Oct 28

How to be Resilient in an Uncertain Future, Nature Teaches Us

By Chris Gilmour | Nature's Lessons , Prepared Lifetyle

How to be Resilient in an Uncertain Future, Nature Teaches Us

A lot of comments and emails came in after my last post, "Are You Resilient as You Think? - Are You Sure?" It seemed many people could relate to feeling "too busy" and this being a hindrance to their personal resiliency and capacity.

Many shared reflections on what they believe "developing resiliency looks like."

A few common themes were;

  • Mental toughness and capacity
  • Taking time to reflect deeply, 
  • Tending relationships with self, community, the land, and a sense of spirit,
  • Getting enough rest,
  • Having margin in your life to adapt to the unexpected,
  • Being able to make informed decisions based on all the above being in place and tended.

It is pretty compelling how many of the traits people shared in the comments are naturally cultivated in the wildness. Nature is one of our greatest allies and teachers in this wild and changing world. 

This past week I headed off-grid into the wilderness for a seven-day  expedition. 

The week started by loading all our gear into a canoe and paddling downriver to a tiny off-grid cabin.

We were surrounded by thousands of acres of crown forest (not in a park) and thus not likely to cross paths with anyone else (safety net one removed). No road access (safety net two removed), no running water, no computers, no email or social media. 

Bobcat Scat

Bobcat scat we found while out tracking.

 For five of the seven days, I left the cabin in the dark and headed off to watch the sunrise. Thirteen hours a day outside, observing the subtle intricacies of the weather, otters, beavers, bobcats, deer, moose, and many species of birds as they go about their days.

Spending extended time observing nature helps cultivate valuable and essential traits that can help us in a changing climate and world. Ones that are transferable to all aspects of our modern life and are very useful when times get tough;

  • Developing focus for extended periods of time, (in a world where ADHD is an epidemic.
  • Learning by observing, asking YOURSELF questions, and trying to solve them, as opposed to being taught or searching it on Google.
  • Sitting still with a calm and present mind (in a world where anxiety is also an epidemic).
  • Understanding what normal climate, weather, or natural patterns is and what is not. 

On day five of our trip, nature mentored me in some other very important skill sets.

We headed out as group early in the afternoon with a plan to spread out but travel in the same direction. We would slowly stalk into the wind (to mask our scent) with the hopes of seeing some moose.

An hour into the stalk my friend came across some tracks. We convened for a few minutes to discuss them. 

 Yep, definitely a moose, there appeared to be two traveling together. The tracks looked fresh, but how fresh? An hour? A day? Our best guess was it was made in the past 24 hrs and that we should pursue it a little longer.

Pretty quickly we realized the moose were quite close as the tracks showed the moose were starting to speed up. We were now a long ways from the cabin and hiking across a dense patch of rolling woods that I had never traveled before.

We decided one of us would stay on the tracks while the other two would flank way out to the sides.

Moose Antler Rub

Moose antler rub during the fall rut.

Moose Bed

Bed/lay where moose laid down to rest.

I started making my way to the east; the woods were dense, I could only see about 20 feet ahead of me in most places. I made my way up onto a rocky oak ridge. There were signs of Moose and Deer bedding up here in the afternoon sun and feeding on the acorns.

After a while of walking, I started to cut back to the north-west to try and get sight of my friends. I did not know whether I was ahead or behind them at this point. The rocky ridge may have taken me further away then I planned. It was also overcast, and I did not have the sun to use for telling direction.

I stopped and listened for a few moments, not a sound. I then went to pull out my map and compass only to learn that my compass had stopped working, great timing (sarcasm).

Here is where nature become a great mentor in resiliency, mental capacity, and the unique survival skills we hold as a species. 

My first reaction was my heart speeding up a bit and a few questions coming to my mind;

  • Which way is north?
  • Do I know exactly where I am? I have an idea when looking at the map, but how sure am I?
  • Could I find my way back to the cabin from here?
  • If I got lost, could I make it through the night on my own, it would likely drop down to about -2 Celsius. 

