Developing the art of resilience

If we required a reminder of our need for resilience, the pandemic provides it.

Everybody has to go through difficult times in their life; some more than others. But the way we manage these situations determines how we are going to handle similar situations in the future and what we learn from them.

“Hard times build determination.”

The global pandemic has thrown up many challenges and challenged us to the very core of our existence. Not only have hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives but many have lost their livelihoods and face the prospect of slowly rebuilding their futures. If there was ever a time to be resilient, it is now.

Resilience is the strength that enables people to overcome crises without long-term impairment. Resilient people who have been knocked back come back stronger than ever. The good news is that resilience can be a learned behaviour and developed over time.

Design the life you want to live

To build resilience it is necessary to consciously design the way one lives life. Many people drift through life without thinking.

We can learn from the story of the Cherokee who was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me… it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

Looking at the children with a firm stare, the old man continued, “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.” After thinking about this for a minute, one of the children asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”

To design the life you want to be able to live, it is important to know which ‘wolf’ you feed.

Why is building resilience beneficial?

There will always be circumstances in life that cannot be changed but these do not determine our lives; our decisions and actions do. The outcome will be determined by our perspective and our thinking. Reframing the old ‘story’ could lead us to the conclusion that we are not dependent on fate, but by creating awareness we are able to recognise things earlier and find a way to cope.

The people who cope with difficult situations are those who know deep inside that they will overcome the challenges; they never let themselves become a victim. Those who cope less well can experience a combination of depression, addiction, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Resilience helps us deal with difficult circumstances, challenges and strokes of fate. It helps us to respond flexibly and creatively in a crisis and adapt more easily. It can also have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.

There will always be circumstances in life that cannot be changed but these do not determine our lives; our decisions and actions do. The outcome will be determined by our perspective and our thinking.

How to strengthen your resilience muscle:

Using the letters of ‘resilience’, we can find all the necessary behaviours and skills that will help us cope with the challenges and stressful times in business and life

R – Reality
E – Energy
S – Self
I – Imagination
L – Letting go
I – Innovate
E – Empathy
N – Networking
C – Compassion
E – Evolve

R – Reality

Resilience starts with understanding reality through reflection and then accepting that reality! Too often, we are in ‘denial mode’ and adopt an ostrich-like approach. Accepting the inevitable and reflecting on the current situation helps to create a sense of awareness and urgency which is key to get into action or even ‘survival’ mode.

To take things as they are and accept what cannot be foreseen, like the virus, is a necessary insight to start to deal with a ‘problem’.

Positive thinking is a good thing, but if it leads to ignoring reality, there is no exit out of the denial phase. The reflection process is the start of building the muscle. Accept that life means change. Life may not go back to ‘normal’ but it will move on and there will be new opportunities to thrive.

E – Energy

Life is about energy. Whatever we want to do or achieve in life requires energy.

Energy is the basis for all our activities, thoughts, dreams or successful work or fulfilling relationships. The key to all of this is to nurture oneself, care for oneself and others. Our body, mind and soul are a unit and by ensuring that all are in harmony, we will provide the energy necessary to meet challenges.

Mindset, Mindfulness and Movement: these three M’s can help us to start the day right.

How we begin our day can have a profound impact on our mood and energy for the rest of the day. Creating deliberate and intentional morning routines will help us to get aligned with what we do, how we do it and how we feel about it. An emotional balance and physical strengths carry us through the day instead of sinking into a vortex of negative and overwhelming thoughts.

Meditation, Yoga, and Relaxation techniques can all help.

S – Self

The more we understand ourselves, the more we can make the best use of our talents, and focus on where we can do most good. Avoid those activities that act as a drag on your energy. A sense of purpose in life is what drives us and solution orientation can help to guide us there.

Meaning and meaningfulness fuel our existence. If we search for the areas where our purpose is being fed, our ability to solve problems is maximised. The positivity and achievements that come from following a purpose are self-perpetuating.

I – Imagination

Meditation, Magic Journeys, Affirmations, Visualisation and realistic ‘what if’ scenarios can be very helpful to create ‘feel good’ moments and to connect people towards a compelling future and vision. Let your mind fill with good feelings and a positive outcome. Our brains don’t care whether things happen in reality or just in our minds. Our thoughts lead to biochemical reactions that trigger motivation and subconsciously move us towards our envisioned goals.

Resilient individuals cancel their limiting beliefs and replace them with supporting beliefs. They say to themselves “I am strong, I am successful, I am determined, and I am focused. I have faith in the future.”

L – Letting go…

To undertake something new, people need the space to do so, to let go of old beliefs and rituals. The situation and the ups and downs can make us feel caught in an emotional, physical and even economic storm that never seems to end. But behaving in the same way as we have always done, will lead to the same results.

Rituals are not fixed, they are constructed and reconstructed over time, but they are often responsible for holding people back. To become resilient it is helpful to find out what is holding us back and find new tools to help navigate through these obstacles. New routines and habits help people to move forward.

I – Innovate

The pressures of whatever challenge we are facing tend to produce a closed mindset. It is vital to open our minds to new possibilities if we are to be resilient. This means taking full responsibility for one’s actions and reactions, questioning if it’s possible to act differently.

Staying open to new ideas, and being curious with an accepting, confident attitude generates optimism. Remembering the many situations you’ve dealt with successfully, and referring back to how you handled them, will provide a good base from which to build innovative solutions.

E – Empathy

Everyone needs support as they navigate the new paths; helpful colleagues and friends to provide advice and guidance. Getting people to feel that they want to help someone on this journey takes huge levels of empathy. Showing concern for how others are managing in difficult times, how they are feeling, will determine the extent of their support in return.

N – Networking

Building social relationships and accepting support and help in difficult times is crucial. In times of physical distancing, it’s important to keep up social networking. Connecting with like-minded people, joining mastermind groups, meeting people virtually or in real life, listening and finding other perspectives all contribute to resilience.

A close emotional relationship with at least one reference person that conveys safety and reliability is critical. When we have positive experiences with people and show them gratitude, find our tribe and team up with others, we can achieve more together.

C – Compassion

Compassion helps us to really understand the problems and sufferings others have to deal with. It isn’t a fluffy soft skill but is made up of courageous actions that can powerfully impact organisations.

E – Evolve

Dealing successfully with circumstances and challenges gives us the chance to evolve, to thrive and reach a higher level. Each problem-solving process leads us to a higher level of consciousness and a stronger state of resilience.

In conclusion

Knowing that resilience can grow over time, and strengthen with our every experience, provides hope to everyone facing a crisis today. Leaders who embrace the skills and behaviours above will learn to deal, cope and grow through whatever life brings. This will prepare them for future challenges.

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