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Resilience in Tough Times Part III: Pre-Emptive Resilience and the Four Quadrants

By Michael Lamberti

Michael Lamberti is an Integral Master Coach in private practice in Toronto. He also serves as a content producer and social media strategist for Integral Coaching Canada, as well as a member of the ICC Observer Faculty Team. You can find his coaching work here:  

In the first two parts of this three-part series on Resilience in Tough Times, I shared with you how I was able to develop resilience through some of the toughest times I’ve experienced. In Part I, I wrote about losing loved ones as a way of exploring the resilience that comes from meeting each moment. In Part II, I wrote about the shame I felt after a breakup as a way of exploring the resilience that comes with self-acceptance, and how this kind of resilience is necessary to make lasting change.

This final article will take a broader view of tough times and crises in our lives and explore how you can become able to meet them with greater wisdom and resilience in the future. By looking through the framework of the Quadrant Lens, you will be able to learn from your past experiences to anticipate potential impacts in the future, and identify key capabilities that can help you minimize these impacts. Hopefully, what you learn here will contribute to you being more able to meet a crisis and keep it from being any more catastrophic than it has to be.

The power and contribution of the Quadrant Lens is that it helps us gain a more comprehensive view of any given situation by including and expanding upon the perspectives of reality we habitually tend to rely upon. Each quadrant represents a valid, but partial perspective. By including all four Quadrants in our view, we are able then to have a more integrated, complete view of the reality we are exploring. When the capacity for resilience in a crisis is looked at through the Quadrants Lens, the unique areas where we can be affected by a crisis come to light in each of the four quadrants. Having this knowledge and being able to distinctly look at these four dimensions can also empower us to determine the capabilities we need in those areas so we can develop pre-emptive resilience that is already there for us to draw upon when we find ourselves in difficult times. Think of the framework and practice that I’ll be sharing in this article as your own personal emergency preparedness kit.

The Four Quadrants

Let’s take a look at each quadrant, and then explore the quadrants’ respective impacts, as well as how they are impacted, during a crisis. Each quadrant has a distinct view, and that distinct view is based upon the parameters or characteristics of that view.

Diagram credit: Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, Spring 2009, Vol. 4, No. 1

The Parameters & Characteristics of the Upper Left (UL) Quadrant

This is the realm of interior thoughts, feelings, and sensations you experience—the totality of your inner experience. You could be under non-stop video surveillance and the people observing you would still only be able to guess what was going on in your UL, because it is your interior subjectively.

The UL Quadrant includes such things as:

  • Dreams, longings, and aspirations.
  • The focus and quality of a person’s attention.
  • Patterns of thought and emotions.
  • Emotional and mental health.

Examples of ways the UL can be impacted in a crisis are:

  • An inability to think about much other than the crisis.
  • An inability to process the emotional impact of the crisis.
  • Lowered self-esteem or self-image.
  • Difficulty connecting with a sense of meaning or hope.

The Parameters & Characteristics of the Upper Right (UR) Quadrant

This is the realm of your body and the actions you take in the exterior, physical world. The parts of you that can be measured, such as sleep patterns, calories burned, levels of energy and number of times you check your cell phone in a day. It is the actions you take, and don’t take. It is the part of you that can be witnessed by others.

The UR Quadrant includes such things as:

  • Physical characteristics such as weight, height, and stamina.
  • Habits, actions, and activities.
  • Capacity for action and impact.
  • Physical health.

Examples of ways the UR can be impacted in a crisis are:

  • Compromised eating habits.
  • Insomnia or insufficient sleep.
  • Compulsive habits, such as workaholism or inertia.
  • Weakened immune system and physical illness.

The Parameters & Characteristics of the Lower Left (LL) Quadrant

This is the realm of shared meaning amongst collective groups of people that only the people within that group have full access to. The implicit rules, traditions, habits, social norms, and collective preferences that define, shape and keep groups of people intact. This provides a sense of belonging when you are part of it, and a feeling of difference, distance, exclusion, or mystery when you are not.

For example, when I joined my Zen community, I could feel the presence of a distinct group. Only over time through my integration of the distinct norms of the group did I start to feel a fuller sense belonging with them. Each corporation also has a distinct set of values that shape and define the work ethic of that company. If an employee isn’t speaking and behaving in ways that are in alignment with those values, they end up not being a “good fit.” Similarly, football in the US and Canada means and represents something very different than it does to the rest of the world, and that meaning is changing as generational tastes, preferences, and values shift within the US and Canada.

The LL Quadrant includes such things as:

  • Groups of peers.
  • Cultural background and norms.
  • The range of preferences in one’s groups and culture.
  • The degree of openness to new ideas in one’s groups and culture.

Examples of ways the LL can be impacted in a crisis are:

  • Loss of interest in associating with peer groups.
  • Increased feelings of alienation from one’s culture.
  • Rigid adherence to cultural and social norms.
  • Difficulty performing social norms.

