Mitch Matthews | PTG: Posttramatic Growth

18 Apr Mitch Matthews | PTG: Posttramatic Growth

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I couldn’t do it without you.

So for today…I’m going to share a term with you and its impact on me, but I’m also going to share some strategies with you that have helped me in big, big ways.

I was recently listing to an audiobook from one of my favorite authors, Shawn Achor. It’s called BIG POTENTIAL – a great book with some really good psychological insight.

One term that really struck me is what Shawn calls “Posttraumatic Growth”.  PTG basically boils down to A POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGE EXPERIENCED AS THE RESULT OF ADVERSITY leading to a higher level of functioning.

Post-traumatic growth is not about returning to the same life as it was previously experienced before a period of traumatic suffering. Rather, it is about undergoing significant life changing psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world in a way that contributes to a deep personal process of change.

This concept of learning from challenging circumstances isn’t necessarily a new idea. In fact, it’s interesting — I wasn’t preparing for this episode…I was just doing my morning rituals yesterday and was having some quiet time. I was enjoying a cup of coffee, reading, and praying. I was journaling and had picked up where I had left off in the Bible, the New Testament, in the book of Romans.

You might be familiar with it, but there I was…I wasn’t doing research for the episode. I was just doing my morning thing and I kind of picked up where I had been reading before, but then I came across Romans chapter five specifically. And it said we can rejoice to when we run into problems and trials for we know that they help us to develop endurance — and endurance develops strength of character — and the character strengthens our confidence, hope, and salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

Now that was written a couple thousand years ago. And here, Paul, is basically talking about Posttraumatic growth — a new term to describe something that’s obviously been around for centuries, if not since the beginning of time, right?

Because we all have challenges, some of us more than others, but it’s one of those things that sometimes we’re in the thick of it and it can be extra challenging sometimes. I don’t know about you, but some seasons in life just seem straight up, more challenging than others.

There are those seasons, maybe short, maybe long. And then sometimes…everything’s clicking. It seems easy. You can almost coast and everything is smooth sailing. But I have to admit, and I’m guessing since you’re a Dream. Think. Doer…you’ll get this…because sometimes if I experience  an easy stretch for too long, I almost wonder, “Am I really pushing myself?”

Because when we go after dreams, when we go after things that we want to do or experience or achieve, whether we’re stretching at work, whether we’re stretching at home, whether we’re stretching ourselves in relationships, if we’re pushing for a dream, if we’re going after it to make things happen, there are going to be rough spots, right?

It’s not like we want to invite challenges into our life, but they definitely come nonetheless.

But sometimes when we get hit by a series of challenges all at once, it can get overwhelming. There are those times where we’re tempted to think, “Geesh, you know, am I in the right spot?” Or, “Are things gonna come together on this or is it going to work out? Did I show up too late to this party?”

Maybe you’ve wondered if you’ve missed that wave or your window of opportunity. You’re just tempted to give up.

Or you’re wondering if you’re just not enough…or feeling like you’re falling short left and right. Or maybe you got rocked by something…a setback. Maybe something major. Or maybe it was just a series of small steps, small setbacks that happened, maybe even at the end of a long day and it just hurt more.

It wasn’t any big thing, right? The world didn’t fall apart.

But it was not great. Sometimes when you’re in that space, you’re just tempted to ditch it. To give up, to run to something quick, you know, run to something safe.

I have been there a ton of times, tons, tons of times. But as things grow, they also bring bigger challenges, bigger pressures, as you can imagine, as you probably experienced too, right? So it’s one of those things that as we go after our dreams, as we create more of the life we want to create, that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to get easier. Because in order to grow we have to keep stretching ourselves and moving out of the comfort zone and we face challenges that bring traumatic stuff.

I had one of those days recently where I had just a bunch of setbacks all in one day. We had a big event that was close to being scheduled and it got shot down. We had another big event where we just had some significant last minute changes and it just hit on the same day.

So I was a little stretched. And the story doesn’t end with rainbows and unicorns. It did not happen that way. But here’s the thing – I needed to be reminded of something like this, the Posttraumatic Growth in the midst of a day like that. I needed to be encouraged to reengage and get back to work. And, and maybe you can identify with that. Maybe today is one of those days for you. I’m not sure. Maybe you’ve had one of those recently where it just all hit you at once. You know what I mean? So I think in some ways, just hearing the term Posttraumatic Growth, sometimes that’s enough. There’s going to be growth on the other side of this and maybe that’s enough for now.

