This topic was the focus of a recent Chrissy B Show episode, Sky 191.
Resilience is defined by the OED as “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” I'd say Lord Baden-Powel is as much at the core, simply "Be prepared".
Psychologists stress the importance of embedding resilience - or the ability to "bounce back" within ourselves. Unfortuantely, life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to check our progress before we are tested. Sadder still, many are not given the opportunity to learn, or come to it when such learning seems a step too far beyond survival.
It is why my training and coaching promotes resilient practice - or at least helps you to engage in effective behavioural choices to "stave off" the point of crisis a little longer, whilst aiming for success. When healthly choices (mental, emotional and physical) are habitual, your endgoals are easier to reach, maintain, and even push beyond.
Psychological research from the American Psychological Association suggests that resilience enables us to:
- Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems
- Accept that change is part of living
- Move towards goals
- Take decisive action
- Look for opportunities for self discovery
- Nurture a positive view of yourself
- Keep things in perspective
- Maintain a hopeful outlook (which in turn has psychological benefits of reducing the occurrence of depression or anxiety, and maintains wellness).
...and while this blog (and indeed my website's www.resilienthealthonline.com articles and vlogs) will offer some practical tips to begin building a foundation of resilience, the idea is still relatively conceptual and theoretical in the main.
An approach to generating resilience is more established in the field of Master Planning within architecture, with “Resilient cities” – (re)built to withstand unpredictable environmental adversity. They are designed to the following Urban Planning principles. These are in turn recognisable in how resilient organisations could be conceived. They:
- Attract and maintain courageous people (staff if taking an organisational mindset)
- Harness drive and inspire collective passion within the community
- Nurture a network responsive to change
- Engage in Mindful future planning
- Establish a culture that welcomes creativity and innovation
- Empower and structure so EVERYONE has authority and the knowledge to be responsive
- Utilise local resources and networks
- Propose values which include sustainability and growth
As this offers a means to plan, design and test the success of resilience – there may perhaps be important lessons we can learn from urban planning approaches and begin to apply to ourselves.
For me the foundation of resilience is to accept what you don’t know as well as value what you do – and in doing both, your continued ability to learn and try is straightforward. Somethings suggestions will work first time and they may become your “go-to” practices, others might not but that doesn’t mean they won’t in future, and some you may choose to adapt to a way that suits you – this is all ok – it means you are always actively and reflectively building and testing your strengths.
Future growth, and indeed resilience, begins not with disregard of what may have caused us pain or distress, but with acceptance and learning. My style of leadership development does not tell you to “forget who you were”, but merely to learn that if circumstances have changed, the strategies and behaviours which have served you well in the past, may no longer be as effective. Don’t forget them – after all, they form the basis of your grit to survive, but make room for the new so you can begin to live...and then thrive.
Some tips for building resilience in yourself
1. Address the mind first and the rest will follow.
The DILTS model of change is an excellent example of this. For DILTS change can occur at any level of the hierarchy, but if it begins at the lower levels – as is often the easiest, the results will not flow upwards. Make the change at a higher level and the results permeate down.
As a simple example, many people wishing to lose weight may join a gym (change of environment). They may even go a few times (a change in behaviour), they may get stronger (increased capability) but unless they begin to enjoy exercise, or find a way of connecting mentally with either the results or the action they are taking, many will stop and old habits resume. The most successful change occurs when you can establish the reasons WHY someone may choose to be more healthy (the purpose, or their identity or their belief) and when you can tap into that, the rest follows more swiftly.
2. Resilience is about leaving the comfort zone behind
Unless you learn to manage discomfort, you may get to a stage where you are afraid to try, or are unable to cope if thrust upon you. Regularly challenge yourself to move beyond your comfort zone in your thinking and actions into a stretch zone, and, when you dare tap into what might lie beyond – the “panic” zone.
For example, I have always been confident in my ability to perform - I have acted on stage since 3 years old, and while I love musical theatre, my vocals are not up to par. My performance (and my confidence in that) is more than enough to compensate however, and I have "got away" with a number of lead singing roles - as long as they were character based. However, this year I took singing lessons. I unlearned 40 years of bad habits. I began to work on my faults - not listening to the orchestra, not counting rhythm, not managing my breathing...and realised that if I trusted the music that would elicit more character and expression than any performance. I am now able to find and hold a harmony line, I run out of breath less because I allow the sound to flow rather than "force" it out in the same way as projection, and I even helped out with someone's GCSE music duet. I'm daring to get on stage with just a band (no set, no costumes to protect me) at a little concert at the end of the year - and I can't wait.
Through this, I've learned that change takes time. I've learned if I remember why I'm doing it, I'm ok waiting for my lesson with 7 year olds on higher grades than me! I've learned that my method was ok, but it wasn't the only one, nor was it the best - nor healthiest - for my voice in this whole year of singing I've not lost my voice once unlike previous years of shows. I was brave.
3. Resolving conflict is about listening and learning rather than shouting louder
Don't confuse the need to be heard with the need to be right. What starts off as the first can end up as the last, and this breaks down all opportnity of collaboration. Always try to listen and learn first before pushing your point of view.
A simple drama exercise of "The Invisible ball" teaches this well.
1. Tell teams you have an invisible ball and you will throw it to one of them and it can be whatever the person who throws it wants it to be
2. However when it is caught, whatever it is needs to be acknowledged before the person who cathes it changes it to something else.
This exercise serves two points - that creativity is fun with no "bad" ideas; but importantly, one must listen and acknowledge before over-riding ideas.
...and the art of listening is the heart of collaboration.
Build a foundation of resilience. Challenge your habits to become healthy ones...but don’t depose – transform. Don’t replace – revive. This is not about removing what you have in place - you have always been enough, but you have the potential to be more.
Resilience is not just learning to survive, but to thrive.
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (2018) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (2016) She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She consults, coaches and often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, as well as being part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and provides psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.
To watch this fab Chrissy B Show episode on Thriving where I give my tips at 11.41: