RESILIENCE – THRIVING DESPITE ADVERSITY
The concept of resilience is something we are all familiar with, it is a trait which is becoming more and more salient as our lives evolve. The term resilience actually comes from material science referring to materials which are able to absorb a large amount of energy and return to their original state without being distorted, like an elastic band.
In humans we refer to the ability to bounce back after hardship, to thrive despite the most difficult of situations and recover quickly from hardships. It is pretty clear resilience is something we could all use a little more of. Resilience is not about ignoring difficulties and remaining blindly optimistic despite setbacks, it is in fact the opposite. Resilience is about finding healthy ways to integrate stress, hardships or challenges into our lives that allows us to continue to thrive. What happens to us, becomes part of us. But we get to choose HOW.
Did you know resilience is something that can be developed? New scientific research indicates that resilience is something each one of us is capable of developing, growing and utilizing to thrive in the most difficult circumstances. Resilience was first studied by the developmental psychologist and clinician, Norman Gamezy. He researched thousands of children, over several decades, who succeeded and excelled in life despite the most challenging of circumstances. These children despite abusive or absent parents, no food and poverty were successful, positive and excellent in their schools and communities. Their ability to somehow thrive despite the curve balls life threw at them was coined by Gamezy as “resilience”.
Possessing resilience allows you to adapt well and bounce back despite the presence of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant stress. How do you know you have resilience? While it is something you can test for (there are assessments on the market), the strongest indicator is how your life unfolds. We all have difficulties in our lives, in fact we will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t, but with resilience we have the ability to change, modify and grow through our challenges instead of allowing circumstances to determine the outcome of our lives, both personally and professionally. With resilience we may not escape pain and suffering or challenging situations but we can change their impact. With resilience we can get wisdom from pain, courage from fear and strength from suffering. In our professional capacity we can handle more pressure and stress, increase our performance and find our careers more fulfilling.
Resilience is a combination of mindset, behaviours and actions. In fact, resilience as an ordinary trait that can be developed and acquired by anyone. Just like any new skill, all that is needed is the will to learn, intention and practice.
When I think of resilience, my mind immediately goes to the metaphor of bamboo. Being resilient requires us to be patient. Developing our resilience is an ongoing process, like the growth of a bamboo shoot. And like bamboo in order to thrive despite difficulties, we need to learn to be flexible. When the storm comes we should bend and adapt to the harsh winds but once the storm has passed, we must once again stand tall.
If someone had to ask you, “What in your life are you responsible for?”, how would you respond? Your response is a good indication of how resilient you are and will be. Let me explain, resilience is a constant decision on the terms we decide to meet a situation on. This constant decision or mindset can determine how vulnerable and resilient you are in tough situations. By meeting life on your terms, making the most of your strengths and believing that ultimately you, and not the environment, determines the outcome of a situation – you can bounce back faster and truly flourish.
Remember my blog post on reframing? Cognitively framing a situation on positive terms and down regulating your emotions can determine how well you deal with and come out of a difficult situation. Importantly this mindset and framing shift comes from you calling upon your “internal locus of control’’, or simply put, your understanding that events and how they play out are influenced by your actions. It certainly takes courage and honesty to examine yourself and realize that there is no victim in your life, you are not helpless and you certainly do have responsibility for things.
I think it would be worthwhile for you to take a moment here, pause and honestly reflect: Do you seem to find someone or something to blame for things? Do you feel like a victim? Do you tend to feel the world is against you and bad things always happen to you? When things go wrong do you explain them with excuses or blame others? How willing are you to really, truly take responsibility? What was the last significant personal or professional situation you took responsibility for?
A shift to an internal locus of control can lead to increased resilience as well as increased positive mental health and work performance. Even for those of us who feel emotionally mature and self-aware, we can all tend from time to time to call upon unhealthy coping mechanisms. Through building our resilience with our mindsets, actions and beliefs, we can learn to cope better in the world, start to recover from life’s setbacks quicker and truly thrive under pressure at work.
Here are some tools and shifts you can make to start building your resilience. I hope you make the time to intentionally practice these and other steps or tools you have so you can become more adept to coping with adversity and thrive through any circumstances this uncertain, volatile and complex world may throw at you:
The Humble Humanologist