Let go of the outcome! Don’t panic if things don’t turn out as planned. The sooner we learn to relax and go with the flow, the more pleasant our overall experience will be. Unplanned diversions created my best memories. Albeit a cliché, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
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 Regina Petra Meyer.
Regina Petra Meyer is an author originally from Switzerland but adopted a globetrotting lifestyle in her early twenties. She has lived in New Zealand, Antigua (Caribbean), North America and now calls Australia home. The memoir Change of Course: Sailing into Love & Adversity on Caribbean Shores is her first book.
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 was born and raised in Interlaken, Switzerland, an idyllic small town nestled among snow-covered mountains and crisp freshwater lakes. My life took a radical turn when my parents separated when I was 9 years old. An only child, I lived with my mother in modest circumstances and had limited contact with my father. When my mother rejoined the workforce, I was often home alone and got accustomed to spending large chunks of time on my own. Around age 10 or 11, after reluctantly completing the chores my mother assigned to me, I started taking long walks on my own, a book tucked into a little satchel, and would find a bench to sit and read by the water’s edge. I began escaping into adventurous stories of courageous and freedom-loving girls who were exploring foreign lands. This formed my dream to one day follow in the footsteps of my heroines. Years later, I fulfilled my youthful longing and have since travelled to 50+ countries and now call Australia home.
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?
The wish to author a book emerged in my teens, but it took two decades for the dream to materialize. Insecurity and procrastination prevented me from pursuing my goals. After my turbulent escapades on the high seas and in the Caribbean, I had plenty of writing material, but it wasn’t until a seasoned author joined me for dinner when things started taking shape. When I shared my aspirations with her, she not-so-gently reminded me success in writing largely required a commitment to sit down and begin typing. As a result, I committed to writing 1,000 words a day and within 6 months completed a first draft. I still recall the excitement and sense of accomplishment holding my manuscript for the first time! This experience has given me confidence and the understanding that most goals are attainable by breaking them down into achievable steps.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A consistent lesson in terms of resilience for me was to control less. Whenever I rigidly tried to stick to an outcome, changes became difficult to manage. Time and time again, I learned my best option was to let go of expectations and accept that those unexpected adventures are part and parcel of my journey, and of life itself. Once I embraced this concept, I experienced much more grace and flow. When my sailing trip got abruptly cancelled, the temptation was enormous to fly back to Australia and lick my wounds. Instead, I willed myself to stay in Antigua and scout out alternatives. By being proactive and with a positive goal in mind, my rewards were often creative and surprising solutions. I gathered my courage and shortly after scored a spot on a yacht bound for Europe, my opportunity to carve out a new adventure.
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?
Newly settled in Antigua (Caribbean), I was proud to have gained employment and well underway to assimilate into my new life. But one day I sat opposite two stern-looking immigration officials and was told in no uncertain terms that I was facing deportation. I felt crushed and heartbroken at the finality of their statement but with no resolution in sight; I resigned myself to my fate. Later the same day, out of the blue, I received a call from a stranger, the friend of an acquaintance, and after a few brief minutes on the phone my immigration troubles were fully resolved! I felt immense gratitude for the person who selflessly helped me out of a very sticky situation. In my travels in 50+ countries, people have shown similar types of kindness and generosity which reinforced in me a great faith in humanity.
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?
In my experience, resilience is a person’s ability to recover from unwanted change, failure, or hardship. The obstacle carries less value in this equation than the perception we attach to the challenge. In other words: Do I look at myself from the perspective of the victim and life as something that happens to me? Or do I choose to look through the lens of possibility by engaging with life, gathering my skills and wisdom to help me transform the situation?
