Valerie Lankford in London


Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” – Proverb

Happy Birthday Valerie.

Valerie Lankford is a long standing and cherished friend as they come. And she has devoted herself to resilience in people and relationships. So it was all a special delight when she forwarded me a copy of her recent article in the ‘Transaction Analysis Journal’ titled “My Whole Life is Plan B: A Psychological and Practical Approach to Resilience” imbued with the spirit of embracing failure. In fact, she even makes reference to one of my own points about my Microsoft experience in the paper itself. Here are a few choice excerpts…

  • “I’ve often said, ‘I’m so glad my parents screwed up, because I’ve had a much richer life than I would have had otherwise.’ But learning how to turn setbacks into opportunities did not occur overnight, and I have not found a single cure that works for everyone.”
  • “If people are going to learn from mistakes to handle undesirable consequences more comfortably, it helps to teach them about racket feelings [ie. ‘learned feelings’…often ‘a person’s most uncomfortable feeling’].”
  • “Early on in counselling, I suggest that when people are tough on themselves about their mistakes, instead of berating themselves, they might add some new vocabulary to their repertoire: ‘I goofed. What did I learn from this?’ I suggest that most mistakes do not have life-and-death consequences but are, in fact, learning opportunities. Once we determine the magnitude of the mistake we can consider ways to approach it.”
  • A Plan B Attitude. When Plan A does not work, go with what I call Plan B. Wne I use Plan B as a frame of reference, I do not take it for granted that life will proceed from day to day as I had planned…“Some may have difficulty adjusting to a Plan B perspective. It may help to think of Plan B as trying on different kinds of hats until you find one that feels best.”

She outlines the 4 ways people ‘discount aspects of reality’ to avoid the embrace of failure…

    • Do nothing
    • Over adapt
    • Agitate
    • Act out

Where people avoid these ‘realities’ fall into a number of categories which Valerie describes as ‘Performance Drivers’. She notes, “I have observed that many clients become stuck on a problem, and they keep trying to do what they cannot.” For each of these scenarios, Valerie describes both (a) an antithetical premise, and (b) provides a question one can ask oneself to trigger a shift of perspective…

Performance Driver


Healthy response

Be perfect

Be human

Is it worth the effort?

Try hard

Work smarter

Is it worth the effort?

Be strong

Feel your feelings

Is it worth denying feelings?

Hurry up

Take your time, prioritize

Is it worth rushing

Please me (or someone)

Please self (and consider others)

Is it worth the consequences?

To overcome such blockers, she draws from ‘Project Resilience’. Started in 1980s, the initiative produced a book “The Struggle to be Strong: True Stories by Teens about Overcoming Tough Times”. Which outlined a tool called the ‘7 Resiliencies’…

  1. Insight – Asking tough questions and giving honest answers
  2. Independence – Distancing from the sources of trouble in one’s life
  3. Relationships – Making fulfilling connections to other people
  4. Initiative – Taking charge of problems
  5. Creativity – Using imagination and expressing oneself in art forms
  6. Humor – Finding the comedic in the tragic
  7. Morality – Acting on the basis of an informed conscience

Finally, Valerie concludes with a handy ‘Resilience Checklist’…

  1. Options
    1. Consider 5 options instead of only 2.
    2. Learn about more approaches, read books that address behaviour.
    3. To actualise ‘suffering is optional’.
  2. Perspective
    1. It is not as important what happens to you as how you interpret the situation.
    2. Remember the relevance of our mistakes change as we age.
    3. Challenge your perspective. Most of us are not in a war zone or fighting terminal illness.
    4. Seek support from others outside of the situation whom you respect.
  3. Importance
    1. Decide to do it now.
    2. Consider that you may be a role model and that children are watching.