21 Days to Resilience, Post 2: Hope

The second chapter of 21 Days to Resilience deals with hope. Dr. Montminy discusses how hope relates to resilience. She notes that hope motivates people to act and that to feel hope, a person must believe in his/her own agency. Hope is related to feelings of self-worth and it has been shown to increase performance, health and emotional intelligence.

To me, hope seems like a topic that is worth more than the few pages and handful of tools that Montminy devotes to it. As with the habits, chapter, however, the tools she suggests are a good start.

The first tool in the chapter is a quiz to “take stock” of your own level of hope. Just five yes-or-no questions long, this quiz ranked me on the “less hopeful” side of the scale. It was followed by some open ended questions designed to help the reader identify their biggest challenges, overcome roadblocks and plot a course forward. These questions can definitely help the reader identify a challenge, reflect on how they are feeling about the challenge and move forward. They are big questions and I haven’t fully worked through them yet.

The other tools Dr. Montminy outlines for strengthening hope include building social connections, visualization, vision boards, and achieving goals. First, she recommends listing “three people you wish you kept in better touch with” and defining how you will increase your communication with them. This one is important for me, especially since my best friend moved away. I decided I will go to book club in August, mail a package to a friend, and text my brother every day.

In the section on visualizing, Montminy describes a specific visualization technique that is related to something Gretchen Rubin discusses in her Happier podcast that she calls, “making the opposite argument.” Both tools involve changing the way you think about a situation, but making yourself come up with concrete evidence to support the opposite argument seems more convincing to me than to visualize a more positive outcome.

Just as Montminy provides a different take on visualization, she also puts a spin on creating a vision board. She argues that instead of using nice images from magazines, you should use images and sayings that are part of your life. She urges the reader to, “Find hope within what you’ve created for yourself, within your world.” and to display these images prominently. As I reflected on this tool, the idea that we are already the person we want to be drifted into my imagination. As some point down the road, I may consider creating a Shutterfly book based on this idea.

The last tool that the author outlines is setting attainable goals. She notes, “Nothing builds home more than reaching goals and moving on to the next.” I am going to focus on five attainable goals that have clear completion points from my 40 by 40 to try to finish during the month of August. These are:

  1. Finish rug
  2. Clear out bedside table
  3. Hem pants
  4. Read one book
  5. Complete vacation photo album

These tools and the coverage of the topic of hope seem pretty scant but I think they are good starting points. In the last paragraph, the author urges the reader, “If you have lost all hope, find something to believe in to help you move through the emptiness.” I’ve found that a daily Bible verse reading often helps me focus in on a topic so for the month of August, I’m reading verses that relate to hope. It is easy to find lists on Pinterest and that is where I found my list of hope-related verses.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.” – Barack Obama



21 Days to Resilience, Post 1: Habits

Chapter one of 21 Days to Resilience by Dr. Zelana Montminy prompts readers to consider their habits. An audit of my habits clearly shows that I spend way too much time looking at my iPhone. Much of my day involves staring at a screen and that is a habit I want to change. I use my iPhone to wake up, to distract from tedious tasks such as commuting, getting ready for the day and eating, and as a pacifier when I’m feeling bad or need to wind down for bed. In fact, I’ve actually started thinking of my phone as a pacifier. While it may distract me from feeling bad, it also allows me to avoid dealing with those feelings. It also distracts me from really engaging with the people and things around me and from the sparks of inspiration that occur when I’m marching through the boring parts of my day. (I’m looking at you, shower-time.)

Even before I did an audit of my habits, I knew my reliance on my iPhone was something I needed to change. My 40 before 40 goals are telling in that they not only include iPhone avoidance goals (a social media detox and a nightly iPhone curfew), but they also include positive goals I want to replace my iPhone habit with, such as regular exercise, journaling, home projects and reading.

The book encourages readers to introduce new cues that will assist with cultivating a good habit to replace those habits you want to change. One cue I identified to replace my habit of iPhone surfing after work with exercise, is to change into workout clothes as soon as I get home from work. Another cue I can implement, in order to replace my morning surfing with Bible study, is to use a different device for my alarm clock and keep my journal handy. Lastly, I’ve started packing a book in my work lunch bag to break my habit of web surfing during lunch and replace it with more reading.

Another tip Dr. Montminy is to change your environment. If your surroundings spark a bad habit, change your surroundings. This strategy worked for me when I quit smoking ten years ago. I took advantage of a long winter break from grad school to quit smoking. Because our digital devices are so pervasive and few places have instituted a “no cell phones” rule, changing my environment in order to discourage social media browsing is a little more difficult. That said, I plan to step away from my desk to eat lunch. I am also planning to park my cell phone in the office area that serves as a transition from the carport to the rest of the house when I get home. If I quit carrying my phone around with me when I get home, I will rely on it less as a boredom pacifier.

My plan to leave my phone in the office is an example of a hybrid between the “change your environment” strategy and the next strategy Dr. Montiminy outlines: removing the bad habit cue. Since I won’t have my cue (my phone) for social media browsing with me at all times, it makes it more difficult to engage with that bad habit.

This chapter is a good starting place for anyone who wants to do a quick  survey of their habits. If you really want to dig deeper into the topic, however, I recommend reading Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin dives deeply into multiple strategies for changing our habits.