Everything has changed since March 16, 2020, hasn’t it? That was the day public school systems started shutting down around the country; the day when the size of public gatherings was significantly restricted in many U.S. states; the day when restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms began to be shuttered in others. For a lot of us, it was the day the coronavirus got real.
It also would have been my Dad’s 92nd birthday. I wrote a blog post that day about him and how much he exemplified everything that was best and most enduring about the Innocent story type. Ironically, I posted it on the very day that our collective innocence about the pandemic began its earnest and devastating real-time fade.
When any of us takes that hard a knock (much less when entire societies do), there’s nothing we need more than resilience to help us recover and eventually bounce back. But how do we find resilience for ourselves, and leverage it once we do? Well, as with most things, I recommend you start with considering how story type affects and bolsters resilience. It turns out there are 12 evidence-based personal attributes or capacities that are strongly correlated with resilience, one for every story type.
So, I’m going to write 12 weekly posts (one for each story type) that focus on how to build your resilience quotient. I’m starting with the Innocent type because Dad would have loved that—and because he deeply admired John Lewis, the person I’m going to profile this week as another great example of it. It’s also a good type to start with because the Innocent’s gift of optimism correlates with resilience more strongly than any other single personality trait.
Understanding resilience gifts
Don’t worry if you’re not much of an Innocent, though! Every type (including Innocent) has a non-resilient state (the place where people like that are most likely to go under stress), along with a personality “gift” and focal point they can use to build a much greater resilience quotient.
Here’s what that looks like for an Innocent (note that I’ll build the chart out every week in this series with an additional type):
|Type||Non-resilient state||Resilience gift||Resilience focus||Related values|
|Innocent||Disillusionment||Optimism||Hope||Ideals, Faith, Values in Action|
If you’re an Innocent type, disillusionment can take a stealthy and pervasive psychic position in your life—sapping your optimistic spirit and hopeful nature as it goes. What’s the way out? It’s addressing your disillusionment, and re-orienting yourself in what you’re still hopeful about, where the silver linings are and how you can put your own values into action.
Looking to role models also really helps, and in the midst of a deeply polarized and frightening time we have been blessed to see a light shone on the life of an American who exemplifies the Innocent type as well as anyone ever could. Yes, I’m talking about John Lewis.
Most of us know the basic outline of Rep. Lewis’ life: Raised a sharecropper’s son in rural Alabama. Freedom rider at age 21, March on Washington speaker at 23. Lifetime civil rights advocate who was beaten, belittled and threatened on many occasions. Enduring public servant who served 17 terms in Congress and never stopped living up to his own ideals.
If you look up the word indomitable in the dictionary, you ought to find a picture of John Lewis right there. Despite the violence and contempt he so often experienced, John met it with a core value he never abandoned: love. Here are his own words on the topic:
- “When we went on the freedom ride, it was love in action. The march from Selma to Montgomery was love in action. We do it not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s love in action.”
- “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. . . but whatever you do, whatever your response is, (it) is with love, kindness, and that sense of faith.”
John Lewis remained resilient throughout his lifetime because he overcame the trap of disillusionment, and embodied the most empowering aspects of the Innocent story type. His commitment was so embedded in his being that it helped him take a long and self-sustaining view of his life’s work. It also shaped an authentic leadership style during his long Congressional tenure. One of the more moving tributes at his funeral was from a staff member who described how his presence and his actions towards people who worked for him always reflected his optimism and love.
Whether you agree with John Lewis’ political positions or not, everyone can learn a lesson from how he lived. In an increasingly polarized world, where most of us decamp to the corner that represents what we’re against—John Lewis spent a lifetime showing the world what he was for. He was for love in action and exemplified a lifetime of values supported by deeds. That’s probably why he was so beloved, and why his passing was treated so much like the death of a presidential figure.
Activating the Innocent resilience quotient
We can’t all be iconic public figures in our lived resilience, but we can become better and more adaptable versions of ourselves who contribute to the world in significant ways. The first step is to be conscious of what our non-resilient state actually looks like and feels like—and then shift our focus and our energy toward the gifts of an empowering story type.
To do that with the Innocent type, check in with your own disillusionment and then reflect on what can be found on the other side. Consider these questions:
- What are you hopeful about?
- What silver linings have emerged in recent months?
- What are you for in the world right now—and how can you stand up for it?
- What essential personal value can shape your sense of being and your acts of doing right now?
The night John Lewis lay in state here in D.C., a double rainbow appeared above the Capitol Building—arcing as if to end right where he was. It was a powerful symbol of his belief system. And, it instantly reminded me of Dad and our annual tradition of watching the Wizard of Oz together and listening to Judy Garland sing “Over the Rainbow.”
Somehow, I think he and John Lewis have already had a chat and agreed that absolutely, it “would all work out in due season” as Dad always said.
Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world. She’s Principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective, and co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here).