Define Yourself — The foundation for all strength and resolve comes from knowing who you are. I teach a simple daily practice called Define Yourself Daily. The first component is writing a proof sheet, a personal statement detailing all the skills and unique abilities that you have as an individual. Then write down the difficulties that you have already overcome in your life. This personal statement is your own mantra of proof, which explains why you are capable to overcome challenges. You will expand it as you continue to add skills, capacity and of course, as you face new challenges. In difficult moments, it is helpful to be reminded of our personal strength and capacity.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Matzen.
Christine Matzen B.S., M.S. Author of Leader The Journey To Become The Force Your Business Needs To Win And Founder of Oak Street Strategies, LLC leadership development and strategy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I am the founder of Oak Street Strategies where I specialize in leadership development and strategy. My own personal story began with working in Emergency Medical Services for 17 years, as a paramedic. Working in a fast-paced, high stakes career gave me a deep intuition and respect for people. Combining that experience with my master’s degree in leadership and management, have led me to love helping individuals become the leaders in their own lives and beyond.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I have had so many interesting adventures throughout the span of my career. I have always loved the behind-the-scenes part of leadership training. The opportunity to see all that goes into making things a success. The greatest take away that I have from all these experiences is that the expert makes the difficult look effortless. There is so much work that goes into developing skills and capacity, but these experts really do make it all look easy. I think it is a great reminder to the younger generation that may not master things as quickly as they think they should. Don’t give up if it doesn’t come easy keep practicing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My unique ability to train individuals with a challenge-ready mindset is what sets my company apart. I help individuals become confident leaders who are ready to face any challenge. They develop their own leadership style focusing on honing a strategic mindset in conjunction with their unique skills. With a strong focus on what it takes in your personal and professional life to be an effective human while escaping the productivity machine mantra.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am so grateful to the men and women who took the time to mentor me on my journey in life. There have been many that taught me and pushed me along the way, my late Father will always be the voice in my head. I remember when I told him I wanted to be a Paramedic. He never wavered he said, “you can do it”. When I told him I would be the first to graduate college in our family he cheered me on and told me I could go “all the way”. I can still hear him today whenever I take on a new challenge “work hard, do your best, be the best, never give up.”
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the capacity to overcome difficult challenges and setbacks quickly. Resilient people come in all forms and often they surprise you with their internal strength. Although, I believe they all share a foundation for gratitude and a pragmatic way of evaluating circumstances. It is this ability of evaluating and taking inventory in a very realistic way that allows them to remain grounded and make the best of the circumstances and challenges that they face.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
It is no surprise that courage and resilience are linked together because the foundation of overcoming difficulties is required for both. However, I think of resilience as more of a persistence to keep going to not give up in the face of the challenge. While courage I associate with an internal resolve that recognizes that there may be a great sacrifice or cost to the individual. Whether standing up for what they believe in or putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others. They know that a price may be paid, maybe even the ultimate price and yet they continue to do what is right.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
When I think of resilience I always think of my Great grandmother. I was very fortunate that she lived healthily into my early thirties. She was born in 1908 and lived through so many of the world’s challenges and changes. I loved sitting with her and hearing how she managed during difficult times. She was such a strong and capable woman yet carried herself with grace and kindness. She would always tell me that in difficult times you do what you must and make the best out of it every day. This is the true wisdom of a resilient person.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
This question makes me think back many years to the beginning of my former career as a paramedic. It is a call that I will never forget. We responded to a vehicle vs child and luckily, we were right around the corner. When we arrived, it was pouring rain and a toddler was fully under the back wheel of the car. We asked for an update on the Fire engine response time only to be informed they were severely delayed.
In that moment getting the vehicle off the child without causing more damage seemed impossible. We knew we had to work fast. My partner and I immediately started yelling to the neighbors for help. Within one minute a crowd surrounded the vehicle and together we lifted the car off the child. What was a desperate situation was made possible through the determination of strangers, a community that was willing to answer the call for help.
They were heroes and they acted without hesitation or question. The best part is the toddler after evaluation in the emergency room was found to have sustained only minor bruising. There were no internal injuries and not a single broken bone.