The Parameters & Characteristics of the Lower Right (LR) Quadrant

This is the realm of the exterior systems, structures, and modes of organization that we operate as part of our day-to-day worlds. The physical and informational infrastructure we interact with, as well as the physical aspects, structures, and systems of nature. At the personal level, this can include your specific systems of support such as your day planner or app that you use to maintain your plan and schedule your time, your job description, and the codes of conduct and company regulations that you have agreed to adhere to. Expanding out a bit, the LR also includes the community infrastructures that support daily living, and the various institutions that are regularly relied upon (banking, telecommunications, etc...) At the global level, the LR can extend to planet-wide information networks and the ecosystem as a whole.    

The LR Quadrant includes such things as:

  • The ways we plan, schedule and monitor our time.
  • How we navigate physical infrastructures such as roads, highways, and public transportation systems.
  • Our interactions with our ecosystem and food supply systems.
  • Our place within our local, national, and global economy.

Examples of ways the LR can be impacted in a crisis are:

  • Decreased ability to maintain one’s structures and/or stick to a schedule.
  • Insufficient attention to, or compulsive attention to, personal finances.
  • Difficulty being organized and functioning systemically.
  • Difficulty processing factual information.

You may have noticed that what tends to characterize a quadrant being impacted by a crisis is a loss of balance and moderation. Often hard times in our lives will push us away from the balanced expression of something towards one extreme or another. For example, one person’s experience of an unexpected job loss could impact their LL quadrant and cause an inability or loss of interest in associating with other people. However, a different person who loses their job and is impacted in the LL could feel driven to compulsively maximize the time they spend with others, so as not to be alone with their thoughts.

With the unique ways that we can all be impacted by difficult events and times in mind, it’s important to look back and explore how you have been impacted by difficult times in the past. What are your tendencies when life conspires to throw you off balance? Given these tendencies, what capabilities might you want to start developing so that you have greater resiliency in the future?

Here is an exercise that I invite you to explore that is intended to support you in answering these questions.

Try It

Think back to a difficult time in your life, a time of crisis or difficulty. It doesn’t have to be the absolute worst time of your life and it’s not necessary to work with anything that remains triggering. Try and pick an event or time period that was difficult, but that you are able to reflect on without a negative impact to your current state of well-being.

Using the Quadrants Lens, try to identify at least two ways in which you were impacted by this crisis or difficulty in each of the four quadrants. Please try to be specific without overanalysing.  Let your answers arise from a place of knowing that doesn’t require overthinking.

Which quadrants were easier to fill out and which were more challenging?

Next, identity those impacts that you have most tended to focus on. These are the impacts most present in your mind, and may be the areas you would automatically consider to be the places you need to address in the future. 

How do you tend to relate to these impacts that are most familiar to you?

Now, take a look at those impacts in areas that you haven’t tended to include in your view to this point. Give yourself some space to digest the significance of these impacts. 

What does it feel like to give them more attention, and more consideration?

Now that you have taken a fuller view of all four Quadrants, please shift your attention to looking ahead with a knowing that some kind of difficulty, challenge, or crisis will occur at some point in the future.

Which of these impacts would you most like to avoid in the future?

What capability would you need to be able to draw upon to be able to maintain more balance amid significant difficulty?

Now that you have identified a capability that you could start developing, the next step is to come up with a practice that you could regularly engage in to build that capability. What is one thing you could regularly practice as a way to start cultivating the capability you have identified? 

Additional Resources to Support Your Development of Resiliency in the Four Quadrants

The following is a small selection of resources that can provide some guidance on developing good habits and a heathy relationship to one or more of the four quadrants. I would encourage you to check them out for inspiration on how to answer and address that last question of what you can practice to develop resilience in a particular quadrant.

UL: Bar-Levav, Reuven, Thinking in the Shadow of Feeling; Cameron, Julia, The Artist’s Way; Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Full Catastrophe Living

UR: Carlson, Richard and Joseph Bailey, Slowing Down to the Speed of Life;  Kabat-Zinn, Jon, Full Catastrophe Living; Phillips, Shaun, Strength for Life

LL: Budd, Matthew and Larry Rothstein, You Are What You Say; Katherine, Anne, Where to Draw the Line; Solomon, Robert and Fernando Flores, Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life

LR: Covey, Stephen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Dominguez, Joe and Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life; Wilber, Ken and Terry Patten, Adam Leonard, Marco Morelli, Integral Life Practice

If you are interested in learning more about the Quadrant Lens that Integral Coaching Canada uses and how to apply it outside of the context of crises and resilience, I recommend ICC’s free Native Perspectives video series, featuring ICC Co-Founder Joanne Hunt. Over a series of videos, Joanne explores how each of us takes on one of the four quadrants as our native perspectives, and how these four perspectives can show up in the workplace. Not only will you learn more about the four quadrants, Natives Perspectives can enhance how you are in conversation and communication with others in your workplace and in every facet of your life. The video series can be found by clicking here.

In closing, my deepest hope is that this set of three articles contributes to you and your capacity for the resiliencies you need to find balance in the midst of chaos, groundlessness, confusion, and devastation of all magnitudes. We know that difficulties, challenges, and crises are all part of this amazing thing called life—and death. May you become a bit more able to be in the dance of it all; the highs, the lows and everything in between.


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