I felt confident if I headed for the cabin I would find it relatively easy before dark. If I did this, I would be abandoning my friends out of fear of getting lost. 

I was out here to push my skills; I had a backpack with some basic gear so I was also confident if I did get lost I could spend the night. I also really wanted to see a moose and keep exploring this new territory.

learning to read the weather

What are the clouds saying about the coming weather?

How often in life do questions like this come up?

Maybe not precisely about moose and finding your way out of the woods, but about a crossroads where the path is not clear? Fear and anxiety have the potential to take over in these situations.

Nature challenged me to overcome my fear and anxiety and push my edges.

I sat for a few minutes, had a rest, drank some water, and made an "informed decision." I'm going to try and find my friends, except now the stakes, are a little higher. I chose to do this knowing I had the experience, skills, and gear to keep going and keep learning, but I had to use them all as the stakes were real.

I could not have paid for a workshop or watched a YouTube video that could have taught resiliency it in a better way.

A favorite quote of a past mentor of mine, Tom Brown Jr, is, "real consequences create real results." 

The reality of our changing world is that we don't know what is around the next corner. We may face real challenges with real consequences. We may not have a choice as to whether we keep moving forward as I did on that cold fall day.

So how do we set ourselves up for success and build REAL resiliency for REAL LIFE possibilities if we don't push our edges in more controlled environments?

Deep reflection, mental toughness, relationship building with myself, the land and friends, calming my mind under stress, making informed decisions, it was all in there.

A few of the other pieces that supported this amazing learning experience were things I have learned from past wilderness expeditions;

  • Being comfortable in my head and by myself, 
  • Knowing I had skills to navigate the unknown,
  • Having "margins" in my day, meaning if I did not have to be at a particular place at a specific time. 
Lessons from nature in resiliency

I could have spent the night or two in the woods if I needed too. This calmed a lot of fear and allowed me to keep pushing edges and learning.

These allowed me to "adjust to change" and "recover from adversity" (the definition of resiliency), or at least what my mind could have turned into adversity if I did not have the mental and physical capacity to cope.

I'm back on my computer again. I have timelines to meet. My margins are thinner now, but these profound lessons from nature grow stronger and feel incredibly relevant in our Changing World.

If you are not experienced in the woods, I certainly do NOT encourage you to put yourself in a similar position in the wilderness. 

What I hope you do is;

  1. 1) Consciously subject yourself to some degree of controlled risk or the unknown to build the capacity to navigate real risk.

    2) Spend extended periods of time out in nature and use it as a guide and mentor in survival, personal growth, mental and physical capacity building as well as peace of mind, confidence, fulfillment, and enjoyment.

When was the last time you separated yourself (if even a little) from some of the comforts and safety nets of day to day life?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below on lessons in resiliency you have experienced from nature or what edge you are going to push next.

And if you have not read the first post, "Are You as Resilient as You Think - Are You Sure" - Click Here -

Let's stay positive, proactive and prepared as the world changes.


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Developing Resilience & Climate Change
Oct 05

Are You As Resilient As You Think? – Are You Sure?

By Chris Gilmour | Prepared Lifetyle

Are You as Resilient as You Think? - Are You Sure?

Turns out I'm not… 

 We are in an era of exponential changes, from the climate and environment, to considerable shifts in technology, artificial intelligence (AI), the workforce, the economy, geopolitics and more. 

The definition of resilience according to Merriam-Webster is:

“an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Dictionary.com also ads the ability to recover from adversity. Having the “ability to adjust easily to change”  or "recover from adversity" sure seem like a valuable traits to embody.

But what does that actually look like on a day to day basis?

Two big awakenings came to me this year when it comes to my understanding of what it means to be resilient in this ever-changing and often challenging world.

What does #resilience look like built into the way that we think, design our lives, and cultivate ourselves and communities? Especially in our rapidly changing world?

