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Col. James LeFavor: Roll with the Changes

Colonel James M. LeFavor, 102nd Intelligence Wing commander

Colonel James M. LeFavor, 102nd Intelligence Wing commander

OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- We hear a lot of talk from higher levels these days about being resilient in the Air Force. There is a good reason for that....the higher levels tend to know how bad things are going to become.

I have always held the belief that being resilient is fairly common sense. You get knocked down, and then you get up and walk it off. If it happens again, well then just deal with it again. So why all the fuss?

Maybe it's because we all have different tolerances. Maybe we don't value the need for resiliency, or care to spend the time thinking about it, until our own personal threshold is reached. What happens when your tried and true technique of "walking it off" just doesn't work anymore? That is where having a few skills in your bag can help you through the times when normal resiliency doesn't work.

Take now, for instance. We are in a time, once again, of tremendous angst in the Wing. Still in conversion after the thumping we received in 2005, we are being subject to another round of downsizing, layoffs, possible (hopeful) mission change, and the very toughest of all - uncertainty in our future. However, realize we are not the only ones in such a situation. The entire DoD is in the dire position of having to downsize, as it takes on a massive share of reducing the nation's indebtedness. At the Wing level, our part in the bigger picture of this current situation is sometimes hard to see. The bottom line is that we are not alone in our need for resiliency.

A winning attitude helps you rebound from setbacks. If you reach your resilience limit, you often find it easier to dwell on your problems, feel victimized, feel anger, feel overwhelmed. You also might be tempted to turn to unhealthy solutions such as drugs, alcohol or violence. Resilience won't make your problems go away. But it can give you the ability to see past them, not be self-destructive, and give you some measure of the greatest of motivators--HOPE.

Building skills to endure hardship.

Resilience is the ability to roll with the punches. When adversity strikes, you can experience anger, grief, pain, depression, yet you are still able to keep functioning--both physically and mentally. It is not necessarily about toughing it out or being the stoic martyr, but rather taking your troubles and making them less troublesome. If you can take a big stressor and make it less so, then you are being resilient.

Share your pain. Have you ever heard of the term "misery loves company"? Well that's not exactly true, but it turns out that those who are miserable will often feel better if they share their misery with a happier person. Albeit, not that much fun for the happy person, but hey, that's the definition of a Wingman. Those who use their friends and family to talk over their problems are always going to be better off than someone who internalizes everything.

Accomplish something every day. If you can set goals, no matter how small, and reach them every day, you will go to bed that night with a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. If you set a new goal for the next day, you give meaning to the future. This is an excellent way to fight that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Remember your past successes. Think back on how you have dealt with bad deals in the past. Were you successful? Did you get through it? Realizing that you have handled tough issues in the past will give you confidence that you can get through the current issue.

Count your blessings. Don't forget to take in the whole picture of your life. Think about how far you've come and what you're thankful for. It often helps, and it's ok to compare yourself to someone who is less fortunate than you. In this way, you can always give yourself a little boost by realizing it could be worse.

Be proactive. Don't ignore the problem and hope it goes away. We all procrastinate on the unpleasant things we must do, but at some point you must draw the line in the sand and commit to a plan of action. Just the act of doing something usually has a therapeutic effect as well.

Take care of yourself. Physically and mentally. Don't forget to be a little selfish. Take the time to do what you like to without feeling guilty. Taking a mental or physical "holiday", on a routine basis, is key to your sanity. The chores can wait. Go for a run or try out that new driver.

Practice being hopeful. Remaining hopeful is not always natural or easy. It takes effort to gather your lemons and make lemonade. Taking the bad situation and forcing yourself to find some sort of positive aspect is critical to maintaining hope. It is ok to still be angry, but channel that passion towards the positive. Hope is the cornerstone of resiliency.
Finally, after trying your best to maintain your resiliency on your own, realize that there is outside help for when you are at your wits end. Don't feel embarrassed or weak for doing so, because I guarantee there are many people a lot tougher than you who have sought help. The truly weak thing to do is to do nothing, or to evade the issue while you spiral downhill.

Hopefully this refresher on what it means to keep your chin up and roll with the changes has done some good. We are going to succeed in the 102d, but we'll need everyone primed to adapt to the coming adversity.