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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

How to be Vet-Strong: Veterinary Resilience in a Chaotic Year

Resilience is a funny thing.

When the world feels like ice cream and sprinkles, we don’t think about resilience. We think about what flavor we want next and how long we’ll have to lay on our belly afterward.

It’s only when things go to shit that resiliency comes to mind. And then we get desperate for it.

There’s a subtle problem here, and it’s likely not what you’re thinking.

The issue isn’t that we don’t think about resilience until it’s “too late” – it’s that we think about resilience as something like a carton of ice cream. We imagine there is only so much ice cream and once it’s been eaten by the challenges in our life, the carton is empty and all we’re left with is a tummy ache.

That’s all sorts of wrong.

When things get tough, we actually get to churning. As a result, we end up making more ice cream.

Resilience isn’t a commodity, it’s a capacity. That capacity exists in every single person and it gets stronger the more we are challenged.

That’s right, you were born to be resilient.

It’s your superpower.

And everyone around you, every veterinarian, technician, CSR, kennel tech and all the other folks keeping your hospital going – they have that superpower too.

So I’m Super?

I teach about resilience a lot. Especially this year.

In the past several months I’ve talked to thousands of veterinary professionals about resilience. Many of them are looking for ways to be resilient. I certainly share what the science shows us boosts our capacity for grit, perseverance, endurance, even thriving in the face of challenges.

And I remind them, “you are already a resilient superhero.”

Think about it.

You’re a veterinary professional. You work in a challenging, deeply meaningful field that demands of you copious amounts of knowledge, fortitude, and old fashioned hard-work.

Were you born with that knowledge? Did the fortitude come naturally? Was it easy to get where you are today?

More than likely the answer to all three questions is, “no.”

You see, you are already resilient.

In the twenty-plus years in this field I’ve yet to meet even one veterinary professional who didn’t face challenges, advertises, even crises along their journey.

And every single one of them overcome them in some way, shape, or form.

You are where you are not because the path was simple and smooth. You are where you are because you’re strong, brave, courageous, and a fucking superhero.

You’re already resilient.

Using Your Superpowers for Good

There’s a kind of resilience we all have but often neglect to notice. It’s called reconfiguration resilience.

Loosely defined, it’s the strengths and abilities we grow because of the challenges we have persevered through in our past.

Those challenges can be anything, big, small, or in between.

You have faced challenges before, right? And persevered through them. Overcome them. Maybe even conquered them!

In doing so, you grew. You got stronger, smarter, better.

Shine some light on that magic.

Here’s how:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes. Make sure it’s quiet, undistracted, uninterrupted time.

  2. Get out a pen and notebook. Or open a Word document on your computer.

  3. Think about a challenge from your past. Something you persevered through and is now behind you.

  4. For 5 minutes, write about it in detail. What happened, what lead up to it, how did it impact you, how did it feel…whatever comes to mind.

  5. Now, write your answers to 2 questions:

  • In persevering through this challenge, what did you learn about your own strength?

  • How can you use that knowledge to help you with a challenge you’re facing today?

Let that superpower shine bright.

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