As you read the title I am sure that the tune of the song from Chumbawamba is becoming an earworm in your head! I am equally sure that the universe has a sense of humor, or at the very least I do! I dared to speak about resilience on Tuesday and had my resilience seriously tested for the rest of that week. So what is resilience? What defines it and what can we do to improve our resilience?
- What is Resilience?
As a member of 4Networking, I asked my colleagues on our Facebook 4N community forum what they thought resilience was. Carole Channing suggested it was “being able to withstand,” and Dorota Twoek-Uptas thought it was “how quickly you can bounce back and not be affected by the things you have no control over.” Martin Sloman simply wrote “mental toughness” and Keith Blakehouse-Noble “strength, tenacity and durability.” Andrea Detchon proposed that “when things go crap a resilient person gets back up and gets on again.” One of my favorite wordings came from Will Bawdry who prefers to view resilience as “not bouncing back but bouncing forward. Often when things go wrong we can see only two eventualities: one where things are worse, and one where we manage to get back to ‘normal’. And this blinds us to the third option: learning and growing from the experience in order to end up in a stronger position than before.”
Another definition comes from Google: 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, and 2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. Over in Wikipedia, it is an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions. The website verywell.com says that resilience carries us through without falling apart. How we cope affects both the immediate outcome and the long-term psychological consequences. More resilient = better able to handle adversity and rebuild our lives after a catastrophe.
‘Resilience’ is one of the “in things” in business speak at the moment, along with ‘mindfulness’ in general and ‘engagement‘ with customers on social media. From the definitions, it seems that in common usage resilience is the innate ability to progress through a challenge (a catastrophe, if you must) and pick yourself up on the other side and carry on in a new “normal”. We all have some degree of resilience. Resilience enables us to carry on after the death of a family member, the financial ruin of a favored business project, the demise of a cherished relationship, a change of employment, moving house, a health issue, etc, you get the picture. Resilience is a combination of nature and nurture. Some of us are better able to withstand life’s challenges than others – we are born with better coping mechanisms than others. Some of us through parenting and education enlarge our resilience and deal better with life’s challenges as we grow and mature.
Using a stress analogy from Brabbon and Turkington (2002) resilience is like a bucket with a tap. If our bucket is big and our tap working well it can cope with a lot of stress (catastrophes) – it goes into the bucket and is processed through the tap – highly resilient. If our bucket is small or the tap does not work terribly well our bucket fills up and overflows – not very resilient. If resilience were an elastic band then it bounces back each time it is stretched (good resilience). But if after a while the elastic stays stretched or snaps then resilience is lower.
- What defines Resilience?
What does resilience look like? How can I judge my own level of resilience? There are a number of criteria you may use to evaluate your own resilience, which includes but are not limited to the following.
- Keeping your cool in disaster – holding back, evaluating what has happened and planning a course of action
- Coping with problems or setbacks – not resorting to “just giving up” believing everything to be “hopeless” or “futile”
- Facing difficulties head-on – facing the storm, rather than being an ostrich and hoping that if we ignore an issue it will resolve itself and go away
- Having or finding (learning) the skills, strengths, and determination to recover from problems and challenges, possibly asking for support and help from those in the know or who have been this way before
- Having healthy coping mechanisms (rest, food and exercise) rather than resorting to overeating, under eating, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, nicotine), etc.
Resilience doesn’t mean feeling less pain, distress, difficulties, grief, or sense of loss or anxiety.
Resilience does mean difficulties are handled in a way that fosters strength and personal growth, they can work through them, overcome adversity and move on, possibly even supporting others along the way.
3. How can we improve our Resilience?
Resilient people are aware; aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. Resilient people understand and accept that life is full of changes. So how can we improve our awareness and understanding? People building their resilience can do any number of things.
- They have a sense of control, a goal, a purpose, they know that what they do rather than what others do affects the result (accept responsibility). They have self-confidence.
- They have great problem-solving skills, spot solutions and follow them through, they believe in their ability to cope/work things through.
- They have strong social connections and a support network, people they can call on for support and help.
- They identify as a survivor, not a victim, they have a long-term perspective, embrace change, have a can-do attitude and keep things in context. They are positive, hopeful and expect good, they visualize good things happening.
- They ask for help and are resourceful – psychologist, counselor, self-help books, online forums, support groups, psychotherapists. They are hopeful and positive.
- They are self-nurturing, enjoy continuous self-development, they care for their body, their mind, own needs and feelings.
When challenged by this overwhelming list I suggest that people start with one thing. #changeonething Changing one thing can make a huge difference to us. The one thing can be as simple as driving home a different route and enjoying the view – a different perspective.