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I have always considered myself to be a very resilient person, I live on a small homestead where we grow food.I know how to do a lot of things myself, I train in martial arts, teach wilderness and disaster survival skills and generally consider myself mentally hardy.
This summer, two events made me reconsider my understanding of the concept and question if I am as resilient as I think.
Survival Gardening
Survival Skills
Event #1 - My Garden & Homestead

We have laying chickens and a mix of traditional vegetables, perennial foods such as asparagus, we grow two varieties of edible mushrooms and have fruit bushes and trees.

In a good year, when the climate is reasonably “normal,” meaning a good mix of sun and rain, and our working and life schedules feel somewhat reasonable, the garden provides quite a bit of food for us.

The past few years I would say the climate has not been “normal.” Last year it rained way above the seasonal average. This caused many crops to grow slow or fail altogether. We also had issues with mold, mildew, and rot.

This year was the opposite, we had a summer-long drought. Being in sandy soil, most of our garden required almost daily watering to keep things growing.

Three things came together to create a bit of an, "ah ha” moment for me one day.

  1. 1) I was in a particularly busy time, with just barely enough time to stay on top of everything.

    Ironically, I was on my way to go teach at the Annual Preppers Conference, a gathering on preparing for emergencies and disasters. I went to town in the morning to do a few errands.
  2. I was heading back home with just enough time to water my garden and get out the door for the three-hour drive over to the conference.​

    2) I came home to find out the power was out.
  3. I was about to leave my garden for two days, it was close to 40 degrees. The garden was bone dry, and I now had to water by hand. This would take well over an hour.

    Now I needed to choose between being late for my presentation on preparedness or allow our months of hard work to shrivel up.
  4. Ironically I was not feeling very prepared or resilient myself at this moment.

    3) I was reading a book called the “Resilient Gardener,"  on growing food in a changing or unpredictable climate. 

    In the book, the author Carol Deppe makes the case that most of us design our gardens for good times. She shares a story about how she had grown an abundance of food her entire life and was a bit of an expert in growing, until….

    Her Mom got sick. This consumed a lot of her time, and suddenly her garden was falling apart. The garden was reliant on her being healthy and having an excess of time.

    Moral of the story, a resilient gardener designs their garden for hard times when they likely need the food the most, not the good times when things come easy!
  5. My garden is definitely designed better for good times and not as resilient as I thought. I plan to change this in 2019 and write about it on the Changing World page.
  6.  I have been growing food for a long time so I have a pretty good idea of what needs to change. In fact, my gardening style used to be more resilient years ago when I was less busy and a little more intentional with the design of it. 
  7. Time to get back to my permaculture roots!

This ironic event really made me question how resilient my busy, "just in time", lifestyle is.

As someone who believes in and teaches the ways of nature, I am reminded of a saying in farming culture, "When the sun shines, make hay.” 

The profound teaching of this is that as a farmer who depends on nature and its cycles for survival, there are times when you need to drop everything to work with the weather or a particular cycle, i.e., "make hay when the sun shines."

I have heard Indigenous elders reference strawberries in the same way, when the strawberries are ready, everything stops, and you pick. This is the only opportunity to harvest this essential crop for the year.

Make Hay
Survival Gardening Fruit

How often in our modern world do we skip "making hay” because there is something on the schedule such as work or an appointment?

How often do we miss the strawberry harvest because most of the time we can just go buy them at the store?

And how often do we have just enough time to get the most important things done, until something comes up…. and suddenly we don’t.

Event #2 - Under the Weather at a Pivotal Time
As I write this, I have been feeling ill for over a week now. My energy has been very low, and my mind has felt foggy, a virus? I'm not sure, but this is not normal for me. This happened to start a week after I gave myself a big fall pep talk.

A big project I have invested a TON of energy into over the past two years, creating the "Survive The Storms, Adventure Learning Course," is in full production. We are nearing completion and have one more big blast of work to do to make it all go live this fall.

