Lesson From the Cactus: How to Become More Resilient

December 8, 2016

Growing up in the Northwest, it’s easy to love the outdoors. Hiking, snowshoeing, camping…drop me off in the ‘woods’ and the trees, the green of the forest gifts me with calm. It’s my favorite “zen” place where I can shut off my busy mind.

Then I visited the deserts of Baja.

The stark and quiet beauty created an awe that defined “mindfulness.” A potent experience of stillness and balance between the mountains and sea.

And the regal cactus reigns over all. With lessons about survival and resilience.

There are many legends and stories about the cactus plant–often revered within the desert ecosystem. It is a tree that survives with little water in a dry and hot environment, providing sustenance and shelter to many desert animals and insects.

Like many of Nature’s wonders, which teach us about balance and inter-connected-ness, cacti have adapted and thrived over time. Here are a few fun facts from Science and Kids:

  • Cactus thorns are highly modified plant leaves. The sharp spines and the thick tough skin of the stem protect the cactus from animals who would otherwise have easy access to the liquid inside.
  • The cactus collects water using a large root system. Small thin roots grow near the surface of the soil and collect rainwater as quickly as possible during the few times it rains. A taproot, which grows much deeper, reaches underground water supplies when the top soil is dry.
  • Cacti can gather and hold water in their stems. The water is not pure, clear water but viscous. The fluid is drinkable however, and has saved people’s lives in the desert.

The bottom line… The Cactus is Resilient!

“The ability to recover from or adjust easily to change, misfortune, adversity or stress.” Merriam/Webster .

Here are a few tips to help us become more resilient as Conscientious Leaders:

- Don’t take things so personally. It’s not always about “me.” That is the ego.

- Develop a “thicker skin” like the cactus. Throw off negative challenges with positive energy and action.

- When challenged by major change, think of the long term bigger picture, not just the short-term impact.

- Find ways to make lemonade out of lemons.

- Use your energy to be proactive vs spending time being defensive, trying to maintain the status quo.

- Find an internal space of strength — that you can tap into with confidence and remember that feeling when confronted — a “bank” of positive feelings and successes that you can draw from when faced with negativity.

- Create an ecosystem of support among your peers and colleagues that creates a buffer against adversity.

- Counter stress by giving and kindness — an antidote to anxiety- that ultimately makes you stronger.

- Take accountability and ownership for the situation and mistakes, and then move on with action.

Little things to remember, to build resilience and opportunities to thrive.

Just like my friend, the cactus.

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