23 May The Antifragile Within Us
I first came across the term ‘antifragile’ in a book that my spouse was glued to last year, and put it away as an ‘intellectual’ term for exploration at some possible time in the future. It was brought back sharply into my consciousness as the world around us changed dramatically overnight due to Covid-19 and I began to delve into it with curiosity and wonder.
So what is ‘antifragile’ all about? It is a concept proposed by famed author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, ‘Antifragile – Things that Gain from Disorder’. It is the term he uses to describe “things that thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors… the exact opposite of fragile. Antifragility goes beyond resilience or robustness.. the resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
As I thought more about this word, I began to like it. It has a nice ring to it, I thought. It speaks to me of possibilities, and it seems somewhat familiar.. as if I have known it all my life! I marveled at its relevance to today when almost everything we have known and believed to be true has been turned on its head. The concept of ‘antifragile’ stayed in my consciousness through conversations I had with my family, friends, peer coaches and my wonderful clients. I observed that some people were consumed with fear and foreboding about what the future would hold, while others exuded a sense of anticipation, a quickening of the pulse almost, resembling excitement, at the possibilities that lay ahead!
I looked around me and found, everywhere, examples of how people have taken up the opportunity to emerge better and stronger through the Covid challenge. A long-time client of mine, isolated in the heart of New York and laid off from her job, is serenely using the time and space to connect with her inner Self. A community of 200 resident volunteers in our housing complex of 6 buildings has come together to run the society in the absence of any staff… CEOs, business owners, working professionals and students are handling all the maintenance activities including gardening, managing building security, running the inhouse grocery store and the sewage treatment plant. A post graduate student’s lifelong dream of studying at Harvard is almost jeopardized, but she determinedly secures an internship at the United Nations to accelerate her learning in her chosen field. A tech entrepreneur gathers courage to split with his co-founder in the face of upheaval, and leaves behind an acrimonious relationship to pursue his lifelong dream. And so many more.. each one focused on thriving and growing from the adverse circumstances they have found themselves in.
The unifying thread across all these examples for me, was the realization that at our very core, the antifragile lives within each of us! And that when faced with uncertainty, stress and adversity, we have the innate capacity to rise and grow through it. That place deep within us, that can’t be harmed by anything or anyone, is the antifragile… our Spirit, our Essence, our Inner Self, call it what you will. Years of conditioning to be comfort-seeking and avoid risk and uncertainty holds us back from realizing our true nature. Which is why, when faced with volatility and chaos, many of us are shaken, and desperately hope for things to come back to normal.
But what if we were to use the unprecedented opportunity in this crisis, to rediscover the antifragile within us, and in the process, grow into a higher level of consciousness? Delve deep within ourselves to connect with our very Essence, to emerge stronger, more self-aware, more humane, and be able to see new paths and possibilities before us?
I am sure there are no easy answers of how to do this. What I can offer is, what I have found to be personally useful: a synthesis of wisdom imbibed from my mentors, learnings from my own life experiences and the inspiring tenets of Transformational Coaching (Thank you Leon VanderPol).
· First, slow down your thoughts and bring yourself into a reflective and safe space.
· Acknowledge and accept the fear and anxiety you are feeling. Sit with it and allow yourself to experience it fully. Denying your fears will result in them surfacing again.
· Focus on being Present in the moment, not the Past, nor the Future (What If)
· Bring to mind your strengths and values so you feel rooted to your heart center
· Consciously fill your Being with gratitude, love and compassion
· As you align with your Purpose, you will begin to sense what wants to emerge
· New paths and opportunities will gradually become visible, and I invite you to step into them, gently, yet boldly.
This has been the content of many a coaching conversation I have had in the last 6-8 weeks with my clients. And each time, I have found my client emerge stronger and more confident of what lies ahead, without knowing what it could be. That is the beauty of the antifragile within us! It is my deepest hope that more of us will discover our antifragile nature and use the opportunity in a crisis to thrive and grow. The following words of Albert Camus resonate strongly for me..
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that made me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”