If that’s all it takes – fantastic! But, uh, for me, I needed a little bit more. So I started to think back, OK, what are some of the ways that have really helped myself, especially in the midst of that traumatic thing?

Understanding the idea of posttraumatic growth is one thing, but what are some of those strategies that we can utilize when we’re in the midst of some challenges? We’re going to talk about some strategies. So obviously I came up with an acronym.

The acronym is S.C.A.R.S. Why scars? I think sometimes we get scars when we step into the ring, you know, when we go after it, when we step up to make a change. Um, and, and sometimes scars are what allow us to remember those times where we push through.

As it happens, I have an excellent example of this. I spent some time in England when I was in college. I was new to that area of the country, Sheffield in the north of England. Looking for a club to join, I saw a rowing club. There is very little rowing to do in Iowa, at least when I was a kid – so this seemed perfect.

I was pretty good at rowing machines, so I thought that would transfer to the real thing. After showing my prowess on the machine, they took us to a lake.  And instantly I realized that my confidence was so misplaced. So we go to this lake and it’s like ice cold. I got put into a 4 person boat.

None of us were good. None of us were experienced. None of us had really even been in a boat before. In this narrow boat, all of us on just totally not knowing what we’re doing. Nervous. This boat’s tipsy.

We’re out on the water, I’m trying to work the oars, and all of a sudden, wham, they come together and my thumbs get pinched between the two oars and I hadn’t really trim of fingernails for a little while and fingernail just sliced my other thumb plus pitched them so it just hurt instantly. And then a couple of minutes later when it happened again to my other thumbs, so they’re bruised, pinched and bleeding. It was not good.

And we just wound up spending about an hour, hour and a half out on this lake, just looking like buffoons out there. We were not good. And then about six weeks out they told us, hey, we’re going to enter you in a race. There was a big race coming up and they entered us in a race. I’ll tell you what, it was amazing. All of a sudden everything started to click with that team. We went and won this thing. We went on to win gold in the Olympics. They wound up making a Disney movie about us. It was amazing.

I’m just kidding.

That didn’t happen. But I will tell you that I can remember specifically during that race, I’m not sure what it was, but something clicked. Our team, we found our rhythm during that race. We were not awesome. We were definitely junior varsity. But for us, all of a sudden something just started to click like we felt it. And if you’ve ever rode, especially road with the team, you know what I’m talking about, where all of a sudden one day you didn’t have it the next day you did. But we started to just be in rhythm. The orders were in the right places. We weren’t beating ourselves up and getting out of rhythm. We weren’t slammed our thumbs and pinching our thumbs and cutting up or thumbs and all of that stuff. And it was just amazing.

I can tell you, we did not win the race, but we all felt it and I can remember getting out of the boat and we didn’t even really talk. We just looked at each other like, did you feel it? You know it, you look back at each other like, yeah, yeah, I did. It was like, it was amazing. We won a few races after that, but lost more than we won, for sure. I did not get a scholarship out of it, any of those things, but I can tell you it was some of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had to get to know three guys to be as a team to get into the rhythm, but also to learn something new. That experience was life changing for me.

And you know, it’s interesting because I haven’t been in a boat for years. And I still to this day have scars on both my thumbs. They are a reminder of me of posttraumatic growth. That experience helped me to learn something about myself and that’s why I came up with this acronym S.C.A.R.S as our guide.

So let’s break down the acronym that we’re going to talk about.

The first S is for Situation. The C is for Commit. The, A is Attitude, The R for Relationships and the S is Strategy.

