Last updated on Oct 28th, 2016 at 01:34 pm

South Africa, like much of the world, is experiencing challenging times. Politics, socio-economic factors and even climate-related problems like the drought make for a tough environment. This can be stressful and it’s easy to become overwhelmed and fearful.

I believe, however, that we have the ability to convert challenges into opportunities

  • Every human being has a set of values that he or she lives according to – the things that you value the most
  • When we are living according to our highest values, we are able to self govern and to function at a high level
  • We are objective and more balanced in our viewpoints, and therefore less perturbed by what happens around us

If, on the other hand, we are not engaged and living by our highest values, we are likely to be using the more ‘primitive’ brain regions.

  • We become vulnerable to impulse and lose our ability to self-govern
  • We lose objectivity and are ruled by emotions
  • This makes it difficult to cope well with stressful situations

Living from these brain regions, we respond to challenges with a fight or flight response, we freeze, we live in a fantasy reality because we can’t cope with the real world, or we pursue pleasure to the point of addiction. None of these responses is healthy.

Building resilience therefore begins with identifying one’s highest values so that you can live with intuition and inspiration instead of by instinct and impulse. There is a free tool available on my website where you can determine your values through answering 13 questions

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Once you understand your highest values, you can ask yourself, “What are the highest priority actions I can do today to help me live by my highest values?”

This ensures that no matter what happens, you are engaged and fulfilled. You have purpose and drive.

The next step is to ask, “Whatever is happening to me, how can it help me to fulfil my highest values?” This shifts your thinking to seeing things as being on the way instead of in the way. This helps you to be more resilient and adaptable.

Instead of resisting whatever’s happening, which creates distress; you see it as serving you.

It’s important to fill up your day with high priority actions that not only inspire you, but challenge you, so you get the experience of being innovative and creative and coming up with solutions to problems that make a difference in the world.

If you don’t fill your day with challenges that inspire you, you will find it fills up with ones that don’t.

When we are living by what inspires us, we look forward to challenges that we can tackle to move us forward

People who are engaged and inspired at work are innovative and are the best problem-solvers. People who are not engaged want to avoid all challenges and look for the easiest route.

People who are engaged and inspired at work are innovative and are the best problem-solvers. People who are not engaged want to avoid all challenges and look for the easiest route

Of course, there are things you won’t have control over and things that will happen to you. But you do have control over your perceptions, decisions and actions.

If you can ask, “How is this experience helping me fulfil my purpose?” you can always extract benefits from what’s happening to you. You can take any crisis and turn it into blessing if you look at the other side of the equation. This moves you from being a victim of your history to the master of your destiny.

The tough times facing South Africa actually make engaged people accountable to caring about human beings to really meet their needs in order to sell products, services and ideas.

When times are tough, we can’t superficially glance over what people’s needs are and make projections and assumptions – we truly have to be accountable to what their needs are.

It makes us refine our products and manufacture them more efficiently and at a lower dollar cost, which makes for better products. It also makes us prioritise our business actions and do those that give us the best results. Challenges force us into better efficiency, and when the cycle turns, we are able to flourish.

If, however, we are not engaged and we are steered by the lower brain regions, we get into extreme, reactive, black and white thinking. The extremes of perception make us non-resilient and are a symptom of people not living in their highest values.

When you see black and white thinking and reactive behaviour, it means people are living in fear – governed by emotions, instead of by the brain’s executive centre.

As the Buddha said, “The desire for that which is unavailable and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable is the source of human suffering.”

It’s crucial to care about yourself enough to prioritise your life

If you’re not dedicating your life to what’s fulfilling to you, why would you expect anyone else to?

Everybody’s going to try to project their values on you, but to be resilient you need to realise that you will only lead a fulfilled life if you know what your own highest values are and choose to live by them every day.