In my observation, resilient people have an increased capacity to absorb the ebbs and flows of life. This allows greater access to empathy; they feel more content with their circumstances and often gain a more positive outlook on life. The foundation of resilience is an understanding that life bears challenges and the knowledge that we are strong and resourceful enough to master these hurdles.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
It’s helpful, potentially a prerequisite, to possess a level of resilience to feel safe enough to take a courageous action. Courage, I see as the willingness to step out of our comfort zone, to reach for a goal or a dream, while accepting the risk of failure. But both trying and failing are imperative on our path to growing more resilient. Whereas resilience is our ability to recover from an unexpected, usually unpleasant, outcome. I think we compare them because they are both character traits that speak of inner strength and adaptability. In addition, I believe the antidote of both courage and resilience is fear — the fear of taking action and, for the latter, the fear of being unable to cope with a negative outcome.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Nelson Mandela is the first person who comes to mind here for me. I have tremendous respect for his ability to surrender to circumstances that were beyond his control. That he surrendered to his extensive prison sentence and emerged over two decades later with a sound mind and a compassionate attitude is humbling and beyond inspirational. On a side note: He is also the only celebrity I have crossed paths in person. A humbling moment.
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?
People would often comment that receiving a visa for skilled migration to Australia was a near impossible feat and was only achievable by hiring expensive immigration lawyers. I decided sometimes it’s best not heed to (often unsolicited) advice and began investigating the practicalities of immigration myself. A booklet downloaded from the Australian immigration website helped me to work my way step by step through the application. It was a complicated, an often tedious and time-consuming process, and took dedication and perseverance. But much to my surprise, we received the skilled migration visas a mere 6 months after submission. The ambassador even complimented me on the immaculately indexed application!
Was there a time in your book where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
One of my greatest setbacks was when I sailed into Antigua, the Caribbean, a few days before Christmas. Upon arrival they granted me entry for two weeks and it was my goal to secure a job within the superyacht industry during that period. With no professional experience under my belt, I knew I was taking a chance. However, the day following my arrival I fell ill and was bedridden with a heavy flu until New Year’s Eve. With only a few days left to sort out employment before my tourist visa was due to expire, I felt under tremendous pressure. CV in hand, I set out with determination in the morning and by the same afternoon I had scored a permanent job as a stewardess on a brand new 100foot yacht! I felt empowered, and this experience gave me confidence to trust in myself and my ability to not only survive but thrive.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resilience? Can you share a story?
Resilience is something that I started building as a young child and continue to grow and nurture this quality to this day. It is all the small and big setbacks that allow me to pause, reflect, and deal with the situation. The biggest upheaval growing up was without doubt my parent’s separation. That day, my world crumbled and I felt devastated and heartbroken. But a year later, I could see that both of my parents had moved on emotionally and were happier with the new situation. I learned that a painful transition has the potential for a positive result.
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.
- Take a breath. When faced with adversity, our brains switch into survival mode and leave us unable to process coherently. By taking a few deep breaths, we calm our nervous system and can gain a fresh outlook.
- Recharge in nature. Take a walk in a forest or along the beach and get some fresh air into your lungs. Time in nature has been proven to have a de-stressing effect and helps regulate our mental and emotional wellbeing. Nature time is food for the soul.
- Brainstorm. It’s all too easy to get caught up with one narrow perspective. Try to take a step back from the situation and look for new and creative solutions. Talk the situation over with a trusted friend and get a hug whilst you’re at it. Physical touch releases oxytocin, which lowers anxiety and helps us relax.
- Accept that life is full of surprises. This saying deeply resonates with me: Adventures are challenges we seek, whereas challenges are adventures that are put in our path. The only difference is the perspective we take! It is powerful to know that we can choose our perspective.
- Let go of the outcome! Don’t panic if things don’t turn out as planned. The sooner we learn to relax and go with the flow, the more pleasant our overall experience will be. Unplanned diversions created my best memories. Albeit a cliché, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
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. 🙂
I would love for people to develop more curiosity toward each other and embrace our differences. It is extremely saddening to witness the polarization and fear that permeates societies worldwide and I would love to narrow this divide. In my experience, the vast majority of humans are good-hearted and kind, and I found learning from people about their backgrounds and perspectives profoundly enriching.
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 🙂
Oh yes! I would love to have brunch (that’s for you G) with a group of women I completely adore. One may be greedy here, correct? 🙂 My dream is to sit at a large table with Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon and Abby, and Brené Brown while we chat and laugh uproariously!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find more information on myself and the memoir Change of Course: Sailing into Love & Adversity on Caribbean Shores on this website: https://reginapetrameyer.com
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!