be totally incorrect. Actively listening to a story unfolding builds the bridge to a future relationship while educating on the wide variety of circumstances that molded the person in front of you. Bias or unconscious bias (hopefully) dissolves as the details become apparent. What is unconscious bias? The definition, according to the University of California, San Francisco’s website:
Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.
As we strive to accept others based on the content of their character(s) and not appearance alone, actively listening instead of prejudging is a free tool in our toolbox. Learning to know the person individually helps support and validate them and alleviates your unconscious bias. It broadens your knowledge base and horizon for acceptance, while with a few brushstrokes blots out some ideas that were stereotypical and possibly inaccurate. But how, you ask, does this relate to walking the path of another…and ultimately build your own resiliency?
Resiliency comes from lived experiences…and from staying positive, hopeful, and motivated to move on with your life. It also comes from within, and is learned from those around us. When we observe the lives and experiences of others through witnessing events, or hearing their stories, we learn coping skills and survival for the tough times we may face in the future. Resilience comes from not giving up, from muddling through things – with or without the help of others – and from moving on and taking the next step to a brighter tomorrow. It also happens with the assistance of those around us…that outreach or helping hand or phone call when things seem pretty glum. All in all, walking your own path may include simultaneously walking the path with another and together building a mutual resilience together.
Resiliency is a mind-body-spirit quality that we can all possess by keeping an open mind, a positive outlook, and taking care of ourselves (https://resilienthealthdiscovery.com/). Research supports the connections between your mind and body, and the impact on holistic health and wellbeing. This is especially true relating to stress reduction and the use of mindful meditation to help prevent, mitigate or combat the effects of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes type 2 (Brower V. (2006). Mind-body research moves towards the mainstream; Wahbeh, H., Haywood, A., Kaufman, K., & Zwickey, H. (2009). Mind-Body Medicine and Immune System Outcomes: A Systematic Review). More research needs to be completed, but there truly is a positive connection with your health and your mind-body-spirit!
Self-care through mindful meditation, rest and good nutrition contributes greatly to your resilience, mental health and wellbeing, which also allows you to be there to care for your loved ones more effectively both now and in the future. Take care of yourself – and enjoy a conversation and walk down the path of another to build bridges while expanding your view of the world through their eyes and life.
Who knows – the life that becomes more resilient may be your own – or you may just find a new best friend!
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