Today is August 11 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rise to the occasion?” Translating your dreams into reality might involve having to rise to the occasion when you have a low level of energy, are distracted, or simply feel like doing something else. Life offers occasions for us to grow, learn, and do often, the key is to be open to identifying those opportunities. Actor Natalie Portman explained being part of the award winning 2010 film Black Swan helped her rise to the occasion of being an adult and explained she took the role because "I'm trying to find roles that demand more adulthood from me because you can get stuck in a very awful cute cycle as a woman in film, especially being such a small person."
Dr. Abigail Brenner, author of several books including Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life described a variety of elements involved with rising to the occasion. Each element offers additional reflection points for today’s question. First, Brenner wrote "Experiencing a little stress and anxiety now and then is a good thing, too. If all you ever do is strive to stay wrapped up in your little cocoon, keeping warm and cozy, you may be missing out on quite a lot---maybe no new experiences, no challenges, and no risks.” How often do you allow yourself to experience stress? During such an experience how often are you able to rise to the occasion? Are you more comfortable staying wrapped up in a cocoon? Have you thought about potential missed opportunities because you choose to remain in your comfort zone?
Second, Brenner emphasized the need to “look at the bigger picture of life, if you can’t step out of your comfort zone you may experience difficulty making change or transitioning, growing, and ultimately, transforming; in other words, all those things that define who you are and give your life personal meaning.” How often do you look at the bigger picture of life? How has your life benefited from transitioning, growing, or transforming yourself? Finally, Brenner observed what so many people who navigated the chaos have come to understand “Very simply, what we fear most about challenging ourselves is that we may fail and/or get hurt in the process. But truth be known, most of us have the ability to rise to the occasion, overcome hurdles and obstacles, and actually succeed in accomplishing something new and challenging." Has the fear of getting hurt from rising to the occasion stopped you? Have you whispered to yourself that you have the ability to rise to the occasion, overcome hurdles, and succeed in accomplishing something challenging?”
Betty Bender echoed similar sentiment and noted “anything I’ve done that was ultimately worthwhile initially scared me to death.” Now, does this mean you should pursue every task that scares you to death? Of course not. It does mean, however, that if the task is related to helping you translate your dream into reality, then yes, you should consider it. In "Rise Up: The Hidden Power of Your Phasic Strengths," a February 2017 article published in Psychology Today by to Dr. Ryan M. Niemiec, a nuanced understanding is required of this strategy involved with navigating the chaos. Niemiec references the distinction made between character strengths that are tonic and those that are phasic. This distinction among strengths is a trait found in positive psychology.
Unlike traditional psychology that focuses more on the causes and symptoms of mental illnesses and emotional disturbances, positive psychology emphasizes traits, thinking patterns, behaviors, and experiences that are forward-thinking and can help improve the quality of a person’s day-to-day life. These may include optimism, spirituality, hopefulness, happiness, creativity, perseverance, justice, and the practice of free will. It is an exploration of one’s strengths, rather than one’s weaknesses. The goal of positive psychology is not to replace those traditional forms of therapy that center on negative experiences, but instead to expand and give more balance to the therapeutic process.
According to Niemiec, “Tonic strengths are those that we use consistently across contexts and situations. These have come to be better known as signature strengths – those strengths highest in our profile, most energizing to us, and most central to who we are.” Examples of tonic strengths include teamwork, hope, love, gratitude, perseverance, and zest. “Phasic strengths,” Niemiec argued, “have gotten lost in the shuffle. By definition, a phasic strength is a strength that rises, and falls, based on the situation we're in.” In essence, one rises up to the occasion, does what is necessary, and exhibits bravery amidst fear and danger. Saving someone from a car crash, defending a defenseless person, or speaking up against an injustice are typical examples of the phasic strength of bravery an individual can display at a time of crises or challenge.
After studying how people navigate the chaos, one thing is clear, there is no magic pill someone can take to help motivate them to rise to the occasion. This entire series illustrates a wide spectrum of strategies available to anyone willing to commit to the daily grind. Understanding why you do, or do not, rise to the occasion can provide some much-needed insight into your strengths, that, in turn, you can then leverage to overcome an obstacle, address an issue, or answer a question. Do note, however, there is no secret pill to take to rise to the occasion.
As Andrew McConnell of Forbes wrote: “Rising to the occasion can be fun for daydreaming, but in the real world it rarely plays out with a fairytale ending.” If you are waiting for some magical bus to arrive and take you to the next destination on your path of navigating the chaos, why do you think that is? You do know no such bus exists, right? McConnell concluded with an observation so many people who have translated their dreams into reality have come to realize “We are all capable of so much more than we can ever imagine. To realize these capabilities, however, requires we put in the hard work and practice needed to stretch ourselves.”
How often do you find yourself rising to the occasion?
Are you aware of your tonic and phasic strengths?
Do you strive to stay wrapped up in your little cocoon?
When is the last time you stretched yourself to rise to the occasion?