I recently read through some of my old blogs, and came across my very first article on resilience which was written on 11 August 2015. Since then, resilience has become a trendy personal and business word, with everybody wanting to raise their levels of resilience to support them to cope better in their life.
However, since 2015 I have expanded my knowledge on resilience, and would like to share some insights and new learnings with you.
Learning 1: Resilience is much more than the standard definition of bouncing back; resilience is actually about bouncing forward. You don’t want to be in the same position that you were before the adversity, and actually want to be in a more advanced position; you want to have grown.
Learning 2: Resilience relies heavily on reframing a situation to be positive, and being grateful for what is going well. However, resilience is about looking for the benefit from the situation and exploring how you can grow from the circumstances presented to you.
Learning 3: Resilience isn’t equal resilience. I have identified three types: (a) the everyday life resilience to buffer against frustrations and irritations such as traffic, (b) medium-size resilience which lasts for longer periods, such as a week or a few months, and is often needed in work situations when working with others on a project or task, and finally (c) life changing resilience which we draw from life-altering events which happen to us such as an illness, death, divorce, war or abuse.
Learning 4: To become resilient, you have to start being attuned to yourself. You need to understand what is happening in your life right now and how you feel about it as well as yourself. Resilience starts with a healthy dose of internal reflection.
Learning 5: Start practising resilience with small life challenges, and when your life is running rather smoothly. Practice it regularly until it becomes a habit; that way you are better prepared to apply it when you truly need it. It’s very difficult to learn to be resilient when life is throwing challenging things at you because you will automatically go into survival mode.
Keep in mind everybody can learn to become more resilient; it is just practice, patience and self-compassion.
Here is the original article from August 2015.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is one of those human states that we admire in others and often wish we had more of. What makes resilience such a powerful life skill to have, and can it be developed? Firstly, resilience is a positive thinking pattern that enables us to respond and recover from adversity very quickly. It is a key ingredient that we use as a buffer against life’s challenges so that we don’t spiral downwards too much when trajectories or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient the hard way through life experiences, but what if we could learn ways of building our resilience as early as in primary or junior school.
Before we explore techniques that build our resilience, let’s look at common sinkholes we fall into that prevent us from being resilient. The five key sinkholes are:
Five Sinkholes That Prevent Us Becoming Resilient
- Jumping to conclusions – responding reactively to a situation without having all the facts.
- Tunnel vision – focusing only on the negative without considering any alternative options.
- Personalising – internalising that the fault lies with us and that we are the actual problem.
- Externalising – blaming others for the problem and not wanting to consider our own contribution.
- Assuming – speculating that we know what the other person is thinking or feeling.
The downside to these sinkholes is that they keep us stuck in negative thinking patterns that can hamper us from moving forward. They drain our energy which means that we aren’t able to see or even try to see the positive side to a situation. When our energy is depleted we give up easily and often we don’t try again.
The answer to building our resilience muscle is brainstorming alternative solutions as well as predicting the level of success for each solution without accepting the first idea that presents itself. We need to dig deep until the right solution comes to mind. We must then test that solution and be flexible knowing that realignment of our actions or thoughts might be needed along the way. Don’t give up when challenges or obstacles appear – these must be seen with a level of curiosity and eagerness to overcome them.
Resilience, very much like well-being, has no finite endpoint and it, therefore, remains an ongoing process. This doesn’t mean that there is no point in developing resilience because each learning cycle raises our consciousness and facilitates a positive upward transformation. This is very similar to the threads of a screw where we spiral upwards with each full turn. Also, becoming more resilient doesn’t inoculate us from adversity, tragedies or traumas because they are a part of life and partially out of our control. We can only choose how we manage the event and ourselves.
We must also consider the difference between surviving and thriving in life. Surviving means we are getting by; we might feel all consumed with life, and perhaps even bitter or resentful for the injustice or hardship of life. We may feel that life is happening to us and that we are two separate elements. Thriving, on the other hand, means that we are actively engaged and participating in our lives. We regard life and us as one united element. We accept that adversity is part of life and learn to fight and overcome traumas. We learn to see the benefits in adversity which makes us value and appreciate the difficulty. It is no coincidence that successful people have high levels of resilience.