The Simplicity of Resilience
I am struck by how complicated resilience seems to be.
There is so much out there that seems to say different things, it ends up being complicated for people to navigate. We either have to wade through the conflicting lists of how to manage stress. Or decide that we’ll ignore all that stress stuff and be tough. Or more helpfully, we start to learn about the evidence bases that are out there that identify the key resilience capabilities we need to develop.
Professionals are wading through just as much as we punters are. Health clinicians must follow clinical evidence, and that is informed by clinical psychologists. Coaches and therapists look wider afield and take into account Eastern practices such as yoga and mindfulness, the power of our belief systems and such applied psychologies such as NLP, and we search in leadership and performance literature from the likes of Harvard and the business schools. Sports psychologists take it all in, but hone it for their guy in their sport, and we end up with a team of people supporting one individual to be our hero. We all love Andy Murray, bite our nails when he seems to lose focus in any of his matches, but shout and jump when he comes back and wins. We all want to be heroes like that, but we don’t have a team behind us oiling our resilience machine to get us to perform. Instead we’ve got the internet, our doctors and some friends and family to advise us. And ourselves.
It all seems hard work.
What’s not obvious to many of us is how resilient we are already.
If we are coping we are resilient. If we have higher resilience we can bounce back from challenges and adversity. And with even higher still resilience – and the surprise of the research from The Resilience Engine – we won’t really need to bounce back from challenges because we spot them early and deal with them early. Those with the highest resilience don’t really suffer from stress. Stressors exist for them of course, but their internal responses are not driven by stress.
The point is most of us already know some of the conditions for what makes us resilient. And that can be built on to get to this stress-free zone.
That’s right; you already know many of your own resilience factors. Not anyone else’s factors, yours.
We know that the conditions for each person’s resilience are unique. It’s a particular blend of aspects to do with inner attitudes and beliefs, individual purpose, and what we call Adaptive Capacity.
The other big news for the toughness-seekers out there:
Resilience, even for those who have the highest resilience, goes up, and goes down. It’s dynamic.
Nothing embarrassing about it, it just is dynamic. You can be the highest performing leader in your organisation, but if your capacity is canned because you are having to deal with multiple tough assignments, your resilience will go down for that period. It’s not that you can’t respond resiliently in many and perhaps all work circumstances, but you can’t sustain that level of response in every moment of every day. Over time, if you continue to outrun your own resilience resources, you will run dry and come a cropper.
So yes, resilience varies. Get over it.
So that’s two things that are different to what’s out there. You already know a lot of what gives you resilience and you know that it naturally varies.
So what can you do for your resilience already? Figure out those conditions for yourself and make them more available to you more often. That means giving your resilience your attention.
If it’s giving yourself a one minute breathing exercise then do that every day. If it’s having a hug from your kids, do that every day. If it’s saying ‘no’ to 100 things and saying ‘yes’ to the important one for you, then do that every week. If it’s connecting with your purpose often, then do it every day. If it’s minimising what you need to cope with and maximising the fun to counter-balance it, then do that every week.
One caveat in all of this is where our coping mechanisms break down. If you are reading this and thinking “yes, all very well but I can’t do that”, then stop and seek some support. Not coping is a very tough and health-reducing place to be; there is much help out there from very highly qualified people. The most qualified to help you might indeed be your family since they know it. It’s good to ask for help and indeed is one of the core inner attributes of the highest resilient people.
Resilience is our ability to successfully adapt to change. Change is upon us constantly, and it is ever more demanding and increasing. Let’s connect with our own resilience and honour it by giving it a chance to be available to us daily. If we notice it more, we can stabilise it. And that already will increase our resilience.
Senior Executive Coach and Resilience Researcher
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