Jane be nimble: Resilience as a learned skill
Remember getting pushed down on the playground? Or rejected the first time from a job? How about the first time you were been broken up with?
Sometimes life feels over, the chips are stacked against you, and you’re not sure how you can move forward. Then, suddenly you can see a glimmering light of hope and somehow the motivation to move forward just appears when you thought you were completely empty. That moment when you actually take the first step on blind faith that you’ll make it through this circumstance — that’s resilience.
If you define it literally, resilience is the ability to recover from difficult life events. According to Amit Sood, a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, and serving as Chair of Mayo Mind Body Initiative, “resilience is the ability to weather adversity, bounce back and grow in spite of life’s challenges and downturn. It is the psychological capacity to adapt to situations, cope with hardship and stress, and have a mental reservoir of strength to call on to prevent falling apart.” People who have what it takes to face challenges, adversity and difficulties head on are resilient. Unlike the proverbial ostrich that hides its head in the sand, these kinds of people stand up straight and face their most paralyzing fears and dreadful experiences head on.
Humans have never had it easy and maybe that was the point of our lives; adversity challenges and sharpens us over time as beings. We live in a world where the environment around us can present a morning of blissful sunshine, quickly followed by an evening of dark, foreboding clouds that threaten to swallow up the brightness of day. This is mimicked in our climb through our life cycles and even our evolution. In one minute, a person is healthy and full of life; and in the next, they are standing at death’s door, staring death in the face. As we evolved, we were able to cope and problem solve in new ways, but out problems get bigger and more intricate too.
Everyone, at one point or other in their life has experienced setbacks, changes, and losses. Some of these may be insignificant, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, and others may be so monumental that they cause life-altering effects, like a tsunami.
Everyone reacts to tough situations and circumstances differently. Every individual person has thoughts, processes, feelings all their own and it’s these variations in behaviors that make us special and unique. One person may see the ingredients for a cake, another may see the materials to make a long standing aesthetic statue. Adaptability and the ability to overcome: these are the behaviors of resilient people. It’s true: anyone can choose to be resilient by adjusting their mental outlook, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
We’re proposing that resilience is more a skill than it is an innate trait. Like any other skill, it can be learned, built upon and developed.
It’s easy to say and another to do. Build resilience with these actions:
Have a Positive Attitude
Resilient people may not always find a silver lining behind every cloud, but they keep moving forward through the storm.
There may be times you feel like you’re in an unending and pitch black abyss, your circumstances are hopeless and your situation has no way out. While Nelson Mandela was beaten in prison for many years, he read the poem Invictus over and over again to keep his head high and follow his beliefs. Resilient people use their mental strength to shift towards positive thoughts, outcomes, and problem solving. They search for gratitude when there is none to be found by the naked eye. These people realize challenges are inevitable and that life is a constant battle of ups and downs. We live in a roller coaster world, but the roller coaster also doesn’t always sit at the bottom. People who believe they will always be at the bottom are defeatists and the only way to exterminate that mentality is to acknowledge that situations may sometimes be out of your control.
- Taking Pictures
Don’t dwell on it.
Dwelling in the past won’t change what happened, and it prevents you from getting a clear view of the future. Yesterday is gone, today belongs to no man and tomorrow may never come.
Less resilient people often dwell longer on their problems than they should. They are readily devastated by situations; and more often than not, they simply cannot find the strength to go on, try as hard as they may. Their typical recourse is to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms that lead them down lonely roads of depression. They go into downward spirals and form destructive and dangerous habits. If you find yourself “stuck” on the actions of someone else or yourself, or are just unclear of the next direction to take in work, with family, or in life — take a breath, or a walk, or a bath, and clear your mind. Meditation can also be a great way to eliminate the overwhelm.
- Epsom salt baths
Develop a Support System
Although some of us have been told that it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help, sometimes you have no bootstraps to lift yourself up with and you have no other choice but to ask for a hand. But here’s the thing: sometimes having some else bolster your strength when you need it doesn’t always just boost you. Often times others are encouraged and motivated by helping you move forward through tough circumstances, too. Resilience is not always about generating internal strength. Sometimes, it’s about leadership and using support from outside resources who can help you build the skills to get out of the circumstances faster and stronger than if you’d do it alone. There’s a story about a person walking along a road with a hole in it. It takes them falling in the hole a few times to understand how to avoid it completely and move to a whole new road. Having a pair of listening ears or supportive shoulders can go a long way in helping you find new roads. While sharing problems or challenges with others won’t always make the problems go away, being open can offer you a new perspective and better insight into how best to go about brainstorming solutions to the problems. In creating your support system, ensure that you are accountable to it. Being accountable to a person will give you less reason to give up, and give you the push that you need to pull through.
- Find a mentor
- Join an association or chamber
- Schedule regular phone dates
Learn from Your Mistakes
One way to ensure that you don’t repeat the problems or setbacks you’ve already encountered is to document your actions. While some setbacks are natural and cannot be avoided (like a freaking pandemic), some are entirely caused by carelessness and recklessness and could have been avoided had proper care been taken. Learn from your mistakes and appropriate those lessons to create better behavior and response to problems. Journaling can help you keep track of the wins and losses, along with the best decisions and ones you probably wouldn’t repeat again if you had the chance for a do-over.
Major on the Majors
Problems can sometimes be so overwhelming that you don’t know what to do or where to even start in overcoming them. In these situations, try not to look at issues as being vast and insurmountable. Instead, start breaking them down into small chunks with bite-sized solutions. Compartmentalization can enable you to tackle tough circumstances and find micro-ways to overcome them. This uses the practice of transitioning your mental efforts from pining after what is lost to focusing on affecting the things that you can change. By concentrating on the things that you can change, you can help shift your outlook towards being a problem solver, and move you towards a positive outlook towards the problem.
- Self discovery
Choose Your Response
You can be the victim or you can be the victor. It is entirely up to you to choose what your reaction is in any given circumstance. When you’re thinking of running towards that bed and hiding under the covers, remember that quitting is not a hallmark of the resilient, and you’ve come too far to give up now.
- Go for a run
- Be among the trees or ocean (bigger than you)
Resilience is a virtue, and it is a trait that you can build and develop. Take small baby steps towards staying positive and cheerful. Having a good support system, learning from your mistakes, and focusing on what you can affect will help you become resilient and give you the inner strength to face challenges and come up on top.
Fiore3 Consulting supports businesses and communities with the resources and tools they need to create dynamic inclusion initiatives that help people start, run, and grow businesses. Check out our website for more information or to find out how we can support your team in building their resilience in the market.
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