Resilience is one of those traits 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? First things first, 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 so that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges 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 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 mechanisms that build our resilience, let’s look at common traps that stop us from being resilient. The five key sinkholes we fall into are:
1. Jumping to conclusions – responding reactively without having all the facts.
2. Tunnel vision – focusing only on the negative without considering any alternative options.
3. Personalising –internalising that the fault lies with us and that we are the actual problem.
4. Externalising – blaming outside factors for the problem and not wanting to consider our own contribution.
5. Assuming –speculating that we know what the other person is thinking or feeling.
The down sides to these traps are that they keep us stuck in negative thinking patterns that can hamper us. They drain our energy which means that we aren’t able to see or even try to see the positive. When our energy is depleted we give up easily and we don’t try again.
The answer to building our resilience skill is brainstorming alternative solutions as well as predicting the level of success for each solution without taking the first idea that comes to mind. We need to dig deep until the “right” solution comes to mind. We must then test that solution and be flexible knowing that realignment might be needed along the way. We must not 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 end point 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 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 difficulty. It is no coincidence that successful people have high levels of resilience.