What is ‘Resilience’, and Why Is It So Very Important?

What is ‘Resilience’, and Why Is It So Very Important?

‘Resilience’ has become quite a buzz-word in the business world over the past couple of years. To be a bit cheeky and put it in fashion terms, ‘resilience is the new black’. So, what does it mean to be resilient? In this article, I’ll share some information that will help you better understand the concept. I’ll also share a few strategies that you can implement straight away to help you keep a bad 5 minutes from becoming a bad day.

The concept of resilience brings to mind things like toughness, the ability to spring back, or a ‘never say die’ attitude. Psychologist Angela Duckworth wrote a book called Grit – the Power of Passion and Perseverance in which she examined why some children who weren’t naturally gifted or particularly brilliant seemed to defy the odds and achieve academic excellence. (You can watch her TED talk on Grit here.) She boiled her findings down to the fact that they all had ‘grit’, and one of the 5 characteristics of grit that she discussed in her book is resilience. One specific definition of resilience that I’ll use as the basis of this article is ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’. So let’s dive in a little deeper.

I’m sure you know people who always seem to be ‘up’. No matter what’s happening in their lives, they never seem to allow themselves to get down for too long. What’s their secret? Are they born with some sort of natural immunity to bad news? Are they wired differently to us? Do they know something the rest of us don’t? I would venture to say that it’s probably a combination of all those things. Resilience is like a muscle that we can ALL build.

I was attending a conference in Orlando, Florida a couple of years back and heard Bonnie St John speak. Now, Bonnie is a Paralympic medallist who has researched and studied the concept of resilience and wrote a book called Micro Resilience.  Bonnie determined that there are heaps of things we can do in the brief moments between activities in our busy days that can help us build up our mental and emotional toughness. (She also did a TEDx talk on the topic – you can watch it here.) Long-term resilience strategies are really lifestyle habits – things like healthy food choices, plenty of exercise, and regular meditation. They normally take a long time to develop and show results. The concept of Micro Resilience is all about the short-term tactics we can employ that will have an immediate positive effect AND will contribute to building long-term resilience. I’ll share a couple of those with you now.

Our success in pretty much any task or endeavor is largely determined by our ability to focus. Protecting our focus these days is really difficult. We are bombarded by at least 10,000 different messages each day – from people in our environment to television to Facebook. Like drinking from a firehose, attempting to process all that information while we attempt to protect our focus is nearly impossible. So, we need to create self-imposed barriers or boundaries in our environments and in our daily routines that allow us to tune out the noise. These boundaries will look different for each person, but could include things like setting aside 5 minutes a couple of times each day to be alone and just breathe, stretch or enjoy a bit of quiet. Others might pop in earbuds and play ‘white noise’ or nature sounds while focusing on a task. Some people may find that adjusting their schedule so that they’re using the time of day that their brain is freshest to do tasks that require the most focus.

As humans, we have been hard-wired over millennia to react to negative or stressful situations by getting angry or defensive (fight) or by avoiding the situation altogether (flight). Building up our resilience means learning how to deal more productively with negative emotions. I’ll share two key strategies now that can help you to remain in control so that you can avoid being dragged into a negative downward spiral that could derail your whole day.

The first strategy is to get specific when naming the negative emotion you’re feeling. When you notice yourself beginning to panic or become angry, stop and force yourself to identify what, exactly, you’re feeling. Shift from thinking of your feeling as ‘anger’ and sort out if it is actually a feeling of keen disappointment, of betrayal, or of feeling disrespected.  When we get specific, we can think objectively about how we’re feeling and respond appropriately.

The second strategy I’ll share is to reconnect with your senses when you feel as if your feelings are being ‘hijacked’.  By this, I mean stopping for literally 10 seconds and identifying specific things in your immediate environment. I use the ‘5,4,3,2,1’ exercise and it goes like this:

  • name 5 things you can SEE
  • name 4 things you can TOUCH
  • name 3 things you can HEAR
  • name 2 things you can SMELL
  • name 1 thing you can TASTE

When we STOP an emotional hijack in its tracks and re-focus our attention on our immediate environment, we immediately lower our heart rate and short-circuit the downward spiral.

I trust the information I’ve shared here has been thought-provoking and has you considering how you can maintain your ‘mojo’ or your resilience in the small moments throughout each day. You can learn the rest of my resilience strategies by attending our upcoming WORKSHOP on 13 May. Even if you can’t attend on the day, you’ll receive a link to the recording if you simply register.

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