I tell you this story to remind you that the circumstances can change in a moment. You never know how things can change or where help may come from. When you feel like things are impossible know that amazing things can happen and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
For me the largest setback in my life was with the onset of an autoimmune illness and a rare endocrine disorder. These diagnoses and the symptoms that accompanied them sent my world spiraling. I was at the height of my paramedic career and a new mother. It was devastating that I would no longer be able to be a paramedic. This was the catalyst for the women that I am today. The resilience and resolve that were necessary for me to transform my life have taught me so many lessons. My story is one of challenge, tears, failure, and triumph. I am so grateful for the life I have now. I would never have had the opportunity to step into this role that I love without the challenges that I faced.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Growing up I was blessed to be surrounded by my grandparents. They were all such sturdy pragmatic people. I feel that their influence and time gave me a foundation of knowledge and skills. They gave me a hands-on mentorship for life as they included me in so many activities patiently teaching and guiding. My grandparents seemed to be able to make do and get along with whatever they had, and they were always content. I think a lot about these experiences now as a mother hoping to instill this same contentment and ability in my own boys.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Yes, I completely agree resilience is definitely a trainable skill and I am happy to give you 5 steps to help individuals get started building capacity.
The foundation for all strength and resolve comes from knowing who you are. I teach a simple daily practice called Define Yourself Daily. The first component is writing a proof sheet, a personal statement detailing all the skills and unique abilities that you have as an individual. Then write down the difficulties that you have already overcome in your life. This personal statement is your own mantra of proof, which explains why you are capable to overcome challenges. You will expand it as you continue to add skills, capacity and of course, as you face new challenges. In difficult moments, it is helpful to be reminded of our personal strength and capacity.
Gratitude is the foundation for being able to build resilience in your life. The ability to be grateful for what you have. To make the best of this amazing opportunity called life is what has enabled generations of humans to overcome so many hardships. A great way to incorporate this practice in your life is to make a note of a few things that happen in your day. At bedtime take a minute to remember these moments and really feel them, let yourself smile and feel joy. These moments can help train your brain to start shining a light on these types of things in the future. In the same way that when you go and test drive a car and then suddenly everywhere you go, you see that same type of car. The number of cars on the road did not change they were all there before but now your brain knows to look for them. Taking the time to appreciate small moments in your life will help you to recognize them more in the future.
The challenge-ready mindset prepares you to see challenges as opportunities. Opportunities that will strengthen you and open new doors. You will build capacity and strengthen your will. To face things head-on with confidence that you will overcome the challenges that you face. Confidence is at the root of optimism that contributes to the ability to be resilient. When the Apollo 13 mission to the moon had a catastrophic failure in space, Gene Kranz told his team “You cannot operate in this room unless you believe that you are Superman, and whatever happens, you’re capable of solving the problem.” This is an excellent example of a challenge-ready mindset.
One Good Thing
When difficulties come your way, it is easy to begin with a negative thought pattern. After all challenges can be overwhelming, unexpected, and usually when you least need them. The mental shift of starting with what you have, even if it is only one good thing can really be a game changer. Let’s keep with our Apollo 13 mission example. When the initial “Houston, we have a problem” came in, there was a multi-systems failure. There were unknown instrument failures, shakes, and shimmies. Gene Kranz asks his team what on the spaceship is good? The ability to shift from an everything is going wrong to this is what we still have available to work with can change your ability to overcome problems quickly. Starting with the positive can keep you from the negative thought pattern that can inhibit creativity and innovation that you need when facing challenges. The act of taking an inventory of where you stand, what you have to work with first can help you to see solutions. Starting with one good thing is an excellent way to approach challenges and build resilience.
We have become accustomed in our society to blurring the lines between needs and wants. The constant marketing and the hum drum to always have more and be more can lead to a negative perspective and discontent. The building in of complex routines and protocols in everyday life can make individuals fragile and fearful of change. The stripping away of wants to the basic needs can have a profound ability to reveal a sense of what is necessary. This is a humbling experience that can really build mental toughness and allow you to think about who you really are at the core of your humanity. You can start by taking a day remove all electronics, read a book and walk in nature. Knowing that you can be happy and content just as you are, can make you more resilient in the face of change and challenges. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norms of what you want and need from this life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Neighbor for Neighbor would be the movement that I would start. If there is one thing that I learned from my time as a paramedic is the power of community. I have seen community members come running to help in times of need.
What if everyone spent time getting to know their neighbors? What if we all committed to making a few contributions to those that surround us? Imagine the power and impact that could come from sharing time and resources with your neighbors. These could be simple things like mowing your elderly neighbors’ lawn while you mow yours. Maybe, helping a single mom by keeping her kids for playdates with your kids a few afternoons a week. Even buying some extra groceries to help a family in need can mean so much and have a lasting impact for those that receive the generosity of neighbors.
There is something so amazing and healing when you feel surrounded by support and resources. I believe that we can all contribute and lift each other up. Leadership begins at home and should radiate to those around you so that no one is left behind.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Wow, this one is easy Kathy Ireland! I would be grateful for any wisdom she could share about building her business while prioritizing her faith and family.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can always find me at www.oakstreetstrategies.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for allowing me to contribute.