Let’s dig into the first S – Situation. The key here is when you’re facing a challenge, when you’re facing adversity and setbacks, the key is to first acknowledge the situation that you’re in.  Maybe it’s kind of an every day challenge. Big or small, it still matters and it’s still important to acknowledge this. Some people, myself included, try to gloss over challenges. Sometimes it’s almost like, you know, you’ve got a garden, you’ve got some things growing in the garden, but you might also have some weeds. Right, and it’s so easy to just look away and say, there are no weeds! You’re just hoping the weeds go away But you know this, that doesn’t work. Plus if you try to bury the emotions that you have and not acknowledge them, there’s a very good chance that they’re going to pop up in some other way later on. This is what I call Zombie emotions, right? They come back and they look a whole lot nastier. So it’s important to acknowledge the emotions that you’re feeling, to recognize them, to not dismiss them. One of the best ways to acknowledge it is to simply write it down, to acknowledge the situation.

And then we move on to that next step and that is the C for Commit. So we’ve acknowledged situation, now we’re going to commit. This doesn’t mean that we’re committing to sing Kumbaya and running through the meadow and the clouds parting and the sun shining down, right? We’re not avoiding Committing is saying I’m, I’m going to see myself. I’m going to get through situation. I’m going to overcome this situation as my buddy Adam Carroll says, I eat challenges for lunch, right? If you’ll say, I’m going to find my way through and I’m going to be better once I do to commit to dig in. Maybe it’s after taking a little bit of a breather, again, acknowledging your situation, but then commit or maybe recommit you are going to get through this.

Now it comes down to choosing your attitude, which is brings us to the A, the Attitude, and it’s choosing your attitude. So we’re going to commit to seeing ourselves through. You’re going to make it through and you will. And you’ll be better for it. Again, that’s what post traumatic growth is all about. We have to commit to dig in, to get back to it. And one of the best ways to do that is to say I’m going to choose my attitude. Because if you don’t, it’s going to be chosen for you. So choosing your attitude is huge.

Now on to the R.  And that is Relationships. Relationships are key. it’s is important to have people, a few people in your life that really encourage you and that you encourage them. You need a few safe people who will shoot straight with you but also will be there for you no matter what.

One of my defaults when I start to have some challenges, is to kind of slip into isolation. I mean not intentionally, but if you’re like me, you might sort of slide into it. Maybe you just don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

But here’s the thing, you know, even sharing the challenges you’re facing with a friend or a significant other, just verbalizing it, whether they have answers for you are not just putting into words, sometimes just that step can help. Just you having a safe place to talk through it sometimes can bring new light to things.

And what I’ve realized is that I used to think asking for help was a sign of weakness, but I’ve realized that it can be one of the greatest compliments you can give to someone, is to ask for their help to acknowledge that you need and want and value their help.

The last S stands for Strategy. With my team from the boating club, we came up with strategies to spend time with each other both on the river and off.

The strategy you want to try in order to improve or change things for the better might be something as simple as saying I’m going to start by being serious or intentional about my Commitment or my Attitude. Right? That’s one of the most important places to start. It might also be in part of your strategy. Might be, OK, I’m going to think about Relationship. I’m going to ask for some help or I’m going to talk with somebody about this or I’m going to let them know this is what I’m dealing with.

What I’ve realized is just allowing ourselves to try some new stuff has in some ways been a reward enough. Sometimes it’s a matter of giving yourself the chance to really think what’s the new strategy and to go after it. Um, I tell you what, the small wins they do add up, especially over time.

So Posttraumatic Growth, that’s what we’ve been talking about.

And when you get through the scars and that is acknowledging the situation, committing to improve the situation, choosing your attitude as you do, being intentional about your relationships and developing a new strategy to push through

This doesn’t mean the adversity, the challenges won’t come. What it does mean is that you’ll be stronger through it and you will be better on the other of it. And yes, you’ll have some scars, but there’ll be scars that you’ll be proud of. I hope this inspires you and allows you to stay with it, to stay at it, and to keep going after those dreams that you have, because that’s what this is all about.

Thanks for being a Dream. Think. Doer. And until next time, and trust me, we’ve got some awesome stuff coming. Keep bringing your awesome because the world needs more of it.

2 Comments
  • Bonnie Hanni
    Posted at 01:56h, 20 April Reply

    You are talking way too fast compared to your usual way. Hard to stay with you.

    • Mitch Matthews
      Posted at 08:02h, 20 April Reply

      Ha! Thanks Bonnie for your feedback. I guess that just goes to show that I’m fired up about the subject. Seriously though… thanks for the feedback. I’ll keep it in mind the next time I record a solocast. All the best!

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