Things are also really coming together with some other big projects. Another big push of energy appears like it will make some dreams come true. Ones that will allow a little more security, stability and hopefully resiliency in my wife & I's life. 
And there is fall tending of the homestead, gotta get the garlic in, wood stacked, and so much more!

And BAM!... I feel like all I want to do is crawl into a cave and go to sleep for a month.
This incident really has me pondering system design in how me and we as a culture earn an income, manage finances and design the systems that provide us with shelter, water, food, etc.

I know so many people that live just on the edge of what they are finically capable of.
Many of these folks are not glutinous and trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” They have simple lives and needs, but they are subject to a corrupt and out of balance economic system design.

On top of that, I personally believe our education system is outdated and has not kept up with the needs of our changing world and economy. I don't think most kids are adequately prepared to enter the workforce in a prosperous way. 

These events really have me pondering system design in how we as individuals, families, and a culture earn a living. 

Economy is Changing
I have actually been pondering this for some time and diligently working towards a better systems design for my finances and business model. I will be doing the same for my garden going into 2019 and sharing lessons as they come.

But none the less, this happened.

It is driving home the point as to why I started thinking that as a culture we need more resilient and holistic personal finance strategies and life systems to begin with.

Do you feel economically resilient?

Would paying your rent, mortgage or other bills be negatively affected if you could not work for a few weeks? What about a month?

Or if you are retired, what if someone got sick and your cost of living went WAY up? What if the stock market crashed and did not recover for five to ten years, how would this affect your retirement and quality of life?

Now let's apply that same concept and line of questioning to other aspects of our lives. 

Such as how we grow our food, tend our homes, raise our children, take care of (or don't have time to take care of) the natural environment that supports every aspect of our lives.

This is what I am contemplating regarding resiliency:

1) The contrast between my busy modern lifestyle & my belief in a more ancient way of living with the seasons and in balance with nature.

Having the flexibility in my schedule to be more opportunistic, to "make hay when the sun shines" and to "pick the strawberries when they are ripe".

Is this kind of flexibility and lack of busyness actually essential to resiliency and living in balance with nature in our changing world?

2) I am contemplating system design. 

How many systems, whether my garden and homestead or the multiple businesses I am involved in, rely on me having an excess of time and resources to keep them going?

Is this sustainable and resilient?

Economic Resilience

 A design in which an unexpected event that takes up a significant chunk of my time could have enormous negative consequences. One that effects to two critical life-sustaining systems, growing food and the ability to pay for everything I need to survive?

My epiphany this summer is that I considered myself resilient because I have a homestead, I grow food and have access to an abundance of water, I know a lot of skills and a lot of people with skills I don’t have. 

I also consider myself mentally tough and hardy, although I know this is an area I can always grow in as well.

And to be honest, I still do consider myself a resilient person.

In the end, even with these two events I referenced, I am already bouncing back, which according to Merriam-Webster, is the definition of resiliency. 

I know I have a lot of work to do, and a lot more to learn. I hope this resource, Changing World, can help you develop the resiliency and awareness that you require to thrive in changing times. 

Observing how quickly the world is changing & being aware of the many #challenges facing ourselves and future generations, It is a good time to re-examine just what cultivating #resilience actually looks like in our lives. 

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In Part 2 of this post I share a story from a seven day remote wilderness trip where I learn some great lessons in resilience from nature and experience the opposite end of the "too busy" spectrum that this article presents.

One of the upcoming posts that I am most excited about is a collection of “experts” answering the question,

 “What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”

This post will include a great mix of cultures, disciplines and life experiences.

I hope you will find it very insightful and practical in helping you cultivate your own personal resilience. Stay tuned, coming soon...

Let's keep growing, learning and adapting together.

Cheers to Cultivating Resiliency!

Please share YOUR thoughts in the Comments!

What does Developing Resiliency looks like to YOU?

You could even share YOUR answers to the same question I asked the "experts."

“What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”